Monday, February 25, 2008

Meditate This

I’ve been meditating on and off for 10 years now. It was originally suggested to me by my therapist at the time that I try meditation as a way to relax, since I was so overextended and refused to give anything up (me? imagine that). Since then, I’ve used meditation to also help me focus on tiny changes I need to make in my daily life, and I even meditate right before I leave the house to go to a bout, since it helps quiet my mind and let me focus once I’m out on the track.

My best friend, Betty Beatdown, has always been interested in meditation but has been unable to learn how to do it on her own, so we decided to attend a meditation center (a shambhala) that was offering group meditation and a short instruction on how to meditate.

We were both nervous about attending the group, but for some very different reasons. Betty was scared she wouldn’t be able to focus and would want to get up after 10 minutes. I was afraid they were going to make us recite group mantras out loud, which I was resistant to doing, because I already have my own mantras, and quite frankly, I like meditating because I do it by myself. The thought of independent meditation in a room full of other people independently meditating was intriguing to me, and it’s what I first envisioned Betty first asked me to go.

After initial fear of being rejected by the Buddhists for not being able to sit still long enough, Betty’s thoughts then turned to worrying about other things, like becoming so relaxed that she would fart really loudly. This, in turn, made me paranoid that someone would fart and I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from laughing at it. Hell, I laugh when I’m alone with the dog and he farts! Oh, god (Buddha), how would I control myself?

I then envision awkward questions that I would be engaged in when we arrived at the center.

“Are you Buddhist?” they would ask.

“No, but I am an ordained Buddhist priestess,” I would say, and diarrhea of the mouth would ensue. “It’s not real though – I mean, I got ordained on the internet to marry my friends, and I seemed to identify more with Buddhism than anything else listed on the drop-down menu – I mean, I guess it technically is real, because I am able to perform marriages and Baptisms. Do Buddhist get baptized? Oh, god – I mean Buddha! Wow I, eh, I hope you’re not offended here. I really do like to meditate. I apologize for being a legal Buddhist priestess…”

I really do identify with Buddhism more than any other organized religion, but I’m comfortable with the pieces I’ve taken from it and that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m into becoming a full blown Buddhist or even learning any more than I know already, unless it’s on my own terms. So, I was scared to go to the class, but I kept telling myself, and Betty, “They’re Buddhists. It’s in their nature to not judge and just be helpful.” And so we went.

We both woke up an hour early yesterday and decided to go ahead and just pick up some coffee on our way over. Before Betty arrived to pick me up, I became paranoid that I would have to poop while meditating if I didn’t poop before we left, so I spent a while in the bathroom doing some lower GI meditation in hopes of enlightening my colon. Thank god (Buddha) it worked! It was a beautiful day outside, the sun was shining, and I was really getting excited about going. Betty picked me up and we were on our way.

After a stop at the coffee shop and an apartment building that shared the same address as the meditation center, we finally made it there. I small 70s looking wooden sign was posted on the walkway outside the building that read “Baltimore Meditation Center.”

“OK,” I said. “If you need to get up, just do so and go to the back of the room. We’ll sit next to each other so I will hear you get up, and I’ll join you and we can go.”

“OK,” Betty said.

We opened the door and entered a surprisingly small room that was segmented by strategically-placed furniture to make three distinct areas: a reception area, denoted by a desk, a sitting area, denoted by sofas and pillows, and a refreshment area, denoted by juice and doughnuts sitting on a folding table. There were three men in the room: two were at the refreshment table talking and one was kneeling down on a pillow in the sitting area. All three looked at us as we walked in. We stood there, approached the desk in front of us.

No one came over.

I removed my gloves and sunglasses. Still nothing.

I let out a large sigh, followed by a “Well, we’re here,” and I looked around at the three men who only again stopped briefly to look at us and then go back to what they all were already doing.

Was this it? Is this 8 by 8 sitting area where the meditation happens? I imagined more of a yoga studio. Why isn’t anyone approaching us? What should we do? I look at Betty, and she has the look of fear on her face. I freak out and say loudly, “OK, let’s go wait for her outside,” knowing full well there was no “her” we were waiting for.

“What the fuck was that?!” I say once we were outside.

Our expectations were crushed. After briefly debating going back in there to tell off the Buddhists (shame on you for being unBuddha-like!), we instead decided to go buy over-the-knee socks.

I don’t know if my expectations for our interaction with the people in the meditation center were too high. I kind of compared the experience to derby (I compare EVERYTHING to derby…). If someone we don’t know walks into the rink, we make sure to go up to her and make her feel welcome. Not because we have to, but because it’s the right thing to do. You’d think Buddhists would get that.

Part of me still wants to write an angry e-mail to the center’s management expressing my displeasure with the experience. The other part of me wants to go back and hope for a better experience.

(I will tell you one place I WILL NOT be going back to: American Apparel. Their over-the-knee socks look hideous on me – rolling down my chunky thighs like an old-lady’s Suntan-colored knee high pantyhose. For the love of Buddha, when will I find some that fit?!)

We decided Betty would e-mail the center this week for further information, and we may try to go back again next week.


Anonymous said...

Although, if we had decided to go back in, we never would have seen that crow eat the fried chicken.

Stephanie said...

I once farted during a meditation group because I was falling asleep and my butt just decided to let it out. It was really hard not to laugh at one around me seemed to react but it would have been IMPOSSIBLE not to hear it. In fact I think it was what woke me up. guys should try this meditation group:

It's part of the Insight Meditation Group of Washington and they are really friendly. They always ask if there are newcomers and encourage questions and everything. I haven't been to the Baltimore sangha, but the one I sometimes go to in DC is really great.

Baltimore, MD, Sunday evening

BALTIMORE ~ WEEKLY ~ Led by Trish Magyari
Sunday evening, 5:30 - 7:00 pm.
Class includes sitting and walking meditation, mindful movement, a short teaching, and discussion with an emphasis on applying mindfulness and compassion to our daily lives.
Location: Breathe Books (2nd floor meditation room, Second Wind), 810 W. 36th St, “The Avenue” in Hampden, Baltimore, MD 21211.
Cost: No fee, donations gratefully accepted.
Note: All welcome, no registration necessary. Chairs and meditation cushions provided.
Contact: Trish Magyari,, 443-939-0232.