Giving and Taking – Part Two of Three
by: Robert Tanner
Please read Part One to understand where this picks up:
Thursday evening, I pulled into the parking lot of Sacred Om Yoga in Point Pleasant, NJ, feeling a bit nervous. “What did I get myself into,” I wondered as I made my way across the parking lot. I wanted so badly for this to help, to feel that same sense of relief as when I finished the writing, but I was afraid. I wasn’t convinced that meditation could actually help me. It’s not that I didn’t have an open mind; it’s just that I wasn’t sure everything would go as planned.
In the lobby, I was greeted by the owner, Susan, a very pleasant woman who made me feel welcome. As I was a few minutes early, I sat and made small talk with her. Soon, however, the lobby began to fill up with people of various genders and ages who were apparently taking the same class. At that point, my anxiety kicked in: with so many people in the room, I was sure to get distracted.
Finally, the door to the yoga studio opened. A few people from the yoga class that had just ended decided to stick around, doubling the size of the meditation class. Leigh Anne, the instructor, greeted us, inviting us into the studio. Taking my cue from the other students, I removed my shoes and socks and entered a large dimly lit room where pleasant South East Asian music played softly in the background. Leigh Anne instructed us to grab a pillow and a couple of blankets. We were to sit on the pillow with our legs crossed and lay the blanket on the floor beneath us so we’d have something to rest our feet on.
After everyone was settled, I was sure that we were going to break out in the dreaded chanting. However, Leigh Anne just walked around the room handing out slips of paper to each student. I glanced at the paper. It was titled ‘Tonglen’ and gave a quick description of this style of meditation.
For the next twenty minutes, Leigh Anne went into detail about Tonglen, explaining its origin and how to practice the technique. For those unfamiliar with Tonglen, the word means “giving and taking” in Tibetan. When practicing Tonglen, you visualize taking on the suffering of others when you breathe in, and then giving happiness and success to them when you breathe out. As I sat there listening, I began to feel my backside go numb and I started wondering if we were actually going to meditate.
Leigh Anne wrapped up her talk and lowered the lights even more. She began by having us close our eyes and focus on our breath. Her voice was tranquil and soothing, like ocean waves. For the first few minutes, I was quite proud of myself for being as able focus on my breathing. But then, without warning, all hell broke loose inside my head. Thoughts came flooding in of the day’s events, what was coming up tomorrow, if my kids were going to get over their colds. At that point, I started freaking out because my lack of focus was going to ruin the whole point of the exercise. How was this ever going to help me if I couldn’t concentrate?
TO BE CONTINUED…
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