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“Mystery School” (westernmysticism.org) ran a full-page ad in the Reader: “Stars transform into great explosions of light, scattering particles across the universe. We are all made of stars. Imagine what we can become.”

The line stretched along the sidewalk in front of the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art. The internationally tinged crowd was mostly dressed and pressed, middle-aged and younger — though there were exceptions: an older Indian woman in a sari, a big man with a white ponytail curling back from his balding head. A youngster in a fedora complained to his companion about Catherine Zeta-Jones: “I can’t stand her accent. It seems fake.” I paid my five dollars and headed inside.

A laminated sign hung on the door: “The Mystery School teachings are being provided solely for the purpose of shining light and wisdom. There is no intention to suggest...membership in any group. Everyone must be responsible for his or her own choices, and we advise each person to approach self-discovery with some caution.”

Bach’s Cello Suites filled the auditorium. The stage was empty, save for an upholstered, chocolate-brown chair, a round table draped in cloth of the same color, and a golden-brown Japanese screen behind. A vase stood on the table, filled with white lilies and callas. When Kundalini came on stage, her clothes matched the upholstery — chocolate-brown tunic and flowing brown pants. Her lipstick offered only a hint of red against her dusky complexion and curtain of dark hair.

We began by meditating. People shifted in their seats, sat up straighter. “Meditate on your heart chakra. Find it by pointing to yourself and saying, ‘me.’ Clear the day.” She took her seat, donned sunglasses, and moved her hands as she meditated — now hands raised, middle finger to thumb; now palms out and sideways; now palms up. A slight smile on her face. A man in the audience mimicked her motions.

Before she meditated, she had picked up her iPod and started the music: intense, loud, pulsing, beat-driven, building and building, full of chants both Eastern and Western. I thought of scenes from supernatural dramas. When the music ended, she placed her hands in her lap, held for a moment, then put her hands together in front of her and bowed to the crowd. The crowd bowed back — a sign of humility and respect. The session was one of several, each varying slightly in focus and music.

“How did that go?” she asked after one session. “I noticed my hands started clenching,” said a woman. “That will stop — hopefully, before you get arthritis,” replied Kundalini. “Don’t get frustrated. This is why nobody attains enlightenment: it’s really fucking hard. The energy wants to dissipate. You’ll feel all kinds of strange things.” One man’s sensation of his eyes floating was “probably an energetic obstruction from, like, ten lifetimes ago.”

At the intermission, there was water and there were cookies. The Mystery School offered books and CDs as well as T-shirts and hats that read “Meditation Rocks!”

Kundalini praised meditation as a way to stop the churning of life — starting with the cessation of thought. Music was an aid, she said, because it helped us to screen out chatter and vibrations from other people, “so that you’re just dealing with your own mind.” Chant, too, was helpful — “The vibration of the words acts as a purification. Try ‘Om mani padme hum.’ You can use English, but it’s not as vibrationally pure as Sanskrit.” Sitting on the ground helped in the grounding of the root chakra, but it was important that it not be a heavily trafficked piece of ground. “It’s a sacred space; it needs to be vibrationally clean. It’s where you connect with eternity.”

“Meditation is the most beautiful thing there is,” she attested. “I don’t care how in love you’ve ever been. I don’t know why everybody isn’t tearing home at the end of the day to sit on a mat. Waves of light, tears streaming down your face — it’s so beautiful. Everything’s okay, always was, always will be. In love with all eternity, forever. Why wouldn’t you give everything up to have that? Nothing else fills that hole — no matter how rich you are, how much sex you’ve had with how many hot people. We’ll get you meditating — and if we don’t, there’s always porno videos.” The crowd tittered.

Kundalini advocated detachment — the kind that allowed you to see the world and your own thoughts without becoming overly invested in them and so losing your peace. This was opposed to simple withdrawal — in fact, she all but insisted that practitioners of her brand of meditation eat meat because “it’s the animal food that will ground you in the world, so that you’re not totally spaced out. You need that if you’re dealing with this kind of energy. It’s really powerful — like rocket fuel up the ass. The pressure on the body is so intense that you may have to do things you don’t want to do. I regard meat as medicinal.”

An attendee said he had begun wondering if there was “something out there” and was looking for a “Hollywood moment.” She told him, “The thing about the world of light is it’s Hollywood all the time. You just can’t see it. You have to attune yourself. The world is so much more magical than everyone thinks it is. Anything’s possible. People get caught up with these gory details, and there’s a rainbow of experience out there.”

Other concerns were earthier. A woman was seeking relief from chronic pain. “It’s karmic. It’s something you’re working out. The part that really hurts is the resistance. If you meditate, maybe you can get to the point where you understand the pain. Make it part of the practice instead of an obstacle. When you work out the karma, it will stop, [though], maybe not in this incarnation.” She also recommended treating the pain with Western medicine.

“Okay,” she concluded at session’s end. “So, um, there it is. So many questions, so little time. So much enlightenment — and you have forever.” As we left, Bob Marley sang: “Don’t worry...’bout a thing/’Cause every little thing...is gonna be all right.” — Matthew Lickona

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