Show Me Meditation

The snow fell hard as I approached the building. Ah! I saw a nice Show Me Dharma sign. I had arrived where they do Insight Meditation and Sunday morning service was about to begin. There’s a playground here too. Knowing that it’s a kid friendly area felt like a good sign.

Show Me Dharma Sign

Some young teenagers were gathering near the entrance. They looked excited and eager as a woman was gathering them up and doing a pre-entrance talk with them. It certainly feels like a field day!

By some strange coincidence, I ended up ahead of the woman letting in the youths. I smiled and mentioned that this was my first time there. In a soft friendly voice, she said “welcome!”

metta

She explained to all that we take off our shoes here at the entrance. I said with a smile, “Just like at home. “

In an attempt to not get his feet wet, a young teenage boy gracefully leaped from the doorway and softly landed to the side. Impressive! Perhaps, I can do a similar feat and keep my socks dry too. I did a small side leap and landed in front of the wooden bench. Excellent!

With shoes off and feet dry, I thanked the young nimble youth with a smile and gave a thumbs up. He gave me an uncertain yet grateful thumbs up back not knowing what he did. I explained, “You showed me the way to keeping my socks dry. Thank you.”

The place had a familiar feeling to it. It was small yet clean and organized. There was a small library with books in their shelves. The place certainly felt established. It felt cozy yet homey.

Fragrance Free means one can breathe with ease

Staking Out My Territory

I walked up a short flight of stairs into a small room where there were meditation cushions that one could use. Nice! There were plenty in there. As someone who has bought a zafu in the last few years, I know zafus and zabutons don’t come cheap. I am impressed.

From their website, I know they have chairs. So, I continued on past the cushions. The soft-voiced woman said to me, “There are cushions available.” I politely shared that I am “pro-chair” and thanked her. On that note, there’s a good article on how to meditate in a chair.

I walk inside, see the meditation instructor sitting on a chair, and see the donation basket. I was ready for this basket. Here in my wallet was the money I had already decided I was going to place in the basket. That helped take the awkwardness out of it. I simply recognized that they have to pay the rent and yet so do I. I pulled out the money and placed it into the basket next to the five dollar bill there.

Chairs and Meditation Cushions are Available

With the donation done, I approached the front of the room. “Hmmm. Which chair do I want to sit on?” Ugh. All I could see were cold black metal chairs. The instructor offered that there are meditation cushions available if I want. I told her that I appreciated the offer, but would like to use a chair today.

Time to choose a chair! There’s a woman sitting to my left in the front. Since I wanted to respect her space, I sat across the aisle on the right. Whoops! Big mistake. The chair is right next to a wall. If I turn my head to the right, I am kissing the wall. Yuck.

I asked the woman if she mind if I sat next to her. With a welcome and friendly tone, she said to come on over. She started to move left one chair, but I told her she didn’t have to move. “I’m not territorial. Usually.”, I said with a grin.

We introduced ourselves. I told her I was Mike and she said her name was Julie. She seemed like a kind woman. She said the instructor is Linda. Looking around, I was one of two males in the room. There’s probably fifteen people that were there.

The Service Begins

The service began with the instructor ringing a bell. She said something like:

We usually start the service by doing a meditation walk.

“Oh really?”, I am thinking. Cold tiny frozen ice crystals aka snow is coming down. Brrr.

“However, since it’s nasty outside we will do something different.”, she said. “Thank you!” I said to her in my mind. I gave her a mental hug.

Show Me Dharma Building Back

Show Me Dharma

She said we would instead do a practice where one person asks the other “Who are you?” and the other listens deeply. Both are to set aside their typical narratives / stories and completely be in the present moment.

“Ah! Free word association. I presume they prefer us to respond in a safe-for-work manner. Ha ha!”, I thought and gave her a big grin. I wonder if she knew what I was thinking?

Rae, my online meditation instructor from the 10% Happier meditation app, says that’s known as an inquiry practice. Good to know.

Who Are You?

We began. Since neither Julie nor I had a preference, I playfully pretended to flip a coin up into the air. Catching the invisible coin and flipping it onto the back of my hand, the invisible coin landed showing heads. In that way, I became the first “speaker.”

Inwardly, I said to myself, “Just dive in deep. Just go for it. Open my heart and see what happens.”

Whoops! Oh! I instantly felt an opening up sensation and tears of happiness, love, and joy were beginning to twinkle in my eyes. As shared in “Good” Meditation Growth Then Tears Flowed, this emotional response to mentally opening my heart is not new to me.

