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The Parmahansa Ballerina

Author: Maryanne Comaroto
Published: Feb 21 2010

"You know what? I've changed my mind," I said, pulling into the turning lane. I decided we should have really clean food instead and I headed toward one of our other favorite restaurants. We arrived a few moments later.

The manager's face lit up when he saw us. "Maryanne!" he shouted. With the exception that this place was a haven for the very, very far Left rather than beer-guzzling Republicans, it was kind of like "Cheers" - everyone knew our names.

We sat down and ordered dinner. "Oh, what a cute little dog," my husband said to the woman sitting on the sofa next to ours. She was wearing a long, very flimsy skirt, and a beanie on her head. "Thanks," she said. "He's a working dog."

"A working dog?" I asked. It was the smallest dog I'd ever seen.

"He works as a healer," she explained. "Sometimes with cancer patients, things like that. He's very sensitive to energy. His name is Buddha," she said, at which point my husband laughed lightly and replied, "yes, of course it is."

"And what about your work?" I asked the woman.

"Oh, I'm a nun," she said, and then corrected herself. "Actually, I'm a Swami. Our tradition comes from a very specific lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. I'll become a Parmahansa soon, and then maybe a Llama after that. We'll see," she said.

"Wow, that's great!" I said. I didn't know that someone could just decide to become a Llama like that.

"I do have some concerns about a big earthquake coming soon," she said, seemingly out of nowhere. "In fact, my mother is going crazy with worry about it. You see, I predicted 9/11 - months before it happened, I constantly dreamed about planes crashing, but none of my friends took the warnings seriously." She gave us a very sincere expression.

As we thought of what to say next, a friend from our dance classes entered the restaurant. She was about to return to her home in New York, and we thought we had missed our chance to say goodbye. Then I thought about that "moment of insight" when I changed lanes and came to this restaurant instead of our original choice. It seemed similar to what I loved about the nun's story: the joy of living in a world where anything is possible, instead of being restricted to the rules of what is considered acceptable.

The nun waited while we chatted, and when our friend left, I explain that we knew her frond our dance classes, and told her a little about our community.

"Oh, I'm a dancer too!" she said. "I was a ballerina at one time," she added. It made for an interesting visual: The Parmahansa Ballerina.

I asked her if she was bald under her beanie, and she nodded and took it off to show us. "I don't actually have to shave anymore," she said. "Swami's aren't required to. But it helps me keep in mind everything that hair represents."

Hair or no, she was still very cute. "So are you allowed to be with a boyfriend?" I asked.

She nodded again. "After becoming a Parmahansa, I can," she said, "as long as he's a priest in my same order." She went on to explain that teachers could only be with other teachers. I thought it sounded about right.

After our meals, we asked for the check and collected our things. The nun suddenly started on a new topic: "You know, I lived on a cattle farm once." At that moment, I realized what an unlikely situation it was. Here she was, an ex-ballerina who lived on a cattle farm, soon to be a Parmahansa, taking her little dog around on healing sessions, wearing sheer skirts in the winter and predicting terrorist attacks and earthquakes.

"You two should visit me at the temple," she said as we hugged her goodbye. "I teach classes there!"

As we drove home, my husband and I chatted about how interesting and enjoyable it would be to create a whole new lineage. You could start your journey as a Llama, and then work your way down, take a sexual partner, let your hair grow out, and then at the lowest rank, you'd reach enlightenment! Ah, California - anything can happen!

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