Monday, March 22, 2010

Shambala Meditation

At a friend's urging, I attended a public meditation session held at a Shambala Center. Shambala Centers are located worldwide and they offer public meditation sessions, meditation instruction, and classes in buddhism.

After shedding my boots and leaving them in the vestibule, friend and I waited in "the waiting room" for another meditation session to end. The waiting room was pleasant and well-appointed with a comfy couch and chairs, literature and magazines related to Buddhism, a selection of herbal teas, and some fresh fruit. The session before ours ended. I was temporarily startled by the presence of my shrink, who bowed to me and left with the others.

We entered the meditation room. There was an option of chair or cushion. I chose cushion and sat, arranging my jacket next to me. There was a small altar up front which I liked. The group leader for that session began with a small explanation that teachers were available if anyone wished, and an overview of the next 90 minutes. First the sitting meditation, then a walking, then a sitting. Then a sharing period where folks could say what they wished-- as long as it wasn't in direct response to what another had shared. And a five minute sitting meditation to finish.

During my sitting meditation, I was taken back to the Grand Canyon and the flight of small birds among the cliffs and sparse vegetation. I practiced gently stopping these thoughts and letting them go. It wasn't forced and I was much relaxed. The walking meditation was a tad more difficult. I was concentrating on the idea of not falling-- as walking without shoes remains a difficult thing for me. It was with relief that I sat back down again at the leader's direction. I will not share the discussion here, nor who the other attendees were. I will say that the sharing was deep as the strictures of others' potential responding to what anyone said were observed. After the five minute ending meditation, we adjourned to the waiting room for herbal tea and fruit.

Two folks discovered that their wallet and daypack were missing from the vestibule. That made me at once glad that I had elected to bring my jacket inside the meditation room with me. When a third person discovered that her bicycle was also missing, it was realized that this wasn't a case of "the janitor moving these things to the lost-and-found box." I felt badly that a thief had entered the vestibule during the meditation session itself and taken these things.

The meditation experience itself was charming, however the theft gave me pause. I am hesitant to return to that particular center. I watch lots of crime shows on teevee. My imagination flashed pictures of us tied up in the meditation room and being ordered to hand over our money and jewelry, being held up with a loaded gun in my face, stolen cars from the parking lot. I am considering starting a womens' meditation group around here.

And one more thing: I am fairly certain that I cannot be a Buddhist. There is nothing about me that is passive in nature. I am too programmed to fight back and I understand the necessity of war in our current world. Until I lose the feeling of wanting to butcher those who planned 9/11, I will remain as I am-- a happy atheist with discordian and pastafarian leanings.

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Shambhala website:

Taking Off Pounds Sensibly

After gaining five pounds in two weeks, I decided that enough was enough. My weight gain has been steady since early adulthood-- at least 10 pounds a year. Gathering up my courage and my bulkiest clothing off I went to a meeting of TOPS, or Take Off Pounds Sensibly.

I was warmly greeted, given a membership packet, had a before picture taken and measurements taken, then shown to the weigh-in room. I registered at 213 pounds, the heaviest I've been in my life. My first reaction-- these people are crazy!-- quickly melted into "What I've been doing hasn't worked, so I may as well try this." I am an O.A. drop-out and the purveyor of many fine diet ideas, none of which have worked for me. (I cannot afford the more expensive commercialized programs around).

After weigh-ins, the main meeting began. First the KOPS folks stood up to recite a pledge-- KOPS stands for Keeping Off Pounds Sensibly, followed by the TOPS folks. Then we had roll call. We could announce whether we gained, lost, or stayed the same weight that week. Folks clapped for the maintainers and losers, chanted "tomorrow starts another week" for the gainers. At my name, I announced that I had gained five pounds in two weeks.

After the roll call, there were the raffles-- for the biggest loser, for those who lost, and for the KOPS folk. Then, a member did a presentation. And finally the 50/50. The meeting dispersed with lots of friendly goodbyes. I was given a telephone list for support. A couple of the members who have seen me walking with the dog greeted me. "Now you know where your friends live in your neighborhood," one of them said. There were smiles all around. For the first time, I felt hopeful about getting to a healthy weight and being able to maintain that weight.

Yes, I did go back the next week. I was indeed the biggest loser there that week-- seven pounds. Hooray for me! As I continue to strive to adjust my relationship with food, I am confident that my goal of getting down to a healthy weight is doable. And I feel pretty good about that.

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Website for TOPS: