First impressions of a Buddhist meditation class…

As I’m trying to make a home in Brighton, I’ve been seeking out small communities of interest to meet people and most of all feel settled and happy doing things I love – yoga/meditation, hooping, music, anything acro (acroyoga, trapeze, etc.). As my mediation practice is nearly non-existent, I needed a shove to get it going because I know the answer to all suffering is found within.  It’s just that I’m just not sure where within…  I found the Brighton Buddhist Centre online and decided to enroll in their 7-week Buddhism and Mediation class. Reflective of my commitment issues, I waited until the hour before to sign up online, and still wasn’t so sure about my decision as I walked in from the street. But the moment I stepped inside, I immediately felt relief. A sweet older lady welcomed me as soon as I took off my shoes to enter into a library full of books on Buddhism and yoga, with a complimentary herbal tea kitchenette, and a room full of curious souls waiting to go into class. The center is enormous; I was joking later with someone in class that we both expected to be crammed into a freezing attic.  I was told to then go upstairs to class, where I was welcomed into a room full of padded mats, meditation cushions, and red blankets all facing a gorgeous gold and teal Buddhist shrine. A gentle, kind British man (not a monk, as he had a wedding ring on…) welcomed us and started with a mindfulness meditation. His voice was incredibly soothing and relaxed me immediately. I can’t remember his name (a Buddhist name given to hi


m) but it means “seeing the kindness in others”. He joked that the names aren’t given because they’re earned, but rather they’re given to be earned.  We then closed our eyes (of course I peeked out once or twice just to make sure all was alright) and he guided us through the process of the day, from the moment we woke up to the point we got to the room this evening.  After about twenty minutes, he chimed the bell. He asked us to  introduce ourselves to our neighbor and discuss our experience (gah! I hate this part of forced social awkwardness). But you’d be surprised by how many different types of people are all seeking the same thing.

In between the seated mediations he introduced us to the concept of meditation and the basics. There are three (well, countless, but three he taught us) ways to sit comfortably: in a chair, kneeling with blocks in between your legs, and seated cross-legged on a mediation cushion.  It doesn’t really matter how you sit, as Buddha encouraged meditation in any posture, but three points of contact are encouraged: if sitting on a chair, then both feet on the ground (or he showed it as supported with blocks under the feet), and tush on the chair. If kneeling or cross-legged, then the three points of contact are the two knees to the ground, and the bum.  He showed us a great way to tie the blanket around the waist so that it snugs in tight: you take the ends of the blanket and join them at the front of your seating position, fold one side over the other against your stomach tight, and then roll the tops over to secure it in place. This way it won’t slip, and best of all, it helps keep your back in place, or at the least helps keep you conscious if your back is slouching to one side.

Later he discussed the meaning behind the ornaments at the Buddha shrine. In all Buddha shrines, there is an image of the Buddha (which didn’t become a staple until much after his death), to remind us of potential. Potential in emotions, intelligence, spirituality. Flowers represent impermanence. Candles and light represent truth. And finally, incense is always present and meant to have a very subtle scent, to remind us that truth is subtle. Wisdom is subtle. The shrine is not meant to be a place of sacrifice, but a place of acknowledgment of potential. Here’s my little shrine that I made in my yoga room (slash guest room).

Anyway, more to come. But I have to get back to my work before getting some sleep…