Overland 3: Seeing Angels
Memories of traveling overland to India at age 18
Somebody saw an angel.
It was slightly blurry, but still.
We heard about it the next day during our break after the lunch rush. Lucy, John and I poured ourselves coffee then slid into one of the wood booths of the empty restaurant. Lucy whispered.
“Somebody said they saw angels in the hallway,” she said.
John, Lucy and I stayed at three different hotels. Theirs were occupied by the six hundred people who attended the meditation course. Mine was empty. Or nearly empty. When I went to use the bathroom down the hall, an enormous tiled room with multiple toilets, showers, bidets, tubs and no walls, I discovered a naked woman floating in a bath. It was a shocking sight. But someone at Lucy’s hotel sighted an angel! It was as if she’d just revealed her accommodations included a pool, free room service, and nightly chocolate mints on the pillows.
“I heard a scuffle and people shouting in the middle of the night,” Lucy said.
She cracked her hotel door and poked her head out to see what was going on. Other guests, groggy with sleep, did the same. The ruckus woke everyone on her floor.
“They were shouting about winged beings hovering in the hallways, shimmering angels,” she said in a hushed voice.
Hotel staff wrestled the angel-spotter to the floor.
“They told us to go back to bed. They were handling the situation,” said Lucy.
“Who was it? Who saw angels?” John and I both asked excitedly.
I wanted to interrogate “angel eyes” myself, like a detective, or maybe more like those papal boards of miracle investigators to determine if the angel was real. But also, a part of me considered seeing an angel akin to holding a winning lottery ticket, and I wanted to hit the person up for some cash! Or a holy equivalent — good karma or maybe angel residue?
Lucy said the meditation course leaders asked everyone at her hotel to keep quiet about the angels.
“You’ve got to tell us!” John pleaded with Lucy.
She just shook her head.
I was impressed with her secret-holding ability. I would have blabbed all. After a few weeks of meditating twice daily, I was pretty sure my enlightenment was just around the corner. But I’d never even seen an aura, let alone an angelic being, no matter how blurry.
“They’re meditating a lot now,” said Lucy of the people participating in the course. “They’re up to six times a day of rounds, and that does weird things to people’s heads.”
Lucy and John had themselves attended shorter retreats. They described a routine of breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, over and over again, pausing only for meals and lectures. That’s when I’d see these course participants. They’d emerge from their rooms to swarm the restaurant buffet like hungry locusts
The peace-and-love meditators often seemed grumpy. A few barked orders at kitchen staff as we scurried around. The bread basket is empty! The coffee is weak! Where are you going? We were told over and over by the cook to cut participants slack : They are ‘de-stressing.’ Those hours spent sitting cross-legged in meditation were causing them to shed emotional baggage like cats shed fur, evidently, and we shouldn’t take it personally. Also all that meditation energy was benefiting we the workers, too.
That’s why English John and American Lucy followed meditation courses around the world. They worked on them for room and board and earned credit to participate in future retreats for free. I couldn’t plan that far into the future. I was satisfied that I had room and board in a beautiful town in Italy. On my days off, I hung out with a group of kids my age that I met in the village, three Italians and one beautiful boy from Egypt, on summer break from the university in Milano. They told me I was being exploited, working in the restaurant without pay like an indentured servant at best, and maybe a brainwashed captive of a dangerous cult. I assured them meditators were only about learning to calm their minds and it all seemed pretty harmless to me.
But then came the ethereal visitations.
After dismissing my intensely Catholic upbringing, I now found myself desperately wanting to believe in angels.
“They are de-stressing at such a rapid rate,” said Lucy of the meditators. “It’s intense. It’s too much for some people.”
“What do you mean,” I asked.
New to all of this, I thought Lucy might mean some participants were so stuck in their small-minded little ruts they couldn’t accept the reality of angels. I thought she might mean that we three humble kitchen workers were clearly on the fast track to enlightenment! We were ready to leap into the eternal light of being! We just needed to flip the bliss switch! It was all there waiting for us.
“I mean,” she said, “if someone is prone to mental illness and delusions, this can bring it to the surface.”
About the Creator
Vivian R McInerny
A former daily newspaper journalist, now an independent writer of essays & fiction published in several lit anthologies. The Whole Hole Story children's book was published by Versify Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021. More are forthcoming.
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