I showed up this morning at 11 for what the invitation called “tea and meditation” and found seven other women had reacted the same way. I arrived first and stood wondering as one by one, the women came in alone, some from considerable distance, sat down with a cup of tea and shyly tried to blend into a friendly group.
I didn’t know anyone but everyone seemed to be in her 30s, and not at all aware I was old enough to be their mother. (No complaints from me about that awareness failure.) Their array of fresh, unpainted faces and hoop earrings hinted that none worked at banking, lawyering or any predatory profession, and it did turn out—at least in part—that these were earnest young women dedicated to helping others. In the end, they exchanged cards and brochures for bodywork and nutrition counseling.
Gathering for 90 minutes in the middle of a Saturday in the middle of a major mainstream holiday weekend to meditate and mull it over seemed to be a way each had decided to help herself. There was mention of gratitude for the invitation being to women only. This let them feel more relaxed and open. This being a Saturday and a weekend the city feels hauntingly emptied by families rushing off to Disneyworld or Sierra skiing or Baha sunbathing, and unnaturally quiet while its considerable Latino population prepares for Catholic fetes and Easter feasts, and this being a spring so many millions of stifled and stunted individuals have exploded with demands for freedom in the Maghreb and the Middle East, the freedom we had to gather at someone’s house to practice the teachings of the Buddha seemed particularly poignant and precious.
All the more so when these young women asked pained questions about how to make meditation help them in their busy lives. Their concern was how to be right now, how to react when they realize they’re speeding unheeding through life, how to stay in and not stray from the moment at hand. Of course that’s the big Buddhist trick and the trickiest part of the trick, as was discussed, is not to turn away from what’s happening right now because it seems boring or hurts or frightens us or disappoints expectation.
It is in fact in just these distinctly edgy, unglamorous moments—standing alone in a Starbucks line, scrubbing pots, confronting physical pain—that our life is airing in high definition. If we attentively watch that show, we get all the insight we need to confront suffering, impermanence and the restlessness of existence. Fearlessness, not turning or running away, is the trick of the trick. And our culture definitely discourages that. It tries extra hard with all its networking, neon, entertainments, opiates, luxe, lucre and celebrity come-on to brush over, cover up or debunk reality. People who believe in a permanent high get laid very low very fast. They get foolish or violent. Perhaps that's why taking time for tea and meditation on a holiday weekend, seeking stability and satisfaction by going against the current, sitting still, being alone or lonely, breathing in and out, in and out, trying to see joy in flossing, can be a resurrection.
To have time to understand heart ache is a blessing.
When several women wanted to know how to sustain a meaningful practice, which is really the question of how to stay motivated, our hostess, Rose, quite forthrightly and matter-of-factly in her Cornwall accent, said: “Well, you know, we all have this beautiful Buddha enlightened mind in us and we can either turn on the TV and spend 15 minutes watching the antics of some fictional family or friends, some stupid gossip or food fight, or we can spent 10 minutes tuning into ourselves and our own perfection.” Yes, you can watch your own home box office for free 24/7.
~Sandy Garson"Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"
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