(We were married 36 years until my husband died from young-onset Alzheimer’s disease 6 1/2 years ago. I cared for him for 10 years and was compelled to help other caregivers feel happier, healthier, sleep better, and cope with feelings of guilt and grief. It’s all in the book–“Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s & Dementia” —My story, 20 healing modalities, essays by other caregivers, and more. Available wherever books are sold and online at Amazon.)
I waited until the crowd thinned and approached the stage where Morris had just given an introductory lecture on Transcendental Meditation. It was 1972, and I was 19 years old with waist-length, lustrous, chestnut hair scented from lemon shampoo. I wore patched jeans, an inside-out baby blue sweatshirt, and knee-high, lace-up moccasins. I had fallen in love with Transcendental Meditation (TM), which I learned several months before transferring as a second semester biology major to the University of Colorado in Boulder. The semester had just begun and I didn’t have any friends. I was lonely for the first time in my life.So I went to the TM lecture on campus with high hopes of connecting with the meditating community.
Morris was a celebrated TM teacher who had just returned from a course taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in La Antilla, Spain. He spent a month there meditating and listening to lectures about the Vedas (Sanskrit holy books), and he was beaming like a child who was about to share his magic tricks with a roomful of thrill-seekers. He appeared goofy with his wire-rimmed glasses, camel corduroy jacket (patched at the elbows), reddish moustache, and medium-length curly brown hair. The audience, filled with college students and Boulderites, loved it when he punctuated his paragraphs with a giggle.
Morris spoke about the benefits of diving deep into pure consciousness with the aid of a mantra (a sound that has beneficial effects on the physiology), and emerging energized and relaxed. The people seemed entranced by the message of attaining a state of peacefulness and living a more successful, happier life. Cindy, another teacher, took the stage when Morris was finished talking. She told the group about the preparatory lecture for those interested in learning TM. Afterwards, I approached the stage where Morris and I exchanged our first words. He asked me to help with the meditation initiations on the weekend and I agreed.
That was the beginning of a friendship—which was, more or less, like a teacher-student relationship—that lasted several years before we became romantically involved. Our relationship took root in the spiritual practice we shared, and grew steadily as we eventually taught TM together and went to meditation retreats. No matter what happened throughout the years, whether we saw eye-to-eye on various issues or disagreed, we shared the same spiritual values and practice that nourished our souls.
So when it came time for me to serve Morris as a spiritual caregiver, I understood that the job would require me to fall back into the teacher-student relationship where we began our journey together. I was Morris’s caregiver, but he was again my teacher, making me more aware of my words, my actions, and my thoughts, than ever before. Sometimes I rose to the occasion, and sometimes I failed to listen and act with compassion. It was a challenge to care for him and stay grounded in my spirituality. But I tried, and I continue to try to forgive myself for the times that I failed.