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Thursday, March 24, 2011

please drop in now and zen

My friend AB and I spent Tuesday evening visiting a drop-in guided meditation at Cambridge Insight Meditation Center.  The practice of choice there is Vipassana, which we'd both heard was a type of Buddhist meditation that values stillness.  Being so still that if your foot falls asleep in the middle of your "svaha" you've got to internally suck it up and not move a baby toe.  This tortured stillness, however, is not what we experienced at CIMC.

A sweet woman named Maddy led a group of 60 or so Yogis (most brand new to the practice) through an hour-long mindful, beautiful group meditation.  She started with a brief anecdote about Buddha's 18 hour long meditative war with metaphorical Mara armies while sitting still as a statue under the tree of life.  She then talked about what it means to be mindful, defining it not as a state of mind or a goal to reach but the act of being present without judgment.  We then attempted to become so.

We started by just rooting ourselves in sitting position and being aware of ourselves.  She then asked us to stand up, look within, and check in with how we felt in that moment.  (I felt deeply grateful and happy to the point of tears.  I don't know why I cry so much when I meditate.  It's weird.)  Next we did a walking meddie for a few minutes, shuffling around the room and being mindful of the way it feels to walk.  The setting down of the foot, the other foot gliding through the air to meet the floor and propel the body forward.  She asked us how we felt.  (I felt safe and grounded.)  Then we sat down for a longer meddie.  We relaxed our muscles then Maddy suggested we focus on one body part - ie. the chest rising and falling, the sound of air in and and out of our noses, our lips touching each other, our pointer finger and thumb connecting.  We stayed like this for some time, Maddy guiding us back to the present occasionally, allowing us to acknowledge stray thoughts and come back to focus on our pre-selected body parts.  She asked us how we felt again.  (I registered connectedness, openness and beautiful love... and a major curve in my spine.  I lost my posture, resembling a 90 year old lady with massive scoliosis.  And my right ear dropped like an anvil to my shoulder.  Gotta work on that.)

For me this was a good meditation.  Not earth-moving but peaceful and rich.  I knew coming into the center that night that it would be a positive one.  I was in a good place mentally so it was easy for me to get "there".  But it's not always easy.  Surely another day I'll walk in with a busy mind, struggling to beat off the Mara armies.  And that's okay, too.  We change in each moment.  "This, too, shall pass". 

AB and I completed our first meddie at CIMC feeling pretty great.  We had a shared yet individual experience and both left energized, connected, open and hopeful, expressing our connectedness to the strangers who surrounded us and our appreciation for the power of meditation.  And we both plan to return.

If you can sneak away on a Tuesday evening, this is a great place full of wonderful energy and like-minded people.  6-7pm.  $5.  331 Broadway, Cambridge, Mass.  They also have a full menu of courses and programs for members.  See more at


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