Occasionally during sitting meditation I have received “messages” in the form of “voices.” I have never found this particularly startling, nor have I concluded that this indicates the existence of supernatural beings or spirits. Since the human mind thinks largely in terms of language, it seems natural that any insight that arises from one’s deeper self might be expressed in the form of words or apparent voices.
Whatever the explanation, on one occasion it seemed that a gutsy bay gelding at a minor league racetrack in the Pacific Northwest somehow broke through to a level of awareness—or imagination—that I haven’t been able to reach since.
It was a Tuesday evening in late summer two years ago when I opened the sports section of the Seattle Times and scanned the list of entries for Wednesday’s races at Longacres, the local track. There, in the ninth race, was just the horse I’d been waiting for, in the precise spot I had anticipated would offer him the best chances for winning.
Sienna Swaps had captured my admiration from the outset of the season. He was a beautiful, four-year-old bay with a white blaze on his forehead, calm and gentle in the paddock, but explosive in the stretch, where he would repeatedly win his races in the same, predictable, dramatic fashion. Each time, he would break from the gate dead last, seemingly hopelessly behind the early pacesetters. Around the far tum, he would begin to close ground and then, turning into the stretch, he would swing wide away from the rail and make his gallant, heart-stopping charge, whooshing by in a reddish blur, as if in another dimension, to catch the leaders in the final strides and roar off triumphantly at the wire.
Now, after two unsuccessful tries against much tougher competitors in longer races, Sienna Swaps was back at his favorite distance, 6½ furlongs, with veteran jockey Larry Pierce in the saddle. After three months of attending the track on a weekly basis, I considered this the best bet of the year.
Wednesday morning I arose early, prepared to tout Sienna Swaps as the premier betting opportunity of the year to my coworkers. My only concern was the favorite, Wahtahshee, a fleet-footed front-runner sure to grab the early lead. Could Sienna Swaps catch him? I felt confident he could, but wondered if perhaps I should play it safe by betting some of my money to place, so that if he finished second, I wouldn’t be wiped out.
As usual, before I drove to work, I sat in my study and meditated for half an hour. Although I’d been meditating for nearly two years, I never consciously tried to analyze or intuit the outcome of races in my sessions of sitting—it seemed absurd, crass and vaguely improper. This morning, despite the momentous bet, upon which depended my largest wager of the year, as well as my office reputation as racetrack analyst, my awareness floated free of such momentary concerns.
Then, in a moment of calmness came a voice, deep and confident: “Sienna will win big.” Immediately, instinctively, I felt my mind inquire, but what about a nice, safe conservative place bet just in case. A lighter voice, almost mischievous and impish, followed with: “Bet it all on his nose.” I laughed silently. Possibly it was just some sort of inner wishfulness, but I found it strangely reassuring.
Sienna Swaps won that afternoon, running dead last for the first half mile and then overcoming an intimidating gap of seven lengths in the stretch. As described in the Seattle Times results charts, “Sienna Swaps was up in the final sixteenth. Wahtahshee could not resist the winner in the late stages.”
That following morning, I sat once again in my study for my morning meditation. The same voices came again, joined together in a little chorus, the deep one and the imp, with only one short comment on Sienna-Swaps: “See, we wouldn’t lie to you.” Since then, I’ve attended various racetracks around the country—Aqueduct, Belmont, Santa Anita, Bay Meadows, Arlington Park, Saratoga, Monmouth, Meadowlands—and I’ve practiced sitting meditation at least once a day. But the voices have never returned.