I spent most of the day yesterday with seriously ruffled feathers. I worked through much of the tumultuous energy by writing for several hours in the afternoon and taking my dog for a walk through the somewhat less broiling afternoon heat of north central Arizona.
It was not until the evening’s activity, which may better be described as inactivity, that I was able to finally find calm within my being.
Where did I find this calm? And how?
Well, I’ll tell you.
I went to a small, somewhat stuffy room in the basement of a church at 216 East Gurley Street.
I parked on Gurley just in front of the church. The front doors were large and looked very locked. There was no activity that I could see to point to the meditation circle I was attempting to join.
I looked at the photos on my phone that I had taken of the 8 ½ by 11” flyer on the wall at the yoga studio. The directions pointed me around the back of the building.
I walked down the sidewalk and saw a young man with a Rottweiler with no collar on. I had seen him earlier in the day after noticing first his dog and wondering if it was a stray. I had decided against this possibility because it seemed far too fit and healthy. It was after this deduction that I noticed the owner. I had seen him at the Garchen Institute several weeks earlier. I wondered if he was living out of his truck. It had the look of being lived in.
I doubted he recognized me as I walked by. I smiled at the two women setting up sandwich board signs for the evening’s circle.
I walked in and found myself in a hallway. I walked past the room first and then looked down to see a sign directing me back to it. (Note: I have never been one to follow directions very well. Ask my mom. She will tell you all about it.)
Outside the room was a long bench. Over the course of the time I was there, more and more sandals and worn out sneakers appeared in a long, tidy row beneath the bench. I watched this progression each time I went to use the restroom, which I did often thanks to my thimble bladder.
I looked into the room before walking in. there were rows of chairs, each with a pillow on top, a couch in the back, and a round table with a fan on top to the far right. The introvert in me wanted to sit somewhere where there would be an easy, less noticeable escape should I need one.
I eased my way into the room and walked to the back. I saw a small rocking chair and moved it away from the other chairs nearby and toward the table, where I placed my bag and bottle of water. I could create my own safe nook in this space. Maybe, I could be invisible altogether.
An older woman turned her attention toward me.
I’m sorry. I don’t remember your name she said in a soft voice.
I think it’s because we have not met before. This is my first time here.
She laughed. Well, that makes sense to me.
I’m marieke. I extended my hand out to her, and she took it gently in her own and introduced herself.
I’m in the yoga intensive at Cheryl’s.
Ah, don’t you get a point for being here?
I suppose I do.
Are you going to become a yoga teacher, one of the women who had been setting up sandwich boards at the entrance asked me.
Maybe. I’m not sure yet.
I turned my attention back to my safe corner space.
Did I want to sit on the floor on the meditation cushion I brought? I wasn’t sure.
I tried sitting on the cushion on the rocking chair and found it quite comfortable if I scooted my butt all the way back.
My small sanctuary set up, I headed out of the room to find the restroom. This is generally the first reconnaissance mission I take when visiting a new space, and I figured I might as well empty the thimble prior to sitting in silence for 30 minutes.
We sat in silence.
I shifted in my chair. My back started to hurt. I moved to the floor, replacing the black meditation cushion on a small, rectangular pad with my own. I wondered how many bare feet had walked on the floor and touched the pad.
Stop being so weird about germs, I told myself.
I sat down. I sat for a while. Then, I got up and sat back in the rocking chair, this time without the cushion.
I took out my journal and started writing:
There seems to be no judgment here. I like that. After a month of feeling judgment for the way I am, I need and want to be in a space of acceptance.
I do not judge others but simply notice their behaviors feeling the need to comment or criticize.
Other people’s choices might make me feel sad or disappointed, but I do not have to be thrust into the depths of despair over it.
I notice my breath.
My chest rises and falls.
My stomach fills and subsides.
I am alive. In the end, that is all that matters.
I want to live a peaceful, joyful life.
I want to reduce tangible and metaphorical clutter.
Before walking into the church, I had turned back to look at my car. It was as if I was leaving behind my only chance of escape. Once inside and sitting, I forgot all about it.
I remembered toward the end of the first 30 minute sit, but I remembered that I had told myself that I would stay through the guided meditation that was to happen right after.
So I stayed. More people came in with cushions and pillows and settled in to different places.
And the guided meditation was worth the sit, however uncomfortable.
I listened to the words of our guide, leading me into a quiet place and then bringing me back to the moment, time and again.
She reminded us that our minds are meant to wander. Each time we notice our thoughts digressing, we could say, Hooray, I’m awake again.
She told us, we journey home over and over and again. We don’t need to judge our mind wanderings. We just need to return home.
And with six minutes left to the meditation (yes, I checked the time on my phone), she invited us to think about the people in our lives and in the world who may be in pain and to send them kindness and love.
Have you hurt someone or has someone caused you harm?
Is there anyone in your life who you love but with whom you have recently not been seeing eye to eye?
She asked us questions and let us ponder, eyes closed.
Then, she suggested peace offerings.
Forgive yourself, mistakes happen. Send love to the people in your lives.
Then, we sent that energy out into the universe.
Not too bad for an hour and forty minutes.
I walked outside into a cooler climate than I had left when I walked away from my car and into the basement of the church.
The sun was setting, and pink, blue, and purple filled the clouds and the space between them in the sky.
It had taken all day, but I finally felt calmness within. And I had created that calm.