Sunday, 19 August 2012


As part of a promotion, I had the opportunity to attend a free meditation class. I feared I would feel like a bull in a china shop at this type of event, so I made sure to go for an 8K run in the morning and attend a yoga class held just before the meditation class. I was also sleep deprived. I figured if ever there was a day that I could sit still for an hour, this was it.

I was a little nervous entering the room. The other students seemed to know each other. I settled onto my mat, and just tried to mirror what everyone else seemed to be doing. It had been a rough day of dealing with divorce-related paperwork. My mind was racing with all the things I had meant to get done that would now be delayed until tomorrow. I was in anything but a zen-like mindspace.

The class started with a very pleasant visualization exercise. I began to relax a little. There was a very positive energy in the room. A soft breeze came in from a large window, and the evening air was very mild. The instructor explained today’s class would focus on The Four Noble Truths. I had no idea what these were, or that there were four of them. (Wikipedia link for the curious, here) “The first truth,” he began, “is that life means suffering.” He had my attention. During the decline and demise of my marriage, I had become acquainted with the concept of suffering. Prior to that, I had led a blessed existence that while characterized by many ups and downs, had never touched the despair I now knew. He discussed working toward an acceptance that everything we know in life is temporary.

The class then moved into a walking meditation. We were supposed to walk around the room and make eye contact with people while observing them without judgment. I don’t know why, but something about this exercise made me feel terribly awkward. While I was reflecting on why something so trivial would make me so uncomfortable, I realized that I had probably communicated this to the group:

It became clear that I was going to have the join the group inside the circle of yoga mats. So I did. I smiled shyly at all these people who kept acceptingly staring at me. That’s when we were told to close our eyes, and then move toward the first person we saw once we reopened them. I had a flashback to being one of the last kids picked for the dodgeball team in primary school. Everyone seemed to have a partner, except me. Mercifully, another single emerged from the crowd. “Your hearts have chosen each other tonight,” the instructor told all the meditation pairs strewn about the room, “your partner is your mirror.” Oddly enough, my partner and I did share a number of physical features. “Ok, now look into your partner’s eyes.” We did. Within a few seconds, I broke eye contact and glanced over to the instructor. Surely this can’t go on for much longer, I thought. “Reaaaaalllllyyy look deep into your partner’s eyes.” My partner did not break eye contact. I wasn’t sure what to do. It felt like some strange staring contest, kind of like we used to play at Girl Guide camp – whoever giggled first lost (generally this was me). My partner eventually smiled, and then shook her head apologetically. I smiled back, relieved. The exercise continued on for what seemed like an eternity. “Keeeep looking into your partner’s eyes. Try to peel back the layers of vulnerability. What are you seeing? What are you learning?” I fought the urge to run. My partner’s eyes stayed locked on mine. Oh my God, what IS she seeing? I thought. Can she tell I’m a mess? Can she tell I’ve been hurt? It’s been a really long time since anyone has stared into my eyes. There is nothing like having someone’s eyes bear into yours to make you feel vulnerable. I noticed my partner’s eyes mist over. Are you hurting? I wondered. I wish there was something I could do. You seem like such a nice person. The exercise continued for several more minutes. I tried to send my best thoughts of comfort and kindness over to my partner; I am sure she did the same. My trust in this gentle stranger grew. Feelings of vulnerability and angst were replaced with a quiet calm. It was actually a very healing experience in spite of my initial reticence. When the exercise ended, I smiled warmly and mouthed “thank you” to my partner. She placed her hands over her heart and bowed her head.
We very briefly crossed paths again at a later yoga class, and greeted each warmly like we were long lost friends.
Namaste, my friend. Namaste.

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