I’ve always felt a hole in the middle of myself and looked for external plugs for decades now. Food, boys, things, to-do lists, music, even pets. But nothing fills the void. A few years ago I picked up a book at a coffee store- something to do with Zen. And in the book, the author wrote that this perception of being incomplete is a myth. We are perfect the way we are right now. This sounding a little too hippie-dippie for me, so I put the book down and finished my Half-Caf Venti Soy Latte.
But the seed was planted.
I’ve been going to therapy regularly for two years now. I’m proud of my dedication to therapy, because it is a sign that I’m dedicated to myself. And I need all the signs I can get. But recently, I’ve been struggling with a mental brick wall. I’m still not sure what it is, but I feel the need for a little extra push to get over/around it. When Tim and I visited his mom and step-dad in DC a few weekends ago, I was reminded again of their warmth and acceptance. In part, they are both spiritually wealthy people, and their dedication to their meditation inspired me to look closer at this practice.
When I returned to Atlanta, I mentioned this desire to a friend who had previously brought up her wish to visit a meditation center. She had found the Atlanta Shambhala Center in Decatur and invited me to go with her to the open house. So early Sunday morning, we sat in a small room with 6 other visitors and learned to meditate. Or at least how to sit. I was intrigued- it turns out I’m pretty good at sitting. Who knew!
But seriously, I was curious enough to sign up for the Introduction to Meditation Class offered at the Center. Now after the intro class, I am hooked! I really loved the main meditation hall- absolutely beautiful. And the people were so warm and inviting; I felt like I was surrounded by their positive energy. I really appreciated their openness to all religious backgrounds, and that they did not push the Buddhist aspect of the practice at all.
During the practice, I learned that I’m much better at sitting meditation than I am at walking meditation. We learned that thoughts are not bad- but when they pop up during your meditation, we gently label them as thoughts and return to the breath. We were assured that the purpose of meditation is to reveal your mind’s inner core of stability and love, and to be gentle with ourselves. I love that aspect, because Lord knows I have a bad habit of beating myself up.
I’m now really excited to continue my practice, so I’ve ordered a meditation cushion for my home. I plan on going to the Center at least once a week to practice with the community, also called the Sangha (community of practitioners.) My short term goal is to add meditation into my weekly schedule. My long term goal is to progress in my practice so that I may one day begin contemplative meditation. I know this will take a very long time, so I will also be working on practicing my patience. But for now, I’m enjoying the experience as I go along, and I’m not too worried about planning out a long schedule of meditation milestones and classes. This is quite a change of pace for me, and I love how it feels.