New directions

Vipassana Meditation Group of Dharma Zephyr Sangha

Photo By D. Brian Burghart

Vipassana (Insight) Meditation Group Session of Dharma Zephyr Sangha meets Mondays from 6:30-8:15 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 1070 W. Plumb Lane. Call Janet Scott, 690-0752, for more information.

People who know me well won’t be surprised by this little tidbit, but others may find it … telling: I have no sense of direction. I swear it’s not a character flaw, although, of course, I’d be the one to say it’s not. But sometimes it puts obstacles in my life where I don’t really need them. What’s “no sense of direction” mean? It means if I’m sitting in an office or even on a road in a city, I can’t tell north from south. I’ll indicate some out-of-sight restaurant or highway with a gesture, and some smart ass in the room will point in the opposite direction and say, “It’s that way.”

So, two weeks ago, when I wanted to attend the Monday night meeting of the Dharma Zephyr Sangha, and I headed for St. John’s Church, 1070 W. Plumb Lane, I headed straight down East Plumb toward Costco. Needless to say, I’ve been to St. John’s Presbyterian Church many times, but the website didn’t say “Presbyterian,” which removed my mental thumbtack and sent me on a little adventure, where I got progressively more steamed as 6:30 p.m. approached, checking addresses, but never realizing that I was on East Plumb.

OK, wait for it … there’s a point here.

This is exactly the small kind of suffering meditation alleviates. If I’d just momentarily gotten past my desire to be at that address and mindfully calmed my thinking and my ignorant anger, I’d have realized my mistake. How do I know this? Because as soon as 6:30 passed, and there was no more pressing desire to attend, I knew what I’d done.

I’ve visited Dharma Zephyr Sangha before. In fact, I wrote a Filet of Soul about my experience at their Wednesday night Humboldt Street meeting in April 2007. At that time, I believe there were only six participants. At this week’s meeting, there were 17 attendees, the largest group meditation in which I’ve participated.

Anyway, this time, I drove directly to St. John’s Presbyterian. I’d called ahead, so even though I arrived at the monthly business meeting prior to the meditation, no one was surprised to see me. There were cushions and a variety of chairs available in the little classroom/meeting room. I took a cushion, but I learned something pretty quickly: While exercise like yoga helps calm the mind and allows the body to sit still for a long time, strenuous exercise like weight-lifting—which I had done an hour earlier—constricts the muscles unevenly, which made for a difficult meditation. I should have sat on a chair, instead of cross-legged on the floor with the cushion.

The evening began with a bowl gong being tolled three times, launching us into a 40-minute meditation. A group that large makes a lot of noise, and I’m an unpracticed meditator, but I dropped easily into the vibe of trying to concentrate on my breath passing in and out of my nostrils—of course, my mind was going a million miles per hour on everything but my breath. The discipline is in returning to the breath. Still, no time at all seemed to have passed before the gong tolled three more times. We then took a 10-minute break, stretching our legs, getting water, checking voicemails.

After we returned from the break, we took turns reading from the book “The Noble Eightfold Path Way to the End of Suffering.” The book was passed around the circle, and people either chose to read from it or pass it on. After the readings, there was a short discussion where the “mallet” was passed around, and everyone could say what she or he had learned from the reading or what the readings brought to mind.

Right about 8:15 p.m., we ended with a short meta-meditation, which is a kind of a prayer for ourselves and the citizens of the world to have healthy and peaceful lives.