A few weeks ago, I went to a ‘Meditation’ class in a nearby town. I parked up, pressing my nose against a few windows that were a hive of adult learning activities before finally flinging open the door to my designated base. 10 or so people were already seated around a circle on chairs (I’d naively assumed we’d all be sitting on the floor cross legged like I’d seen on the telly), head down, looking pensive. I crept in, found an empty seat and a woman in a Buddha style orange dress with a shaved head smiled at me in acknowledgement. The session leader, *Lynn, was telling newbies (me) that we were working our way through a book that you could buy yourself for about 50 quid or something, and that the cost of the session was a fiver.
The money basket made its way around the circle and I dug deep into my bag and pulled out a twenty.
‘Haven’t you any less?’, asked Lynn, nodding to a changeless basket.
So I passed the basket on figuring I’d pay at the end when change became available.
Lynn asked us to turn off our phones, which every-one did. Mine was out of charge anyhow.
Lynn then asked us to close our eyes and focus our full attention solely on our breath as it flowed in and out of our bodies. (It sounds like a simple enough task but trying to focus on just your breath is no easy feat, let me tell ya). For a start, I’ve got nasal problems and it’s hard to get air through my nose with my gob shut so I just sat there (numbed brain, mouth hanging open, eyes alternating between closed and glazed over) looking and feeling like a wierdo for a few long, slow minutes.
After that ordeal was over, Lynn explained that today, we were going to be learning about self-cherishment. Self-cherishment sounded right up my street and I couldn’t wait to get started; would we be cherishing ourselves by sinking into relaxation on the beach of an unspoiled island paradise, I wondered?
Errmm, nope, we wouldn’t.
Instead, Lynn asked us all to breathe in white light and breathe out black smoke. I started to exhale the black smoke, but I felt a bit peeved again. (I’ve recently packed in the cancer sticks and the imaginary exhaling of black smoke was making me want to nip outside for a sneaky one). I blew imaginary smoke rings and imagined that next, we’d all lie down and pretend to be feeling the hot sun beat down on our faces and listen to the lapping waves of the ocean.
‘Next, we’re going to try and imagine our minds as a piece of concrete’.
The reasons for this, Lynne explained, was to block out bad energies. Lynn began to talk at length about clean and tidy environments, and something about us not being able to take our friends and family with us when we died. She told us about how we cherish ourselves when really we should be cherishing others because if we didn’t we would continue in our suffering. Basically, we think we’re more important than everyone else and we don’t really care about strangers because they don’t directly affect our happiness. This was selfish. Lynn said we should treat strangers as special and unique; appreciate others more and focus less on ourselves.
Hmmm. Ok then. This sounded like a worthy and achievable thing to do, I thought.
You could have heard a pin drop in that room. Everyone was sitting in a deadly, eerily long silence, with their eyes closed in deep concentration, imagining how they might achieve the worthy and achievable, when out of nowhere, of course, a large, rumbling, thundery sound emerged from pit of my stomach.
I swear, it was if someone had just farted loudly at a funeral.
The trick, I figured, was just to pretend that it wasn’t me. If it happened again, I’d shoot sidelong glances at the female stranger next to me and hope that she cherished me enough to take the rap.
Thirty seconds later, along came some more gas. Gurgling through my intestines and making bubbling and gurgling noises as it went along…
On the third wave of gas, everyone got a bit fidgety.
‘Sorry’, I decided to fess up. But no-one replied. They were all too busy thinking about how not to give a shit about themselves.
It wasn’t my fault I was so bloody hungry; mum had invited me round for tea and made liver and onions again so I’d left starving and with an empty stomach, and now I couldn’t stop thinking about eating some mezze in that Greek place in town…
‘Don’t be such a selfish cow, Mel’, I scorned myself. Cherish Lynn. Lynn was a stranger giving her time to teach me to be a better person. Stop thinking inappropriate thoughts in Lynn’s class —concrete head, concrete head, concrete head…! But the harder I tried to empty my mind, the worse it got. Have you ever been in a really silent place and you suddenly feel it would be funny to just randomly shout out something really loud?
No? Just me then.
More silence ensued followed by another really lengthy read from Lynn, and I began to wonder when this thing would friggin end. I was fluffing starving. I opened one eye and sneaked around the room half imagining that there’d be another class-clown like me and that we could share mortified expressions across the room at each other.
But nope. I was the only idiot in the room.
Lynn then declared that we were all now going to be having a toilet break, and after that, it would be discussion time.
Obediently, we all went to the loo and I’m ashamed to admit that I took my chance to sneak off early. I wasn’t learning anything new here, I figured, so I made my way out down the corridor; into the car; down to the take-away for a mixed meat kebab before making my way home along the dual carriageway.
I was about half way down the carriageway when I realised that I’d forgotten to pay.
I had two choices. I could return and pay for the session that I had attended. Or I could go home and stuff my fat greedy face with donner meat and chilli.
I’d learnt nothing from the session, it seemed, as the Donner meat won. I turned off the dual carriage-way, turned right, drove a mile up the road through Fingerpost, turned left, and then stopped at the traffic lights on red, but not before my car gave way to big, loud shudder and stopped dead. I tried to turn the engine, but no. Nothing. Nada.
I car, 2 cars, 3 cars, 4 cars began stopping behind me in a queue, the queue growing longer.
The lights turned green but I was going nowhere. I was just sitting there, stationary, next to my lonely and longed for big greasy kebab, being punished. I knew I should have gone back and paid for that bloody class!
(Hi Karma. Thanks for stopping by. Hope you’re enjoying the view.)
The car behind me began to beep. The car behind him started the beep. And then the car behind that one…
FFS! Stop beeping at me! What on earth did they think that I was doing- just stopping there to admire the sun setting over Parr Stocks?!
Sheepishly, I stepped out of my car and surrendered myself to their mercy, holding up my hands and making frantic gestures about my petrol tank being empty. The guy behind me in a Range Rover (in Parr- I know) beeped his horn angrily at me again, the p***, loudly and in my face. I was about a millisecond from tears when suddenly, this old-ish dude (about 70) emerged from his house in his slippers – carrying a petrol can.
He’d heard the commotion outside, he explained, as he’d been trying to get some sleep. Without hesitation, he beckoned two teens on bikes over the road to assist him in pushing my car onto the kerbside to let the held up traffic pass. Which they did. (Cheers boys. And special kudos to the near 70 year old!).
And then the old guy drove me to the petrol station, paid for £10 pounds worth of petrol, a newspaper (which he rolled into a cone and used as a funnel to pour the petrol into my empty tank), and bid me on my way.
What a gent!!
I think I nearly cried again.
Of course, I returned the money. Alongside a card full of my gratitude and a large box of chocolates, as obviously, one good deed deserves another.
It pays to be nice.
And I felt that actually, I really had learnt something from my night at the meditation class after all.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of karma? or a good deed?