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A Whale of a Time

This was one of the stranger experiences I had in Spain, mostly because I’d never experienced anything like it before, but it also happened on my first full day in Bilbao when culture shock had already taken over my brain. This is how it was from my perspective: Before I arrived to Spain, I knew from my program that the two women I’d be staying with were therapists; that is all. When I arrived, I found my room off to the side of my 45yr old host mom’s, Sal, and across from her 60yr old housemate, Mora. What was really interesting was that after dinner, I meditated for the first time. Sal had said that Mora, who changed her name to Altracia when meditating, was going to sing. I fully expected something like kids when they are little and put on at-home plays and concerts and got ready to hear Mora’s singing voice. After dinner, Sal and I sat on the living room floor and waited for Mora till we saw her enter with a drum. My host mom crossed her legs as if in a meditation position and placed her hands on her knees in “UM” form. She motioned to me to do the same. We all sat on pillows with our legs crossed and Altracia got out a drum-like thing with a gong and started it all. We closed our eyes. She sang-hummed and tossed in messages here and there. Within a few minutes of our eyes being closed, Mora started beating the drum ever so gently. What came out of her mouth was a mix between a humming of words in a minor key with surges of laborious “humphs.” I felt my eyes uncontrollably start to twitch; I was trying to look at Altracia through my closed lids, struggling to comprehend what was going on. I wondered if she was looking at my awkward hand positioning, twitching eyes, or was too focused on the drum/gong to notice. The singing/meditation lasted about twenty minutes. We then listened to silence, palms upright, eyes closed for twenty minutes more. Little did I know this would be the shortest meditation of my life. When it was over and they asked how I felt, I said I was relaxed and asked how Mora did that, where her messages came from. She explained that someone had told her she’d be a whale in another life, someone as in a goddess of nature. This goddess also gave her the name she goes by while meditating. Then she gave me one of her blue, sparkly business cards. I scrap-booked it to always remember the woman who believed she’d be a whale. I finished the night confused about beliefs I'd never heard of, relaxed from sitting still for so long, and curious to learn more about what linked these two ladies with meditation, nature, and whales. To be continued…

Morgan McGill

Louisville, KY, USA

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