Last night my wife Danusia and I went to a guided meditation at Tibet house.
That was nothing new; we’ve been there before. My friend Ezra turned me on to the meditation at Tibet house a couple of months ago.
I’ve recently found myself in urgent need of some kind of spirituality, I didn’t even notice it was lacking until something hit me in the face. More about that some other time.
For now, I just want to talk about meditation in general, and Tibet House specifically.
There are other places to meditate, or you can meditate alone if you wish in the comfort of your own home, but there’s something special about the quiet you feel in a roomful of strangers. It’s heartening to know we can all settle down even if for a short while. Gives me hope for the rest of the world.
So the first time I went to Tibet house some six weeks ago I got there late, I was to meet my friend Ezra who’d advised me to get there at least a half hour before 7 if I wanted to get a seat. Unfortunately I was talking to his lady friend Jenny, explaining my sudden need for a spiritual awakening.
I got there late and was lucky enough to stake out a three square foot section of cold concrete floor. The place was packed.
The featured meditation leader (is that what you call them?) was a woman by the name of Sharon Salzberg. She is obviously very big in the meditation game judging by the crowd and the amount of books she said she’s written.
I have to say that all of her patter and stories aside, I was able to lose myself for two 15-minute periods that evening, and I vowed to return. The second “sit,” as a meditation period is called was a little easier, a volunteer came around distributing cushions to the latecomers.
I came back the following week with Danusia, an hour early. We got good seats near the front, I could actually see all of Susan Salzberg rather than just a portion of her legs and feet and an occasional hand as she gesticulated as I had the previous week. Again the room was packed. And again, I left feeling very light, cleansed in a way. I wanted more.
I looked at the schedule, and Ms. Salzberg was done for the foreseeable future.
Desperate for some more meditation, we went to a Japanese place on 4th Avenue near 12th Street one week, but that Japanese lady who led the meditation talked too much during the sit for my taste.
We started doing meditation at home, the two of us, sometimes with our singing bowl. But like I said, there’s something special about group meditation.
I found out there was a session at Tibet house for last evening, and the same woman, Mary Riley Nichols will be there till April.
I got there at 6, but Danusia texted me she would be late. I got good seats in the front row, right behind the two rows of cushions in front of the teacher’s platform.
While I waited I visited with the Dalai Lama in the special little room off to the side of the open gallery.
I sat cross-legged in front of his picture on a meditation cushion and closed my eyes.
I’ll do a hundred breaths, I told myself. By the time I got to ten I amended it to fifty.
“Fifty breaths, that should do it.” Fifty breaths took about six minutes, so a hundred would have taken me close to the target fifteen.
Danusia showed up, and we were surprised that by 7pm the room was still relatively empty. I should say not packed, because there were people there. Nobody was on the cushions in front of the platform.
“Please, if you can, come sit here in front on the cushions,” Ms. Nichols said. She sat in a cross-legged yoga pose on a cushion on the platform, a sharp contrast to Ms. Salzberg, who sits in a big easy chair. We and a few of the more daring attendees took seats. Danusia and I were right in front.
She had a totally different style, using yoga techniques and breathing for our meditation, and even passing around some pictures. We stood and did some easy poses, opening up our hearts and perineum’s. (It’s tantric, she’d say.)
There were three sits, the last one with OM, and I’ve never felt so good saying OM. She did a lot of explaining, and made me feel comfortable and even entertained.
At some point a ginger cat made an appearance, weaving through the people on the floor. That was entertaining too.
The cat jumped up on the platform with Mary, at one point trying to sit in her lap. He was unneutered and looking for spiritual awareness.
Danusia managed to pick him up.
And then we were done. She asked for questions or comments, and when there were none, I offered up an “it was fun.”
It was. Two hours went by quickly, I didn’t even think of going to the bathroom once.