projects and writings of T.A. Burkholder
All the usual resistances were there. I’d never done it so I didn’t want to do it. I’d never been so I didn’t want to go. I didn’t know what to expect so I didn’t know how to prepare. But this little blog post was waiting to be written. If I didn’t try this, I’d have to try something else. If I didn’t go now, I’d have to go later and even though my brain is very good at convincing me that later is definitely better, it’s never really played out that way in reality.
So…meditation. Not just the meditation that ends all of my yoga classes in the form of either a sitting meditation or shivasana (that wonderful pose where you lie completely still on the floor and breath). Not the state of concentration and mindfulness that I occasionally achieve while out on a walk in Mt. Tabor Park or while working the muscles of a massage client. But sitting cross-legged on a cushion in front of a Buddhist altar for an hour in complete silence.
Silence except for the sound of my breath. And the ringing in my ears. And the woman talking in the hallway. And the traffic outside. And my thoughts.
Thoughts like: I can do this. This is good. Breathe in. Breathe out. My eyes are starting to hurt from looking at the dot pattern of this carpet. Oh shit my leg is going to sleep. My leg is numb. Breathe in. Breathe out. Thank you for the walking meditation. Walking on a numb leg is weird. Does the end of walking meditation mean we’re half way through? Breathe in. Breathe out. My shoulder is sore. Breathe in. Breathe out. Shit my other leg is numb, like so numb I can’t even move it. Does something bad happen to your limbs if the circulation is cut off for too long? Breathe in. I don’t like altars, especially ones with framed photos of people hanging over them. Breathe out. Don’t look at the altar. Look at the dots. No, look at nothing. Breathe in. Breathe out.
The meditation ended with some chanting. The chanting that has happened in some of my yoga classes has been done in Sanskrit. Other than the opening and closing Om’s, I don’t participate. I like chanting Om, though. It’s just a nice sound and I like the way it vibrates my sternum, and the way it vibrates the air in a room full of people. But these chants were not in Sanskrit or any other foreign language. They were in English, printed in flexible blue folders and handed out by an assistant. The nice man leading the meditation read the words in a droning monotone, but it wasn’t just a few words repeated over and over. Rather they sounded like prayers, several paragraphs long, full of names I didn’t recognize and couldn’t pronounce, full of unfamiliar myth and ritual. For some reason, I read along, trying to enjoy the vibration of the droning monotone, but without success.
With the chants finished and a few announcements made, our hour was over. I didn’t linger. I had my coat and boots on and was almost out the door before anyone else came out of the room. The ritual didn’t appeal to me. The attempt at quiet and stillness did. But if I do more, I’ll have to find my own way into it. And maybe the quiet will sound like the rumbling of a gong (like this) or like Fun House by The Stooges (like this). Maybe the stillness will look like climbing a trail or staring out the window of a bus.
Or maybe I’ll just take a nap in the sun with one of my cats. Yeah, for now, I think I’ll do that.