“Who are you?”,Julie asked. I said, “I am the one who tears easily.” OK. She’s been warned. I don’t actually cry often. However, she deserved a fair warning  and I answered truthfully in the context it was asked.

Julie: Who are you?

Mike (me): I am the snowflake on the hill.

Julie: Who are you?

Mike: I am the … (oops stopping myself). I explain I was going to say I was the enlightened one. However, that didn’t seem proper.

Julie: Who are you?

Mike: The sleepy one. (Daylight Saving just happened.)

Julie: Who are you?

Mike: A gentle breeze in the wind.

Julie: Who are you?

Mike: A writer

Julie: Who are you?

Mike: I am the snowman on a hill.

Julie: Who are you?

Mike: I am love.

My eyes open. Our eyes meet. It’s an interesting sensation to do a meditative practice while your eyes are meeting another’s eyes.

Julie: Who are you?

Mike: Curious

Next we switched. Out of respect, I will leave her responses out. However, I will share one thing. She seeks enlightenment. No surprise there. I thought to myself the following:

Oh Julie, my new found friend. Seeking enlightenment is like trying to grab a floating ballon by poking it with a finger. Strongly seeking enlightenment will push it away. Through the practice, you should just allow enlightenment to open you to life and to all you meet.

Someday, I may get to tell her.

Discussion

The inquiry practice was followed up with a discussion about discomfort. Lynn asked if anyone wanted to share about the discomfort they experienced while doing the practice. No one said anything for awhile. So, I half raised my hand and got a head nod to proceed.

I shared that one of the moments of discomfort involved crying. (Ha ha! I got two of the youths glancing back at me and doing a double take. Welcome to a truly open discussion, my young friends.) I shared:

When opening your heart without reservation, tears can flow. I’ve learned that it’s best just to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Another person shared her awesome insights into vulnerability and then the instructor spoke. She spoke of suffering. In Meditating on Suffering From Unawareness, I go into suffering from the perspective of life being intrinsically dissatisfying due to continual change and how to handle that. However, Lynn was sharing something more tangible. She shared her own physical suffering from extreme back pain. Ouch! It was a great dharma talk about the importance of opening up to the experience of suffering in all its forms when you can. Beyond other benefits, you’ll experience more life that way.

After the dharma talk, we began the thirty minute meditation. During this silent meditation there was the obligatory stomach growling from one of the youths there. I wanted to support them by saying “Hey. Stomach noises are natural. Experienced meditators have heard much worse. Believe me. It doesn’t matter to the meditation pros what biological noises you make.”

Announcements and Community Outreach

After the thirty minute silent meditation, announcements were made. They have a “Caring Committee” and one of their activities is the Donate for Puerto Rico. Using the donated money, they order lamps at a discount and send the lamps to the people in Puerto Rico who are are still suffering from Hurricane Maria. As you may know, a lack of power there is still an issue. As shared in Rebuilding Puerto Rico’s Power Grid:

But U.S. officials were saying that remote areas in “challenging terrains” would not get service until the end of May.

That threw a little more light on how Show Me Dharma contributes back to the global community. Well done!

Bowing to the Buddha Statue is Optional

Service Completed

Service ended with a lowering of the head and hands in prayer. I lowered my head and briefly held my hands up as in prayer. This time though, I decided not to bow to the Buddha statue. To be clear, holding up my hands and bowing is optional and not a form of worship for me. After a nice chat with Julie about how I first got interested in meditation and she in Buddhism, it was time to go. Making my way back to the wooden bench, I started to put my shoes on. Wouldn’t you know it? Julie’s shoes were right behind my legs where I was sitting. What were the odds of that happening?

As I put on my shoes, I ended up in a nice conversation with a young woman and another woman about genealogy. Without going into the whole conversation, there was a nice idea that came out it.

Knowing our ancestors faced terrible trials can give us strength. This inspires us to overcome our own challenges.

After that, I gave a farewell and mindfully walked to the car with gratefulness in my heart.

Update: After speaking with Julie and getting her permission, I changed the name used in this blog post from Jan to Julie. (Thank you, Julie. Your support and understanding is appreciated.) I also changed the instructor’s name to her true name of Linda. All the names of the teachers for Show Me Dharma are publicly available.

Second Update: Images of the inside were inserted and a link to bowing not being a form of worship was added. Thanks goes to Joe McCormack for his help in taking the inside images.

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