I went to the introduction session for the Shambhala Level I training tonight. We took turns explaining why we were there, passing around a microphone. I made the mistake of making eye contact with someone holding a microphone, so I tried to sum up why I was attending my first meditation retreat to a room full of strangers – awkward at the best of times.
How could I possibly sum up for strangers what brought me there? A process of years, all leading to that moment. Books I’ve read, especially Pema Chödrön’s work (which, as it turns out, is many of the participants’ introduction to Shambhala). Time I’ve spent sitting in meditation (though, admittedly, not as much time or as regularly as I’d like). But, most importantly, how meditation and mindfulness and Buddhist philosophy has wound its way into my life and become a part of (and helped me through) every single event that has happened to me. Moments of clarity, pockets of awareness, time spent sitting and just crying (both happy and sad tears) on my cushion.
In particular, the awareness I’ve gained from even the sliver of meditation that I’ve tried has been invaluable to me in working with and on my anxiety and depression. There’s no doubt that I have become much more able to process and manage both of these things because of the time I’ve spent learning about meditation. When Things Fall Apart is my balm in difficult times. I am who I am today because of the books and teachings and meditation sessions. But, ironically, few people in my life realize how much the philosophy and teachings have impacted my life, because I almost never mention it. So – to try to sum this all up to a room full of strangers, when I barely even mention it to those closest to me, was a bit nerve wracking.
Part of what brought me there, though, was realizing I am looking for more. I’ve used meditation in crisis and rough times, and now it’s time to bring it into the rest of my life – into the good times, into the celebrations, and into the “everyday.” I want to develop a regular meditation practice – and, to be honest, have always intended to – but always feel a bit like I am making it up as a I go along. I wanted “official” instruction, even structure – and Shambhala provides that. I was looking for community, and they also provide that.
So, day one down, two more to go.