I blame the Dalai Lama. Apparently, his calming influence quieted Congress yesterday, and last night he got to me, too, I think. After a couple of years of not meditating, I felt absolutely propelled out of the house, into my car, and onto the freeway to go downtown to the Tibetan Buddhist Temple where I used to go for Sunday services. I wasn't thinking of the D.L. when I did it, but who knows how far and how wide his good graces extend? :) When I got there, I discovered there were only three of us for the "group" meditation, but as that other famous spiritual leader once said, "When two or more are gathered in my name there is love." It has been so long since I sat in meditation that I didn't even try to cross my legs on one of the red mats on the floor. I wimped out in a chair, instead. The leader made the "singing bowl" ring, and I folded my hands in my lap, lowered my eyes and focused on my breathing.
In, out. In, out. Frantic thoughts. Back to In. Back to Out. In. Out. Breathe.
As I sat there in the temple, it came home to me that one of the tenets of Buddhism is devotion to the "sangha," which loosely translates to "spiritual community," and that the purpose of a sangha is "refuge." It was an interesting notion on a night when I needed refuge from my own fraught thoughts. All day, yesterday, I had become increasingly irritated by someone. I was also really worried about the fact that my work is not going well, at least in the short-term sense of things.
You're not "supposed" to want anything to result from meditation, but I am an unenlightened soul and I wanted peace of mind and heart last night. I was furious at the annoying person and at my own work, and I wanted my anger to do no harm. By the time I left the temple I felt calmer, and I knew that I must start meditating again. I do that best in groups. Kind of like blogging. :) Both have a salutary effect on my soul. There was even a nice moment in the temple when I felt appreciation for the annoying person and my work troubles, because when they got bad enough, they forced me to go for refuge where it could do me the most good. The annoying person is only that way every now and then, and a book is just a book, but the growth of character lasts a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes.
When I was in college, my refuge was to come home, let no one besides my parents know I was here, and then go hang out at the art museum, especially in the reconstructed Buddhist temple where I could sit on a bench and soak up the peace and beauty. I hadn't even connected then and now until just this minute.
Do you have a heavy-duty refuge when things get fraught?