I did not know what I was looking for when I walked into Shambhala Meditation Centre, but I soon had to explain my reason for being there. Before the class began, everyone had shared their reason for coming to Shambhala: reducing stress had been the number one answer. There was also a war veteran in attendance, who was there to cope with the things he saw in battle. Another woman, Cynthia, noted that she did not like to be anywhere commercial; her life must be extremely challenging I thought.
As my turn was fast approaching my mind raced. I could not say why I was there, to write about the experience of meditating in a group; I knew there was something wrong about this. Instead, I settled on the mostly true statement that I was there to find inspiration to write on the topic of meditation. With this out of the way, we began to meditate, albeit very briefly.
This introductory class had short (two-to-three-minute) meditation sessions followed by discussion. Cynthia was the first with a question: why should she keep her eyes open during meditation? “You should be with the world when you meditate and not close it off. Do you understand?” the instructor asked. To which Cynthia replied, “No.”
Instead of meditating, my thoughts and eyes search for something to write about, like the nearby pamphlets for their “Queer Dharma class”; the Jackhammer that was blaring in the background; the silk scarf the meditation instructor wore; and the laminate fake-hardwood we sat on, underneath our cushions. What was I doing here? Making observations of the experience was not helping me answer this question.
Not wanting to tell the class I was there for a blog was my real cue, one I missed. Since my reason for being there felt sneaky, then maybe it was not a good one.
Choosing to write a blog about meditation might have been my way of tricking myself back into being interested in its practice, as I am aware of its value. Only, payoff does not come from observing the practice — as I did that night — it comes from doing it.
So there is my silver lining and lesson: to write about meditation one has to actually meditate. With this in mind, being present for the next class is now mandatory.
Michael is a misplaced Trent Business Administration grad exploring Buddhism. He has recently traded in a career in accounting for a student card and a student budget. His other interests include: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Graphic Design. In this blog he will explore the bizarre and the profound at various Buddhist temples in Ottawa.