“I Forgot My Mantra”

Nov 08


Remember the party scene in Annie Hall with Jeff Goldblum on the phone? The line, “I forgot my mantra,” told us everything we needed to know: about the party, the person he’s talking to, L.A., the wit of Woody Allen, the Sixties . . .

Actually, I haven’t forgotten my mantra. In fact, it sometimes seems it’s the only thing I remember, and Annie Hall was a long time ago.

Forgetting As A Way Of Life

I forget so many things lately that I have taken to giving myself points for whatever I actually do remember.

I arrive at the book club. Without the book. Without my Kindle with its Wish List of suggestions for the next selection. Without a scarf: it was colder than I thought. Without a tissue: I’ll use a napkin. They’re paper.

Just Show Up . . .

But wait! I remembered all these things:
To show up. And didn’t Woody himself say that was 80% of life?
To wear shoes. That matched. Each other.
My new iPhone, although I didn’t yet know how to use it.
I also had my wallet, the better to pay the bill with, my Metro Card, the better to get home with, my keys, my lipstick, a stick of gum, a leftover bite-sized Mounds bar from Halloween, sunglasses and an umbrella. It didn’t rain, but it could have. And it was sunny.

So even if you subtract points for the stuff I forgot, I’m way ahead.

How did I achieve this heightened level of enlightenment?

One Tuesday a few weeks ago I took a cab from Manhattan to visit my mother in Queens to take her to the doctor, then lunch, and to pick up the new checkbook the bank had sent (again) to her apartment instead of mine (sigh), then to get a cab back to the city in time to hop into a car with my friend, Lenny, and head out for Steiner Studios in Brooklyn, where my brother was shooting an episode of Pan Am.
Love those flight bags.

PanAmBeing on the set was fun: I waxed poetic with wardrobe about the ’60s clothes, met some of the cast and crew, checked out the interior of the actual plane used for filming, and generally enjoyed the experience, so it wasn’t until I got home that I realized I had lost the checkbook.

Panic! Calls to the bank! Cancellation of checks! A hastily-made appointment with my shrink who I see when I feel overwhelmed. This, as you may have guessed, was one of those times. . .

My Shrink Was Not Impressed.

It takes a lot to impress a shrink. Jeffrey Dahmer, maybe. Kim Kardasian, for sure. But a lost checkbook. Big deal. You didn’t lose your mother, did you? she said. You didn’t lose Lenny.

And then I remembered the mantra scene. It was a funny bit, Goldblum’s only line, some say the best one in a movie of inspired genius. And yet. Losing a mantra would actually be worse than losing a checkbook. Although not in the same category as losing your mama. Or Lenny.

I remember mantras being a serious business. You had to learn about Transcendental Meditation, then go to a ceremony, armed with a white handkerchief and a rose, where a be-robed practitioner of the art would bestow upon you your very own personal mantra. It has to be, I think, three or four syllables, have a nice sound, and no literal meaning. “Coca-Cola,” although it flows quite nicely, wouldn’t work, and you’d probably get thirsty while practicing your TM.

Another thing I remember is the slogan: “TM in the AM and TM in the PM,” as in; you should meditate twice a day. A message you remember forever is pretty damn impressive. Whoever thought of it could have been one of the Mad Men. Maybe was.

BeatlesYogiIn the recent George Harrison film on HBO, Living In The Material World, the Maharishi himself, that giggly little guy, says there are thousands of mantras, and yours is chosen according to your aura or karma or yet other damn thing I have long forgotten.

But not the mantra! I remember that. Although one must never reveal what it is. That’s another thing I remember.

I am trying to meditate again, but not with much luck. You’re supposed to sit quietly (in Manhattan?) and repeat your mantra over and over, like internal chanting, until you stop thinking and your mind goes blank. As the online site The Art & Science of Meditation (talk about merging the old with the new) explains, TM can really help in this all-too material world:

“It teaches you how to bring yourself to a completely restful and peaceful state that infuses stability and balance. You are liberated from turbulence, anxiety and fear. It erases confusion and ushers clarity, focus and confidence.”

That would be nice.

dreamstime_xs_21524820But so far, TM is not working for me because my thoughts keep interrupting:
Where did I put my polka-dotted umbrella?
Should I make chicken for dinner?
Can my iPhone communicate with my Kindle?
Will they be jealous of each other?

Will I ever balance the new checkbook?

And why do I remember my mantra

When I have forgotten everything else . . .

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