A long time ago, there was a gym in Santa Monica on Forth and Broadway called the “Dungeon.”
The “Dungeon” was a basement where the Muscle Beach Weightlifting Club worked out. Many Olympians worked out there, and all were elite body builders, athletes, and martial artists. I worked out there too, the only one who was not in the aforementioned category. I was a 6’4’’, 145 pound bag of bones whom they probably admitted as a member solely because I was brave enough to ask.
I received an early meditation lesson at the Dungeon years before I knew what meditation was, and it stuck with me decades after I did, and still informs me today.
It happened one day at the Dungeon that two body builders, heavyweight hunks, were arguing about whose martial art was superior, and the argument became increasingly heated. Everyone gathered around as the debate almost came to a full-out war. It didn’t for the sole power of only three words, employed by the Jiu-Jitsu black belt, “Earl,” to the karate champion, “Lil Abner.” (Names have been changed.) Earl said: “Lil Abner, why don’t you go home and put yourself in a closet and say to yourself, ‘let’s get together.’” Miraculously, Lil Abner came to his senses and remembered that Earl was, after all, his best friend and training partner. The whole argument was forgotten as fast as it started.
“Let’s get together,” is a therapeutic meditation topic. Through my study of Buddhism and Hinduism over the years I have discovered that aside from the famed self-inquiry “Who am I?”, “let’s get together” is probably the next best three-word meditation topic. And, as frosting on the cake, a closet is probably the best place to meditate aside from a cave!
Often, I read about people or hear friends who say they need to pamper themselves, or they need a break, or they’re stressed, or “I deserve better than this,” or “I am unhappy,” “I am sad,” “I am depressed,” and so forth. We forget ourselves, the ocean, and identify only with the waves. Earl had no idea what meditation was, but he remained cool and collected as Lil Abner became inflamed. Earl’s presence of mind and advice was admirable because he recognized when his friend had become disconnected from himself and was identifying with emotions that separated him from his core.
All of us who feel we need a break, or we need to pamper ourselves should try the magic three words “let’s get together,” to remind ourselves that that which is real within is unmoving and always there, always present. We are that core, but misidentify ourselves for the fluctuating self, a self susceptible to a variety of emotions: joy and sorrow, gain and loss, jealousy and love, and so forth. If we were not essentially grounded in a more substantial self, an unchanging reality, we would not be aware when we drift away from it into the choppy waters of life’s game. The thought that we need a “break” is a distortion that arises because we lose our center and as a consequence forget the game is, after all, a game.
We may move from our center, but our center will not move from us. It is who we are, and we are always welcome home when we drift away or are pulled away from it.
The more we identify with our core, the more we will remain with it. If we use “let’s get together” (or, “Who am I?”) as a probiotic every day, our sense of who we are becomes stronger and our susceptibility to identifying with our false and unreliable self, the self so needy for the affirmation and material things, will dissolve. Conversely, the more we seek affirmation from others and contentment in material things, the more we will identify with that self which depends on those things and become subject to the consequences of our grasping.
Of course, in the affairs of others, even a fool is wise, and when in the thick of our grasping and attachment, even sagely advice will not penetrate our jealousy, rage, anger, greed, and other disturbing emotions. That is why a probiotic approach that enables us to have a preparedness for times when we are losing our footing is necessary.
The time to get together with ourselves is when things are going well, not otherwise. The part of ourselves that is largely ignored, that quietly watches as we dance with life, is an ever-present and unchanging essential core. It is saying, “what about me?”
Go into a closet with that wallflower and say, “Let’s get together.”