I was excited – but I had all the usual fears going on tonight.
What if they don’t like me? What if I make an idiot of myself?
What if they think I’m the Marla Singer of spirituality – a big tourist in a little Buddhist temple?
As day seven of my #30daysofnewthings quest, I had planned to head out past Occoquan to a little Buddhist temple called “Ekoji”. I meditate, but never in the company of strangers who aren’t in a yoga class. And yoga class, somehow, never fails to opposite-of-calm me. Maybe it’s ‘cause I’m spending the whole time wondering why people should hafta pay for serenity. At Ekoji, you can transcend intrinsically in the company of strangers for free (who somehow make me feel far calmer than I do on my mat). But in this moment, serenity was the farthest thing away from me. In fact, as just one more of my fears, I was worried about why when I map quested the route to get there on my phone versus laptop, I got led in different directions. Suddenly, this became my biggest concern.
Then, in a sudden brick-sac-to-the-skull of self-awareness, I realized how ridiculous this thought-train was.
This was why I needed to go.
Normal folk don’t get spastic about the fact that they might have to turn around if they get lost.
Also, I’d chosen to come to this temple ‘cause I watch all these documentaries about going to beautiful Varanasi, India or sweeping your Chi into existence at some Cliffside Buddhist monastery across the earth. But the great feeling I get watching them is always followed by the despair of “that’ll never be me”. That feeling remained for a while until one day I happened across one such doc featuring a 20-something year old dude trying to dissect yoga and figure out whether he was wasting his breath on earth by learning how to breathe. Once sat in a Hindi ashram, he asked a guru about finding himself, attaining enlightenment – you know, all the usual suspects. The happy little man sat on a pillow, laughing in reply, said he didn’t need to come all the way to India to do that. Then, more seriously, he added that you hafta subtract “all that you are not” – all those things we do or avoid out of fear.
Here, Ekoji temple was (compared to India, at least) right in my backyard.
And all I had between me and defragging my CPU was the same virus that makes leaving home so hard each day.
Twenty-five minutes down the road, I thought, “I should be there by now… Where the fluck’s this road?” Then, like the homing device that goes off in my dog’s bowels signaling her where to shit, my hand flicked on my blinker, and I turned right at a road that was definitely not the one on the directions. Why did I just do that?
Within moments, I was there.
And the temple leader was shuffling up to my car with a smile like he’d been waiting for me.
Am I dreaming? How’d I know how to get here?
There’s something about taking a ball peen to your armor of fear.
It’s like the whole world’s just waiting inside for you to make the decision to fckk all your reservations in the face and kickbox your way outta your own self assembled ensemble of irrational apprehension. Once you make that choice is when the magic happens. Your mind calms down, your car starts acting like it’s on a cosmic remote control, and people welcome you with open arms. My experience there was fantastic. There’s this giant bowl they bang – a singing bowl (I think that’s what it’s called) that has this resonant sound you can feel in your body. A garden’s there too – which opens in the warmer weather for walking meditation (I’m not a fan of meditative walking – I prefer running or sitting or walking quickly – but I do like the garden). But – most of all – I found that meditating amongst long time practitioners has this kinda contagious effect. Totes diff than going it alone or forking out funds for categorically un-tranquil Vinyasa instructors (like the ones I’ve done thus far). There was even this point in my sedentary sightlessness where I felt this sorta gooey, energetic warmth rush up from my feet to the top of my oddly shaped head. Call it introceptive awareness or saint glob or nirvana – I don’t care. All’s I know is that suddenly, the spasm in my shoulder ceased, my breathing evened, I was calm and – GONG! Jesus, had it been twenty minutes already? It felt like I’d just raided my inner pharmacy of all their benzos and OD’d on ’em. But, ya know, it’s useless trying to explain what happens in meditation to people who don’t do it. I can say I left there feeling re-calibrated in a way unlike any other tool can accomplish, but much like a lot of things evolving through the course of this challenge – it’s a description that’s reductive. Inadequate. Just like trying to explain how the eff I got to the temple itself last night. Can’t really wrap my head around any of it.
And the cool thing is – for once in my life – I kinda don’t feel like I need to.