Pilgrimages to sacred Buddhist sites led by experienced Dharma teachers. Includes daily teachings and group meditation sessions. A local English–speaking guide accompanies and assists.
My regular sitting practice tapered off about a year ago. I wish I could say what happened and why but I’m not really sure. My life didn’t fall apart or anything. Nor did it fall apart when I stopped sitting. I guess I still had my practice of sorts, cobbled together from sustained periods of concentration or devotion, purposely induced thoughts and lines of reasoning conjured up to counter what I knew was unwholesome, lying in bed staring at the tree branches outside my window, etc. The 28-day program, I hope, will provide a glimpse of what I might be missing and perhaps an opportunity to resuscitate a regular sitting practice.
My situation as of late hasn’t exactly been conducive to sitting. I’m in the process of moving, which, together with the preceding task of apartment hunting, comprises something of a (second) fulltime job. The day before yesterday I was scouting an open spot in my furniture-less room to sit and a cushion to sit on, while only the day before that I was primarily concerned with having a pillow on which to rest my head for sleep. Silencing the clanking “water-hammer” noise emanating from my radiator is more of a priority than silencing the noise in my head.
Recognizing my largely neglected commitment, I stoop to a new low and reserve a small conference room in our building’s office suites for half an hour. I consider requesting one without windows, but realizing I need to see the front desk receptionist every day and might want to make eye contact with her at some point in the future, decide to keep my request simple. I drag a chair into the corner of the room in a small cubby area next to the garbage bin behind the door, lock it, and cut the lights. Could I be seen from the window onto the hallway? Nope! How clever of me. Whenever footsteps approach I tighten with fear of being discovered. I feel like a masturbating teenager.
There’s a small business meeting going on in the adjacent room and it’s even louder in here than it is in the hallway. The talk goes from commission-based salaries to in vitro fertilization. Fascinating stuff, but I’m not here to eavesdrop. I find my breath, over and over. I haven’t done this in a while and it’s hard as hell. I heed Sharon’s suggestion to just begin again and again, that that’s the practice. Very encouraging words. It’s hard to say when I lose my breath but I know when I rediscover it. It’s a start.
My 20-minute session is abruptly cut short about 18 minutes in, when I’m walked in on by the front desk secretary, who swiftly and adeptly unlocks the door, hitting my knees in the dark. She walks in with another woman, offering her the seemingly vacant room. I guess I could’ve asked for a room without windows after all. Apologies abound. To my own surprise, my face doesn’t turn fire-hydrant red and I don’t stumble over my own words searching for excuses. The meditation must have worked. I say almost nothing except “Sorry,” and it’s sufficient. What could I possibly say? “Sorry, I was just meditating.” Not only is that far stranger but also eminently unrelatable. The unsavory, carnal assumption I imagine they're both jumping to is at worst somewhat perverse and at best just plain pitiable. I’ll let them think what they will, and investigate the service entry situation to our offices.
—Alex Caring-Lobel, Editorial Assistant