Thursday, June 14, 2007
Last night's meditation class was wonderful. I suppose I didn't know what to expect since I once went to a "class" that was really a bunch of experienced people sitting around meditating before passing out Oreos and green tea. I was assured by the woman who took my reservation, however, that it did not matter that I had never learned meditation before. It was a class for beginners.
Out of the ten people who participated, I was the first to arrive, 15 minutes early. An older Englishman, tall and thin, with white hair and glasses, scribbling on a clipboard, greeted me and asked me to take off my shoes and leave them on the shelf by the door. It was a nice feeling to be barefoot in there for two hours, actually. We talked as he asked me about myself and why I want to meditate, etc. and then people started arriving. At 7:30 p.m. we began. We went into another room with hardwood floors and pillows arranged in a circle. There were images of Krishna on the wall, and one of Jesus.
For the first hour or so we just talked. He explained the concept of individuality and spirit to us. He said that we are all "in illusion" because we identify with our bodies. If asked to describe ourselves, we say things like, "I'm a woman. I'm American. I'm tall." When in reality, *we* are none of these things. Bodies are matter and matter is dead; the only thing that animates the body is the spirit inside, or the "atma." That is the difference between a dead body and a live one. We wear these bodies like we wear a t-shirt; the t-shirt clothes us, but it is not us.
He then said that we can never be happy while in illusion because matter doesn't satisfy spirit. He said that "atma" is always blissful, you cannot separate the two just as you cannot separate water from wetness. It is a characteristic of spirit to be happy. We just look for happiness in the wrong place. He likened us to fishes in the ocean, in our spiritual element. If you take the fish out of the water and put it on the beach, on the hot sand, can it ever be happy? No. We need to get back into the ocean, and mantra gets us there. Sound vibrations. Connecting to the spiritual side within.
The first type of mantra meditation we did consisted of taking a deep inhale, and then upon exhaling, repeating four syllables. We repeated the word "Gauranga," which means "golden effulgence," which is the radiant glow that appears around light sources (God). We dragged it out, saying "Gaur ... Ra ... Ang ... Ga." At first, it was hard for me to drag out without running out of breath, but it became easier as I took in as much air as I possibly could. We did that for fifteen minutes and there was a really cool hum in the room from everyone doing it over each other's voices.
The next type that we did was a whole phrase. No breathing was involved; we were just supposed to say it over and over. He gave us each a string of brown wooden beads to count how many times we said it. It reminded me of a rosary, naturally, and I thought it was interesting how two religions that are so different can have the same method of repetition in prayer and praying on beads. We spent another 15 minutes saying, "Gopala Govinda Rama Madana Mohana." This was easier without worrying about breathing but you know how you trip up over tongue twisters? Every so often I muddled it.
The last thing we did was with a guitar, which was meant for a group. (The others aren't really.) He played and we chanted, "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." He smiled and said, "If you're over fifty, you already know this song," and I recognized the words immediately from George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," even though I'm not over fifty. But he played it in a different tune from that song. Boyfriend said that Hare means something like, "Oh great ____" so I guess we were worshipping Krishna and Rama. I wanted to know why we couldn't worship goddesses too, but you know how it goes.
After grabbing an organic, whole wheat, sugar-free cookie - MMM - I put my shoes back on and found Boyfriend waiting outside. He had come to walk me home.
I can't wait for next week! And to start my meditation practice at home, every day.