I’m trying to take more advantage of a broad range of free classes offered at the downtown YMCA, where I work out several times a week. One of those was a 45-minute meditation class, led by a young Buddhist monk. It was my first ever, and I quite enjoyed the experience.
The large, multi-story Y building has a tiny chapel tucked away in a corner of the main floor, and as I got there early I distracted myself by reading the historical mission statement of the Y, which was hanging on a wall. We’ve come a long way. “Young” no longer applies; at the time I go, which is mid-morning, most people working out are older. The people who showed up for this noon meditation were older too. “Men’s” is out; the Y is open to all. “Christian”? Well, the meditation was led by a Buddhist. “Association”? That one we can probably keep.
The chapel itself was quite non-denominational, with a couple of small wooden pews that someone had probably donated from an old church, a number of straight-backed chairs with comfortable seats, and a rather nice rug. On the wall were three stained glass windows, mounted and hung for their artistic value. The front wall had a tapestry of sorts, not an old or valuable one — something that might have been done by a member.
The monk sat on a chair in front of us. He gave a few minutes of instruction — very interesting — and then led about ten of us in a guided meditation. I found it quite enjoyable and very soothing — good for my dodgy blood pressure. Here were a couple of take-away impressions:
To lead a meditation, you have to have a somnolent, evenly-pitched, rather neutral voice. A high squeaky voice, or one with a heavy accent that would be distracting, likely wouldn’t do.
I have things on me that beep rather often. I’d turn my phone to buzz only and I felt awkward and uncomfortable at the number of times a barely audible buzz let me know something had landed in my in-box. I thought it would be more disruptive to the group to unzip my fanny pack — which I was wearing — and turn the phone all the way off, but I wish I’d done that at the outset. Also, my FitBit buzzes. If the goal of carrying over a meditative state is a valuable one, then it probably doesn’t help to have all this buzzing going on.
For someone new to meditation, 45 minutes is just right. I can’t imagine doing this for a day, or even half a day, at least not yet.
The monk, who was wearing traditional monk’s robes and had his head shaved, appeared to have a Jewish background. He mentioned attending his nephew’s bar mitzvah, where he is referred to as “Uncle Monk”. I think all faith traditions these days are struggling to keep their younger members within the flock. Staying with the religious tradition in which you were born and raised is just not a given any more.
I plan to go again next week, and will let you know if this grows on me or becomes boring. Have you ever been to a guided meditation? Is it something you might try? Just curious.