The Many Faces of Meditation at a Thursday Evening Sit
I had been trying to get to this evening meditation sit with Mariposa Sangha for two weeks now, but either sicknesses or weather seemed to create obstacles. Several years into studying and reading about the practices and traditions of meditation and now settled into my own consistent home practice, I find I have the desire to find a community and to be among people with a similar practice. I have done a few retreats and studied away from home, but what I am seeking is something more sustainable within the bounds of a family life.
Today I finally had the opportunity to venture out to Mariposa Sangha. I walked into Trinity church where they hold their meditation. As I was directed to the room, I took a quick glance around. These were the faces of meditators. They didn’t look like monks. They didn’t wear robes and neither did I for that matter. They came dressed in everyday clothes, through all walks of life and all ages, but mostly older than me on this particular evening. Some were old, some in wheel chairs, others in suits, while others were quite casual. It was very different from the context of a yoga class. When I attend or teach a yoga class or even a meditation class in the yoga community, people often come wearing their yoga attire. Somehow there is a homogeneity there, at least on the surface.
The space itself was sparse and barren. This was not a Buddhist temple or a center dedicated to meditation. It was a room kindly offered by this church. So no meditation altars or fancy cushions. The room was a bit cold and more so there was quite a bit of activity unfolding within the church. Various groups were meeting and discussing, as the noise easily filtered into the space provided for meditation.
Nonetheless, we were very kindly greeted by the person leading the sit that evening and I suspect most evenings. Before we knew it, we promptly sat for thirty minutes of meditation, fifteen minutes of walking meditation or seated, and to end another fifteen minute meditation. I sat comfortably on my cushion and was completely willing and grateful to be there. I was quite alert for most of the initial thirty minutes which is a surprise in and of itself as I sleep quite early on weeknights. Eventually, though, sleepiness came knocking on my door. I found myself nodding off about three times in the last five minutes of the initial sit. Every time I noticed and recommitted to my seat, my mind would begin chattering. “Evening is really not the ideal time for you to meditate Sheila, you know this.” “Plus the room is a bit cold and at home you have your altar. And if you wake up at 5am like you intend to on most mornings, the house is completely quiet unlike the noise here.” For a long time, I had gotten accustomed to noise during my meditation since I have two little girls, but for the last six months I have managed to wake up earlier than I used to, giving me the opportunity to meditate when the house is quite still. Today, it was interesting listening to the various thoughts arise without identifying with them too strongly. I’d reserve judgement of my experience and desire to return for a later time.
The meditation ended an hour later. We all sat still for a few moments. Then Rick, the lead meditator/teacher, shared a beautiful passage on compassion and self judgement. He spent a few minutes reading after which it was quiet. I wondered for a moment if anyone would share anything. Finally one sweet woman started sharing her thoughts. And from there another man shared his and it kind of opened the flood gates. It was quite beautiful and the space was held in a very sweet and supportive way. These faces, that I had laid my eyes upon as I walked in the room at the beginning, became people with deep introspections and such a commonly shared humanity. It was so beautiful to see my experience in the words of their experiences. We were all so humanly connected despite the difference in age, gender or ethnicity. I loved being in that space, being in the space where these people were sharing their truths, daring to be seen and heard, while others held space to allow for exactly that to happen. My heart felt warm, my mind felt grounded, my body at ease.
As I got up, I felt so grateful to have had the time to go. My mind continued a bit of its chatter. “Sheila, actually the noise was not a big deal. It’s nice to meditate while life happens around you, while church goers convene and discuss. And if you had passed any of these people on the street, you wouldn’t have thought they were meditators. There are no indications. They are simply good people, walking their path, trying to find some meaning in life, in some way. To find connection where you least expect it is a beautiful thing. You should come back.”
I had a wonderful experience and I hope to return. Thankfully I have my daily early morning home practice. With kids ages seven and eight, home practice is really where it is at for me. I hope to be able to build community with time and attend these evening sits with some regularity. Maybe once a month is a good start. I’ll set the intention and let it be. It will happen as the timing is right.