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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Why not inner peace and whiter teeth?

Maggie's way ahead of me--show off

Squinting at the dark, shiny road and mentally berating drivers who dared to delay me by tens of seconds with their left-turn antics, I drove to my first meditation instruction at the Shambhala Centre on Wellington Street West in Ottawa.

My irritation intensified as the bumpy asphalt gave way to the undulating, crunching gravel of a construction zone. Now, where in the hell was I going to park?

I knew I should have left earlier.

After pussyfooting around this for about three years (four and a half—let’s be honest!), I decided to take the plunge and do the meditation open house. I’m driven, easily distracted, but not impulsive.

I can’t even get into the right frame of mind to approach this whole Buddhism thing. I’ve read a few books and I know that doesn’t make me an expert. I’m not disciplined enough to regularly sit and meditate for longer than a couple of minutes.

I don’t think I can last more than 20 seconds without thinking of something on my unrelenting, never-ending internal to-do list, or something utterly ridiculous like:

And twenty seconds of thought-free mental silence is probably an exaggeration, it’s probably more along the lines of 0.49 seconds.

So why was I subjecting myself to this mental torture? I guess for anyone seeking a change, it was because what I’ve been doing isn’t working. The barking in my head makes me tired. I’m not talking about auditory hallucinations, just the constant din of the internal chatter.

So, as I was ushered into the Shambhala sitting room, where two other newbies waited. I worked at calming myself down and making small talk. Eventually, our three became seven.Once we achieved the critical mass, a sinewy older fella named Henry, led us to the smaller shrine room.

Off we go, I thought. I did my “criss-cross applesauce legs” and perched on my pillow. I was sure that I had the best posture there.

“Now, that we are all here, I think we should go around the circle, introduce yourself and tell us why you decided to come here,” Henry said.

Oh shit, I thought. There’s nothing more that I hate than sitting or standing in a circle formation and talking to people I don’t know well. I go red in the face, which is pretty stupid, really because I’ve MC’ed weddings, for feck sake.

So, it was my turn and I told them my name and I lied. Sorta. I said that my mother-in-law has studied Buddhism for years and I borrowed some of her books and became interested.

But, this is not new for me. This is part of a pattern. I was raised Catholic and when it was time for Confession, I was afraid that my sins were too terrible (I called my mother a mole-face and then drew rude pictures of her), so I lied: “I stole some candy.”

I was convinced that I was going to hell. So, now I’m switching religions to get around that.

Next: What happened?

Then: What did I sign up for?

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