Tracy Simmons/Waterbury Republican-American
I’ve gone to Mass. I’ve been to the mosque. I’ve visited the Latter-day Saints Temple Square, but this was my first time attending a Buddhist practice and I didn’t know what to expect.
I spotted some other women and followed their lead. I hung my coat on the hook like they did and I slipped off my shoes like they did, suddenly very grateful I wore my fancy Gap checkered socks instead of my white Wal-Mart ones.
An associate dharma teacher introduced me to the sensei, who lead me to a navy blue zafu (a pillow to sit on). My plan was to sit in the corner and observe, but I couldn’t pass up an invitation to meditate with the group. Before visiting the practice I read “Buddhism for Busy People,” so I should have known to sit with my right hand in my left, back straight, head slightly forward with my shoulders level. But those details somehow slipped my mind. The dharma teacher came over and asked if it would be my first time meditating and gave me some pointers. She said sitting meditation lasted about 15 to 20 minutes and said it was going to be hard to concentrate. She assured me, however, that the sensei would ring the bell eventually, signaling the end of meditation.
I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to meditate on, but figured since I was there to honor Nirvana Day (the day Buddha entered Paranirvana), I would contemplate over the life he lead.
I started to think about his teachings that are summarized into the Four Noble Truths — the truth of suffering, the truth of cause and suffering, the truth of the end of suffering and the truth of the path leading to the end of suffering — but my foot was asleep. It tingled. The prickles were climbing up my leg. My left foot was trying to distract me from the path to self-enlightenment.
I tried to ponder the fact that Buddha taught for 40 years, but suddenly I had an itch on my chin. What caused it? Why all of a sudden would I have a random itch on the tip of my chin? I couldn’t scratch it, I had to sit still, which made me wonder — do you itch a scratch, or scratch an itch? Oh great, now I have an itch near my eye. Or is it a scratch?
Oh right, back to Buddha.
I remember reading that he died when he was 80 years old.
My stomach just rumbled. Did anyone else hear it? Oh no. It did it again, louder and longer this time. I knew I should have had that brown sugar Pop Tart. Maybe if I flex my stomach I can control the monstrous sounds coming out of it. I heard another growl, but it wasn’t mine. The man next to me was hungry, too. I wonder if he knows of a good pancake place nearby. Maybe his stomach wants to challenge my stomach in a noisemaking competition?
I’m off track again. Buddha entered Nirvana, how can I do that? I hear someone moving.
Who is it? I just have to know.
No, I won’t open my eyes. I won’t do it.
I sure hope it’s someone going around giving shoulder massages because sitting with such good posture isn’t easy. I need to twist my upper body and crack my back. But that’s way too much movement for such a quiet, spiritual moment.
I’m a tiny, fragile woman, sometimes if I take a deep enough breath I can pop my back, but I guess that would be too loud, too.
Dang! There I go drifting away from thoughts of Buddha again. When did he live again?
Around 500 B.C., was it? Man I need some Chap Stick. It’s right there in my pocket. My lips have never been so dry. I haven’t moistened them in at least 15 minutes. You know lippy is addictive. I bet Buddha didn’t struggle with any odd dependencies. My mouth is so parched. I need to swallow. I forgot to keep my tongue on the roof of my mouth like the sensei told us to. I can’t follow simple instructions. But if I swallow my throat’s going to make that weird gulping sound. Then, the sound echoes through the room. It’s the bell. I slowly open my eyes. It’s bright, like coming out of a movie theater. Everyone around me looks so relaxed and peaceful. I’m ashamed because all I can think about is whether I’m going to fall when I stand up, since my foot is still sleeping.
Meditation isn’t easy. I’m determined to try it again though.
I refuse to let my sidetracked mind win this one.
Tracy Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.