Wednesday, December 14, 2005

In the Present Moment ... Alone

On Wednesday evenings, I go to group meditation. We sit silently for 40 minutes, have a brief reading from Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh, and then have a 15-minute discussion of the reading. You might ask, why do this in a group setting if so much of it is in silence? There is something powerful about people sitting together I have found.

The space in which we sit is so perfect for meditation. It’s in a space dedicated to multiple forms of healing, including massage, acupuncture, and of course meditation. The room is spare, with six dark burgundy meditation cushions grouped around a small candle and a bamboo plant gracing the spartan decor. Of course there is a bell and a striker with a knit covering. The overhead light is low. It’s really just right.

I was the “anchor”, the person in charge of inviting the bell and reading from our book of short thoughts. The reading tonight was “The Meditation of Hugging”, which I read over as I waited for the others to arrive. The whole idea is that a hug will be so much more meaningful if you breathe 3 times while hugging and really concentrate on the other person, as opposed to those superficial hugs that don’t really have much meaning.

As the clock passed 7:30, I slowly realized that no one else was coming. I guess this is not surprising with people traveling and preparing for the busiest time of the year. But my dilemma was whether or not to sit alone or just pack it in and go home. I tend to get so much out of this forced time of slowing down that I opted to stay.

I invited the bell three times and then closed my eyes as if the other five cushions were occupied. The whole idea of meditation is to come into the moment, briefly forgetting about he past and the future to the degree possible. My “warm-up” is to go through the litany of all those persons for whom I am grateful. The list is growing. Then I begin to pay attention to my breathing, counting the inhales and exhales in pairs. My goal is to get up to 30 without getting totally distracted. Sound simple? Well, some nights it is absolutely impossible. When I lose track of my breathing, I start again at 1.

You don’t realize just how fast your mind is constantly working until you try to slow it down and just breathe. You quickly figure out that it is an impossible goal to banish all thoughts, at least for a novice like me. One of my fellow meditators once likened it to walking down a path holding the hand of a small child. As the child would try to run after a butterfly or some other distraction, you would gently urge her back onto the path and continue.

I slipped momentarily into a very deep place that I love to go when I meditate. As I came back into reality, I invited the bell once again to end my sit, bowed to the invisible people in the room, extinguished the candle, and left in the dark. I can’t think of a better way to escape from the normal business of this the most busy season of the year.



Blogger Washington Cube said...

As I read into this, I found myself saying, "I hope she stays." And, you did.

I'm amazed at how many people are uncomfortable with silences and stillness. I went to the movies and saw a trailer for the movie, Domino, hot flashing neon rapidity from scene to scene, and all I could think was what a perfect film for this ADD age we live in.

11:30 PM  

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