Monday, March 28, 2011

Zen is In.

I had been looking forward to this day for about a month or so. Having long been fascinated and curious about other religions - especially the middle eastern ones - I jumped at the chance to attend a service or a "sangha."

My reasons were both personal and academic. One of my classes required me to attend a "cultural or ethnic community event" and write about it. Um, in Boise? Yeah, sure. But after hearing the mention of a Buddhist temple here I made some calls and amazingly enough, found that one of my mom's best friends goes to it. It worked out perfectly!

The day before she told me to wear "comfy clothes that I could sit in."

I panicked a little. I only wear jeans. Or black work pants - that is IT. And in my mind I was trying to picture what people that go to a Buddhist temple wear. A friend of mine on FB joked that I needed a cloak with a hood. Har Har.

Obviously, I am so not a new age-ish type person. I have black hair, wear dramatic makeup and nearly every article of clothing I own is, of course, black. After dressing in my BCBG "sweatpants" (black) and my zip up hoodie (black) and my comfy boots (black) I set out for the temple. I felt like a total SLOB/FREAK. Not an uncommon feeling for me actually. Thank god I didn't run into anyone I knew. Which in Boise - is next to impossible to do.

Once inside, I was met with incense, tea and chiming bells. I took off my jacket and my shoes and then grabbed a round purple cushion to sit on. The teacher was an older lady with a nice smile sitting cross-legged in a chair at the front of the room. She had a singing bowl - the thing that chimes - and I immediately knew I wanted one. The sound it emits is so calming. Of course, days later when I went in search of one I found out - the cheap ones are about $100!!!!! Yeah, I'll pass.

The first part of the service was following along in a booklet and reading aloud - sort of a chant called "Shantideva's Committment to the Awakened Mind." It took nearly 15 minutes to get through the whole thing but there was something cool about reading aloud with 20 other people - sort of a synergy in the air.

After the reading, it was time to meditate. I was looking forward to this most of all. With the high level of stress and drama in my daily life, not to mention NOISE, I knew I would benefit greatly from some solitude and quiet.
It didn't disappoint. As I sat there, with my eyes closed and my legs crossed indian style, I couldn't believe how peaceful I felt just after a few minutes. As time went on, I realized, how eerily quiet the room had gotten. Just to double check, I squinted my eyes to peer around. Yep, there were still 20 people in here. But they (and I) were dead silent. amazing. This went on for 20 minutes - felt like an eternity. a part of my brain kept expecting to hear Berlyn screaming or my phone ringing or worse, Spongebob's hideous laugh. But, nada.
I began to feel weightless and a bit sleepy. I started to daydream about doing this sort of thing every day at home. But I quickly came back to reality when I remembered the 3 year old who resides with me.

Once the meditation was over, the chiming bells were sounded. We got up, went to the ladies room, walked around their bookstore and then came back to indulge in hot tea and cookies. My friend I had attended with made a joke that these services always reminded her of AA meetings - everyone standing around, drinking tea and chatting. I had to agree - it had that aura about it.

After our break, we took our seats again on our fluffy, purple cushions. This time, the teacher talked and I felt incredibly moved.
Unlike sermons I have been to all throughout my life - Lutheran, Catholic, Nazarene, Christian - this one felt real and true. Well, it felt like me. I understood her, I felt able to relate and most importantly, I did not feel judged.

I look forward to returning one day. But, in the meantime, I am in the process of setting up my own "meditation area" in my new home. I know on stressful days - or even, on days I feel grateful and thankful - I will sit in silence, smell the incense and focus on my blessings and all the good things in life.

To be continued!

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