The meditation at Abbotsford Convent starts simply by getting what you need from the room’s shelves (a pillow, a bolster, or a blanket) and then taking a sitting position. There are seven of us, notably a male with a painted tribal face mask which makes his eyes look black. He leaves his didgeridoo at the door.
I grab my meditation stuff and sit. For a newbie to a formal type of meditation I am expecting the teacher to have some parting words, some wisdom of how to start off.
I wait, I am a studious student.
Oh Captain, my Captain!
The teacher looks like Buddhist monk, meaning he is bald and wearing an orange hoodie and looks soft and calm. He closes his eyes. I am still waiting. I am not used to no instruction, no focus, no noise, no direction.
But this is it – an hour of meditation has begun.
My hasty decision to wear tight black jeans was a bad choice. I wriggle and adjust the blue bolsters, but there is no sitting nirvana. My bum will suffer.
The anxiety sets in after a few minutes. It’s a strange thing, to just sit. My throat is tight, I’m hot, my scarf previously warming (and fashionable) is now suffocating. I unwrap it and bare my collarbone and throat. The door leading out to the long hallway looks appealing, as well as the windows overlooking the gardens. I have a brief fantasy about jumping through it, Mission Impossible style. The wind whistles around the room, the trees tap the glass, the guy next to me has a blocked nose and breathes through his mouth.
All is calm, but why doesn’t it feel that way?
I remember reading an article about how hard meditation is. All these gurus and instructors talk about tips on how to get through it, “Be OK with being bored,” one mused, “Accept the uncomfortable feelings that arise.”
I read the article and promptly forwarded it on to some friends. Reading it once should be enough to take the lessons on board. Meditation sounds easy and gratifying. And who doesn’t want to be present? Absorb it all, drink it all, feel it all.
But mostly I want to be less scatterbrained. I don’t want to leave my cash in the supermarket cashier another time ($50, twice now, and both times I have been lucky enough to get it back). I want to be that stock-image of the girl doing meditation to the setting sun.
So, I’m here at Abbotsford Convent, where the gurus warned about everything, except maybe the obvious: sore bum.
I find a way to relieve the clenching anxiety: by staring at my fellow meditation crew. They are “in-the-zone” and I watch as their lungs fill and empty with each breath like experts of reaching zen. Do they realise that someone is watching them, examining them? The tribal-face-painted man is lying on his back. I’m not sure if he is meditating, or just sleeping. I envy him.
Staring at the teacher is akin to the guilt of eating a whole block of chocolate. I absorb him with my eyes, the slight smile on his face, his skin so smooth (what moisturiser does he use) and a light flicker in his eye-lids. I almost want his eyes to open, just to see how he would react, breaking the social etiquette that is ingrained to us at childhood: staring is rude!
But this new type of staring-mediation is entrancing, time feels like each second. And each second is stale air and feeling the slight rattle of the spring cold in my chest. Time is precious as at any moment eyes could open and I’d be caught. I eventually close my eyes and submit to conventional meditation methods.
After some time the teacher speaks, “Let’s do a walking meditation now.”
My bum is overjoyed. We walk around the room like Pink Panther thieves in slow-motion, feeling each part of the foot sliding across the carpeted floor, each foot arch and muscle of the leg moving.
In words the act sounds soothing, almost like a massage, but in reality walking meditation gets boring. Fast. I cannot walk slow, my legs are lanky and long and stretch out quickly. I block up the traffic and have to slide around the others.
I sit back down before being asked. Face-mask yawns and slides back to sleep. There is some wisdom now, the teacher tells us about how we are merely just energy dancing through life. We cannot get attached to anything as there is no constant, we are always flowing like a river. He smiles. We smile back.
The last ten minutes in spent in some more silent meditation. Silent exterior, extremely loud interior. Here’s a snippet of my “inner-peace:”
I AM SO HUNGRY. OH GOD I’M BORED. AN HOUR FEELS SO LONG. MEDITATION SUCKS, WHAT AM I DOING HERE. WHAT DO I NEED TO WRITE ABOUT. COULD I WRITE ABOUT THIS? MAYBE? WHERE? WHAT? WHO WOULD READ IT? I AM SO GOING TO LENTIL AS ANYTHING AFTER. HOW IS EVERYONE ELSE SO AWESOME AT THIS?
After an hour is up I pack my bolster away and donate some spare coinage into the donation box. I am one of the first to leave. I am energy dancing through life and hungry as hell. I get an Eggplant Parmigiana from Lentils. It is amazing.
Meditation (by donation) at Abbotsford Convent is on Monday’s and Wednesday’s from 5pm – 6pm through One Heart Yoga.