Friday, October 21, 2011

community of another sort

Last night, I went on my third weekly visit to the Shambhala Meditation Center. On Thursday nights, they have what they call an "open sit". At 7pm, the large meditation room is open to all who want to come meditate. There are cushions set out in rows, and chairs in the back for those who need them. Their are candles, and incense or scented oil. A "moderator" acts as timekeeper. The person sits facing the room, sounds the bell that starts the time period, meditates, and sounds the bell again at the end of the session (about 45 minutes). During meditation the room is silent, except for the occasional cough, or the sound of someone shifting position. It is quiet enough to hear someone's stomach gurgle in the row ahead of you. It is amazingly peaceful and welcoming.

After the open sit, there is an open house. People drink tea, eat snacks that have been prepared, and socialize for 15-20 minutes. If you choose, you can attend a dharma talk after the tea. These talks are on meditation or buddhist dharma. They generally last an hour.

There is no charge for the evening, although donations are accepted. They just leave out a bowl for this.

I have really gotten a lot out of this. There is a difference to meditating in a room with others versus doing it at home. A different energy? I am not sure really. It may just be the length of time you meditate. At home, I generally do 15-20 minutes. This is 45 minutes. That is a long time to sit, at least for a relative beginner.

The dharma talks have been helpful, and enlightening. Not a religion, but a way of dealing with what is. No salvation, no higher power, no faith. I love the pragmatic, the practical approach that this center takes. It is not so much about the theory, the philosophy, as it is about the practice. "This is the way it is, now what do we do about it" I have not heard anything I have opposed, or disagreed with. I find myself nodding in agreement or recognition a lot. I am in the right place for me, I think.

It feels really good.

Monday, October 03, 2011

the journey continues

I have been to Detroit. To Philly. I'm headed to Charlotte in a few weeks. We're into the college trip/college application process in a big way. It's been a lot more entertaining than I thought it would be.

Our first trip was to Wayne State in Detroit. I really was not looking forward to visiting Detroit. It turned out to be a really fun trip. We stayed in a really plush hotel, nicer than our usual by quite a few notches (thanks Hotwire!). We had a view of the waterfront from our bed. Beautiful. We spent a lovely day wandering around the Belle Isle park. They had a stunning conservatory, and no one visits it. The guard at the desk thanked us multiple times for visiting. The sign in sheet showed we were the only ones. On an amazingly beautiful Sunday afternoon. The multiple thank yous would be a trend. Detroit seems to have so few visitors, and so few residents. Everywhere we went people were gracious, polite, and unbelievably grateful we were there. We visited the Detroit Institute of Art and it was much the same. Beautiful museum, very good collection and very few visitors. We went to a restaurant, Kascent... which we visited because a guy on the sidewalk talked us into going inside. We were one of two tables of people in a restaurant meant to hold hundreds. We had fresh corn muffins, straight from the oven. I had Fried chicken. Greens. Mac and cheese. My husband ate an enormous freshly fried catfish sub, and our son had ribs, with all the trimmings. Our bill was $24. Amazing.

The school was much much better than we expected. The campus was nice, the size (20,000 plus students) seemed manageable. It was diverse, and it seemed that everyone mixed easily. Our son felt instantly at home.

The 2nd trip was just me and the boy. We had a great time. We did a day trip to Philly, to tour Temple University. The school had much better facilities and resoures than Wayne State, but seemed a little clique-y. While it was diverse, folks seemed to mix only with folks like themselves. Still, it was a beautiful place and had a lot of things to recommend it. We followed it up with getting lost, getting lunch, getting lost again. Lunch was dim sum, at a highly recommended restaurant. Food was terrific but the experience not so much. None of the staff spoke English, or understood it. Menus in chinese only. We never got drinks because we couldn't get the wait staff to understand what we wanted. We weren't even sure what we ate from the cart, although it was delicious. I'm not sure I would go back, even with the great food. It was so frustrating not being able to communicate.

In a week we go to Charlotte. I am really excited. We are going to visit UNC-Charlotte, but I am thrilled to have an excuse to visit the city. And looking forward to spending some more family time together. I am very aware now, that the family time we have is growing short. Every time we tour a campus, see a dorm room, I get a very concrete reminder that our boy is moving on, and away. Still, I am going to enjoy the time we have. And maybe I'll get BBQ too.