hands and heart

Although Francoise was European by birth, she had spent over four decades seeking enlightenment in new-age retreats throughout the United States and Canada. Born in occupied France at the beginning of WWII, her parents, who were lucky enough to escape the Nazis during the occupation, brought her to Boston before she was five and placed her in public schools where she had the good fortune to escape, in their eyes, the hypocrisy of organized religion.

However, Francoise loved the study of various far-eastern philosophies and was focused on how one lives life, rather than salvation from an outside source. Because of her desire to see a “oneness” in all of life, it was only natural that when she became a student in Liberal Arts at Cambridge, philosophy became her main area of study. She took to meditation as a duck takes to water and found that no day was complete unless it contained at least 30 minutes of inward peace.

Because of this focus, Francoise seemed not to be swayed by the current fashions of the day as favored by her peers. Both her first and second marriages were to professors – her first she met as his graduate assistant; her second as a freelance writer when she interviewed him. In both instances, the men had fallen in love with students and had left her with a child. Now, years later, with both children now adults, she found herself with the freedom to be back where she was when she started – only with the wisdom of a woman in her sixties.

Having studied World Literature with emphasis on Asian philosophy and drama, she had come up through the ranks, retiring with an excellent pension plus social security, which she chose to receive at the age of sixty-two. As fate would have it, she was scanning the financial section of the local book store, in search of a research document on retirement investments, when a man, at least twelve years her junior, accidentally bumped her arm causing her to drop the book she was holding. Profusely apologizing, he immediately picked up the book, which was now lying on the floor and handed it to her, guiding her to an armchair nearby to regain her composure.

Francoise’s dharma was such that she never took offense at anything she knew was accidental or unintentional. Following his lead she seated herself with a grace that seemed natural and flowing. His eyes came upon hers and instead of seeing an older woman, obviously retired and years his senior, he captured the natural beauty that showed through her lined face, spotted with freckles apparently caused by long walks in the outdoors. She smiled at him kindly and in that smile he received a gesture of love that was so pure, and certainly innocent for her age, that he relaxed and pulled up a nearby chair engaging her in conversation.

Several hours later, after tea at a nearby café and a discussion concerning events relative to the local area, Francoise knew that she was smitten. She had not been interested in men, or in having a physical relationship, in years – maybe even decades – not having met anyone who even slightly attracted her. Ben was different; although he was certainly much younger this difference in age was unnoticeable when in conversation. She knew it was corny to even think this way but the idea passed through her head that indeed, she may have met a soul-mate, with emphasis on the ‘a’ not on the possessive pronoun ‘her.’

In the weeks and months that ensued, Francoise found herself the center of the most passionate sexuality she had ever enjoyed with anyone. Each stolen moment with Ben, for he was married, was filled with a fervor and enthusiasm for physical lust that she had never shared with anyone. She could no longer meditate, for her thoughts always turned to him and the many ways he had of bringing her to orgasm. This was disturbing to her as she had always found such comfort in her stillness and now the diametrically opposite of such motionlessness seemed to guiding her thoughts.

Enjoying her tea, while gazing out of the bay window that overlooked Harvard Square, she realized that such sexuality had, indeed, always been a part of her. She had simply put it on ‘hold’ as she followed her individual path to enlightenment. For all of these many years it had simply been dormant. Because her detachment to the physical world had been so great she had thought that it did not exist. Now she realized that she had been living an illusion – her passion did not only exist it was stronger than ever. Francoise recognized that these emotions had simply remained latent, in the recesses of her physical, mental, emotional and spiritual cells, for decades. She had indeed ‘awakened’ - just not to the enlightenment that she thought she had searched for.

She also realized that she felt absolutely and totally alive. Forgetting the reality of being chronologically older, she linked herself to a new authenticity in which she viewed her physical image as she felt herself to be – young, beautiful and full of vitality. Finally, after decades of searching and study, she discovered that her heart had totally opened – that the sensual physicality she felt with Ben was as emptying to her in a bodily sense as the many mantras and visual manifestations had been to her spiritually.

Stirring her second cup of tea, she noticed a gleaming almost perfect leaf, as it detached from the branch nearest her window and glided down to the ground. She thought of Ben – of how he looked at her with love as she lay in his arms physically sated – and wondered if his love and acceptance, as a catalyst, was one life's final gifts. Silently, she offered up a prayer of thanks to the universe.