Day 54: Buddhist Mishaps and Meditation

My dear readers, on Day 54, I found myself at the Deprung Loesling Monastery for an intro to meditation class--a meditation 101, if you will.

I wanted to go to this not entirely for the project, but because I've gotten a lot of mixed messages about meditation through studying yoga with various teachers and through talking about meditation with my grandfather, who has a Christian with a dash of Buddhist stance on spirituality.

I thought that going to a Buddhist organization might help shed some light on the subject. I planned my trip for the first Sunday of the month, when the Monastery gives a free intro to meditation class. I read that the intro class started at 11:00 AM, but upon checking the website's calendar in the morning, I saw that meditation started at 10:00 AM. Day 54 was also daylight savings time, so I was triply messed up on where I was supposed to be and when.

When I arrived at the monastery, I found my way up to the meditation room, which was simply stunning, with a carved woodwork shrine holding three golden buddhas, rich tapestries on the walls, pictures of the Dalai Lama, a section for sitting on the ground with perfectly shaped booty-pillows. There was the faint, spicy smell of incense in the air and a natural warmth that follows.

There weren't many people there at 10:00 AM, but I got myself Meditation and Recitation guide and sat myself in the back, waiting for what may come.

The Tibetan monk came in with all of his gold and red garb, and everyone stood up and bowed at the waist waiting for him to take his seat at the Buddhist version of a pulpit. We sat down, and to my utmost horror, I couldn't understand a single word he said from beginning to end! I was stuck in a class for an hour without any context of what was going on. Everyone had their eyes closed, and I followed suit but could barely understand a word a minute out of him.

After fifteen minutes or so sans comprehension, I thought I might open my eyes to do some old-fashioned lip reading. It was then that I noticed the monk fluttering his eyes a little and swaying. I was pretty sure that he was looking at me, the only person in the room NOT doing what she should be. Total embarrassment...surely this was not the intro class.

We went through a variety of recited prayers in English, which reminded me remarkably of the Christian church. It was, in essence, a Karma-cleansing, so there was a lot of confessing that you were not Buddha-like and asking for a remedy, and dedicating yourself to a new day, etc. Sound familiar?

Then we launched into an other mantra, of which all the words were not even close to English. Even when written in English characters, I couldn't pronounce the words and I am an educated woman. I derived no meaning whatsoever out of them and felt so far out of my element. The only line I understood went  HA HA HA HA HO!

Check, now I know where we are once every three minutes. Whew.

The monk repeated this mantra a couple of times, first slow, then really fast, then infinitely fast, meditating on it for a good fifteen minutes.

I was defeated at the end of this guided meditation. First attempt--total bust.

Then I walked outside to see a whole group of uncomfortable looking people taking off their shoes and realized that I had, in fact, taken the wrong class.

Perhaps there was a chance for meditation redemption.

I stayed at the Tibetan monastery another hour for the real intro to meditation class which was so much more up my alley.  The same monk led this intro class, but admitted that he wasn't a great English speaker. To my pleasant surprise, this time around, I could understand him completely. He went through some of the tenets of Buddhism, with clarity and humor, as well as why we meditate and how to do it. With about 20 minutes left in class, he let us take the reins and do our first Shamatha meditation where you just try to clear your mind, focus your eyes lightly on a point (NOW I understand why the monk's eyes were fluttering!) and relax into nothingness.

I was able to do it for about five minutes before I caught myself thinking "OOH! I'm doing it!", "Oh man, what's for lunch, I've been here two hours and I am HONGRY," and other thoughts that the monk referred to as 'monkey mind'.

After getting to the meditation class I was supposed to be in, it was a wonderful experience, and I am so happy I went. I even took the opportunity to put my new meditation skills to work in my yoga class later in the day.

Ever want to meditate? Call me up!


  1. Wow! That's awesome! Daphne and I have been wanting to take a meditation class and I think we were even thinking of going to that one. Might be a different one though. We went to see the Dali Lama a few weeks back and he was amazing. Yeah, if you ever want to go back, let me know!

  2. Absolutely!! I think I would definitely go back to the intro a few more times before I launch into one of the series. There is a lot to learn about meditating.

    The monastery up in the Brookhaven area, is that the place you were thinking of?

  3. Not sure if that is the same one we were looking at, but I looked the Drepung Loseling Monastery up and it is affiliated with Emory and Tibetan, so I'm leaning toward checking that one out :-)

  4. Agreed! They're "approved" or "blessed" by the Dalai Lama too, so I trust them!