Meditating in the Casino

I’m aware how this title sounds. I’m also aware that the casino is not a place to meditate. What was meant to be a random fun night, turned out to be one I won’t forget because of what I experienced at that roulette table,
And so I tell this story.

It’s our last night in Kathmandu. The city sleeps early and having already explored it, we ask the cab driver what we should do for the night and this is how we find ourselves in the casino. This is my first time in one. On second thought the first was as a child in Las Vegas watching the adults play, not allowed to touch anything, my hands to myself I watched the apples and hearts roll on the slot machine.

I could now pull that forbidden lever.
Besides pulling the lever on the slot machine with the few pennies of stupidity that I hope will amass unexpected riches, like everyone else who pulls it, I have no idea what to do here. Z plays blackjack with a skill that surprises me of the sides to him I am yet to discover and we move on to the roulette table.
He is winning and losing and winning and losing, going by the rule of the casino, playing for the fun of it.

It doesn’t take me long to drift into boredom and I am now just sitting at the roulette table beside him, watching when a thought whispers in my mind,
Empty yourself and you will be full.” I find this thought strange, because it is a meditative Sufi like thought, that doesn’t belong here.
I decide not to question or pursue it and begin to do as it says.
While Z plays, I stare at the roulette table blankly, thinking of nothing and emptying out my mind as much as I can……… when quite suddenly the number 30 starts to shine on the board, glinting like magic. I dart my eyes around the board quickly and just this one number has that gleam.

I take a coin at once and place it on the no 30.
Z turns to look at me questioningly because I am playing, “What are you doing?”.
I don’t reply staring only at the number that is gleaming like magic.
Ten seconds later the rotating ball stops on the number 30.
His eyes are wide “Did YOU just do that?” …. We are so excited with the win, that we don’t look at the rolling ball which stops at 30 again. The two men on the table playing seriously look at me quizzically.
It wasn’t a wild guess because I played just once. It wasn’t a maybe or a what if?
It was a crystal clear shining number 30.
It happens twice again that night, a gleaming number 9 and number 5, but this time I foolishly don’t trust it. Because of this experience, Z & I are both awaiting in eager anticipation for the magic, and it doesn’t arrive because the whole idea is to not use your mind, but empty it completely of what you think is right or wrong, for the magic to show itself

I know this is not why you meditate – to go win at the casino, but this encounter went far beyond that moment on the roulette table.
It was a far too tiny glimpse of Rumi’s poetry insisting that if you empty yourself of your thoughts,you will be surprised with the haven of magic and love that will pour itself and fill you. It was a moment that told me to always trust my intuition. It told me that magic is real and that everything is indeed connected, in a way that I am far too preoccupied to notice.

I am just a beginner learning how to meditate, and I have the incredibly inappropriate thought of what it would be like if a highly meditative person, like a Zen monk walks into the casino and can see the number’s crystal clear beforehand. Z tells me that the paradox is they wouldn’t be here. True.
My mind is racing and in its reverie a movie like “21” is playing and he teasingly says it will be a flop film, but he also tells me not to write this story, because we should go back again and not give “our secret” away.

Far beyond the silliness, another question starts to form, “Empty yourself and you will be full”. I have experienced this on however minute a level.
What will happen if I stop asking myself questions for just a week? Those questions that torment me with their how’s and why’s. What will happen if I stop seeking answers for just a week? And I stop making them up. We’re always asking ourselves questions. How? Should I or shouldn’t I? When? WHY?
What if I laugh at the questions in my mind and laugh at the answers that pass me by? What magic will I find?
I know that magic lives in everyone and I can’t help wonder, what we might find?

I will not forget what I saw with my eyes, that gleaming no.30 and what it taught me. We did’nt walk out millionaires but I felt enriched.

by SHENAZ WAHID

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To God

God,
Thank you for giving me birth in a world full of beauty and full of agony.
One that only you understand, why you made it so.

Thank you for Love, and for the pain of hatred that teaches me Love’s worth.
Thank you for the sweetness of solitude, for the joy of company and for the aching loneliness that allows me to treasure both.

Thank you for the butterflies, mountains, fishes, oceans and trees.
Thank you for the friends I lost, ones I found and for those who stay through it all.
Thank you for the love I lost. Thank you for the love I found.
Thank you for those who come from nowhere, light a fire in my soul and change me forever in ways I couldn’t have done without them.
Thank you for those who make my heart cry without tears.

Thank you for my Angels and thank you for keeping me safe from the devils in my own mind.
Thank you for the moments of magic that turned into despair, and for the moments of despair that turned into magic.

Thank you for music and dance and for the deliciousness of silence. Thank you for the silence even when its loud.
Thank you for the joyous laughter. Thank you for the bitter tears.
Thank you for the sun and the moon. Thank you for the dark sky.
Thank you for light and thank you for the darkness, that gives the stars and moon a place to show themself.

Thank you for the moments I know myself, for those where I feel lost, and have a chance to find and be found.
Thank you for remembering me and thank you for forgetting all that I too must forget.

Thank you for those who understand who I am, for those who misunderstand and for those who couldn’t care less.
Thank you for all that I understand, and all that is far beyond me
in beauteous mystery’s womb.

Thank you for wisdom and insight and for my mistakes and folly.
Thank you for the nights of peace, and thank you for the restless sleepless nights.
Thank you for the mountains triumph. Thank you for failures abyss.
Thank you for the blessings, and for all that my foolish heart deemed as a curse.

Thank you for all that’s deep and for all that’s shallow in me, that needs digging.
Thank you for a mind that wants to turn moments into a story,
sometimes beautiful, sometimes frightful.
Thank you for words, without which I couldn’t tell any story.

Oh Thank you Dear God for the Dreams in my soul, for putting them there and thank you for all that is good and bad
that I will have to encounter along my journey’s length.
Thank you for what I know, for what I don’t, for what I will and for what I won’t.

Oh Thank you for People, both happy and sad as they make me. The ones who amaze and inspire, and the ones who hurt and confuse.
Thank you for keeping me company even when I don’t ask you to, and for never forsaking me even when I have myself
Thank you for all that has gone past me by, for now and for all that will be.

Thank you for magic and mystery, for revealing and hiding.
For all the funny contradictions of Life, the ecstasy and agony
one without which I wouldn’t know the other.

Thank you above all for LOVE
Thank you being a God of Love.

Thank you for it ALL.
Yours,
Shenaz

by SHENAZ WAHID