Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Meditation in Blue Jeans


I cycle the trail,
into the breeze raising up
the red-winged blackbird.


Recently, I participated in my first guided meditation session. I've been wanting to go beyond my own space and take part in a group meditation session for some time, so when the opportunity arose last week, I signed up. What I found at the end of the two hours was 1) I truly enjoyed being guided, listening to the soothing monk voice; 2) I'm pretty sure I nearly fell asleep as I vividly remember dreaming of a low-flying helicopter (so perhaps I was asleep); and 3) sitting in a crossed-legged position for an extended time makes the ankle against the floor hurt.

When I arrived at Main Street Yoga, I was directed to the front of the room, towards Sassy Sister-in-Law who was already there, sitting on a pillow, her yoga mat stretched out in front of her. I made my way to the pillow next to her and settled in. Immediately, I thought I should have worn yoga pants as I was, after all, in a yoga studio, but more so to just be a bit more comfortable for the next two hours. With a little shifting of one jean-clad leg, then the other, I was able to get myself situated nicely on the pillow (many thanks to the person who decided spandex should be a part of jeans!). Sassy Sister-in-Law and I whispered back and forth, but then I thought perhaps our whispering was rude. The two monks just a few feet in front of us were sitting quietly. They weren't whispering. They weren't talking. They were just sitting. So that's what I did.

At precisely 1:00 pm, Bhante Sujatha, a monk and the creator of the Blue Lotus Buddhist Temple,  began the session. He explained his journey, telling us he knew at 11 years old that he wanted to be a monk. I truly admire people like Bhante Sujatha. While I'm happy with what I do as a career, to some degree I still don't know what I truly want to do or be in this life. I know I'm happiest when I'm creating, be it a short story or a photograph or a wind chime from bicycle parts or a garden with veggies and flowers, but I can only do these things as long as I have that job that pays to support them. I'd love to be able to do all of these things and make a living doing them. I wished I'd known this a long time ago. Maybe things would be different if I'd realized then what I've come to understand now.

After Bhante Sujatha finished telling us about his journey, he led us into the meditation exercise. We were instructed to think, "I am well. I am happy. I am peaceful." Repeat. As we repeated this, Bhante Sujatha talked soothingly, easing us along. I could feel myself becoming deeply relaxed. We were then instructed to pay attention to our breathing. In. Out. In. What does it feel like? Out. What does it feel like? Then I was standing on a rural road I cycle often during the summer. It wasn't summer, though, as there were no crops growing in the fields on either side of the road. The sky was clear and blue. A white helicopter came from the left, flying across my field of vision and I watched it until it passed in front of a house. The next second, I found myself back in the yoga studio, wondering what in the world had just happened. Why was I standing in the middle of nowhere, watching a helicopter of all things?

I brought myself back to repeating "I am well. I am happy. I am peaceful" and listened as the second monk began a chant. During the chant, Bhante Sujatha circulated throughout the studio, laying his hands on each participant's head in blessing. When he reached me, I was wondering how I could shift my right leg to ease the pressure on my ankle without my movement being noticeable. I decided to not move, but rather sit through the pain long enough for the monk to offer his blessing. When he placed his hands on my head, my first thought was "I'm glad I washed my hair this morning." My second thought was "I want this man's kindness to be the kindness I show others." After another 15 or 20 seconds, Bhante Sujatha moved on. I felt such appreciation for his blessing. Then I felt the ankle pain again and slowly removed my right foot from beneath my left calf. The relief I felt in my ankle was heavenly, but I was also kind of pleased that the blessing overshadowed the pain.

For the rest of the meditation, I focused on the manta and my breathing, and by the end of the session, I did feel well, happy, and peaceful. These feelings stayed with me for a long time afterwards, right through the evening. Even several days later, I'm still thinking back to the session, mulling over the words of Bhante Sujatha, the tranquil tone of the chant, and the idea of loving kindness that was the underpinning of the session. What kind of world would we have if every single one of us went through our days with the intention of loving kindness? Hmmmmmmm. Imagine.

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