Although we went to the Ranch almost every year and spent our days there in contemplative relaxation, nobody in my family seemed particularly adept at meditation when we arrived at the Ranch a few years ago. My father always said, “I think it’s impossible to clear your mind of all thoughts. In fact, it probably isn’t even desirable.” My mother and I believed in the absence of thought, but whenever we sat quietly, we wondered if we were really meditating. My nineteen-year-old nephew saw no point to meditation when he could be using that time to play video games.
At the Ranch, though, we all felt ourselves moving closer to a meditative state. My parents attended daily meditation classes at Milagro. My father said, “It turns out that you don’t empty your mind of all thoughts. You just pick a pleasant thought and think about that.”
My mother said, “I’m not sure that’s what they said. I think you’re supposed to focus on your breathing.”
My nephew spent his days peacefully—not meditating, but on the pickle ball and basketball courts. On Thursday, he said, “I feel like the four of us haven’t had any time together this week. I declare Friday ‘Family Day.’”
We all thought Family Day was a great plan, and we decided to convene at the labyrinth, imbued with the tranquility of the Ranch and eager to experience our new transcendence. My parents and I arrived together, and my nephew came tearing over from the Lounge, where he’d had his hundredth hot chocolate of the week and petted all the cats. He once again recommended that we adopt the largest cat as my mother instructed us to stop talking and to take deep breaths.
My father looked dubiously at the labyrinth as we quickly explained—Chartres, inner peace, silence. My nephew found the dial to turn on the music, and we solemnly started walking, one by one, into the labyrinth. My mother was breathing deeply, I felt very calm, and my nephew seemed peaceful.
One deep breath later, however, my father shouted, “What time does the flight leave tomorrow?” A few startled birds flew out of the trees. My nephew and I exchanged horrified glances. We knew we were supposed to maintain a meditative silence.
My father tried again: “Did you say we leave early?” We rounded a bend in the path, and I brushed shoulders with my nephew.
“Grandpa did not get the memo,” he whispered. I laughed—contemplatively, I told myself—into the collar of my sweatshirt.
My mother solemnly kept her eyes to the fallen leaves on the ground, walking silently. My father shouted out variations of his question, and my nephew and I grinned, shuffling a little more quickly toward the blossom at the center of the labyrinth. We leaped off the path, into that point of nirvana, and burst out laughing. My mother followed us, still reverentially quiet. My father joined us at the center, giving us hard looks and probably wondering when anyone would give him some flight information.
After a moment at the center of the labyrinth, we all filed out again, tripping along until we burst off the path at the end. My nephew and I were still laughing. My father said, “Will we at least have time for breakfast before we leave?” My mother said, “You guys, was that your idea of silence?”
My nephew shrugged. “That’s it for Family Day,” he said. “I think it’s time for dinner.”
So we trooped away, leaving the labyrinth for another year—perhaps a better year, when we might all be a little closer to enlightenment.