There is a place at my church where I now regularly go to find calm and peace. It is a quiet place. The main building of the church stands separately from this place, yet not too isolated, for it is a big church and has a great amount of followers to keep the whole church area constantly busy. This place, my new hiding place, my source of serenity, is small. It has a name, which for the sake of my brain, the name has escaped my memory just now. Who knows, it may come back again, but I don’t feel like chasing it now. Let’s just call it a praying room, or more stylishly, “my room”.
“My room” is also my shelter. It has sheltered me from the many fierceful battles that have been going on in my head lately. I would seek it when I needed to get away from this small living place I now call home. I would definitely seek it when the need for air to breathe forced me to dig my way out of my room, walk down on the street under the hazy sun or mist of rain, and enter the space of calmness. At times like right now, as I am typing my words into this precious laptop of mine, the craziness of energy in the air and the loud shrills of excitement from the young girls who live on the two floors beneath my floor are seeping into my room through any open window or crack of holes between the door and the wall, disturbing my being all the way to the deepest parts of my brain that I did not even know exist until now, forcing this little crack of anger that is really close to burst out at any moment now. I have no clue of what is going on down there, but I really don’t give a damn. At times like this, to say that I need “my room” is an understatement. I would love to just grab a sleeping bag or mattress that I can find, drag it to “my room” and spend the night there. Excuse me for a second, but I need to take a few deep breaths. I don’t often include into my essay what is happening around me as I am doing the writing. Be right back.
*************** INTERMISSION ****************
What I do inside “my room” is probably obvious to everyone. I pray. However, more often than praying, I meditate. I tend to stay in the room for a long time. I mean, a very long time. (Is an hour considered a long time?). Sometimes for over an hour, depending on how fast my legs fall asleep or my back screams out loud for mercy. Once, I fell asleep. Yes, I swear it was only once. I’m so glad that it was a quiet and very short one and that there wasn’t any display of head bobbling that I typically do when I fall asleep sitting up. I’m not ashamed of admitting it because falling asleep is actually very common in meditation.
People tend to just sit on the floor in the room. There are sitting pillows available and a few chairs at the back of the room for those who are physically restrained to sit on the floor. I sit with my legs crossed, back straight up, and each hand on top of each leg like a Sitting Buddha, complete with my fingers making the bowl hand gesture. The hands take that form automatically because I used to do it so often at one point in my life. I have neglected this habit, meditation, because of the moving and adjustment at a new place, and so I am now rediscovering it again. I sometimes enter the room for the specific use of meditation and skip the heavy duty praying for another time. I choose to do so because I want to…listen.
To listen I think is the key element here in praying. We are often so busy talking to God, or to Whomever we believe holding the Higher Power based on our individual faith, that we forget to listen. I believe praying is not only about asking, confessing, and expressing gratitude, but also listening and being silent. And in the act of listening, we are surrendering. Only by surrendering that I think we can hear the message from God. So I figure out a new ritual. The praying room is (often) for listening to and the church for conversing with God. There is also a very small pond garden between my room and the church where a statue of Mother Mary is placed. It is Her garden, made specially for Her, with candles around the statue. The garden is located outdoor. It is another place for people to pray and have a little bit of quietness. This has also become my other refuge, if the weather permits it of course.
I’m sharing this because I AM very thankful to have discovered these places, especially “my room”. It is easy to skip the room and be clueless of its existence due to the absence of any sign or information outside of the room. It has to be by word of mouth only for anyone to know it. I remember when I first saw the room. It was also my first day attending the Sunday mass at the church. At that time I was clueless about the purpose of the room. All I could see was that within the span of perhaps 15 minutes, there were quite enough people going in and out of the room. The first thought that came to my head at that time, “Is that another public washroom? I just came from one and it’s over there (opposite direction). It can’t be that many washrooms for this church? Do people here need to go to the bathroom so often that they need to make a second one?” Then I saw that these people first took off their sandals before entering the room and their whole entering and exiting behaviors were unusually hushed and quiet. So then I quickly crossed the idea of bathroom. But then what? My question was answered a few days later when some friends and I decided to meet at the church parking lot as a meeting place before going somewhere, and one of them told me. She also accompanied me to the room for the first time, and it didn’t take me long to come back on my own, which I believe was…a day later. I have since been hooked, desperately hooked, so hooked that one time I was afraid that I may mistakenly call it “my homey”.
This whole experience made me realize how I miss meditation. Mind you, I am NOT an expert in meditation. Meditation is actually a very difficult task for me. I have not been able to master my concentration, my breathing, and just a control over my mind during meditation. My mind constantly, I mean CONSTANTLY!, wanders. To bring my mind back to the center is a constant and exhausting process. I consider a meditation day a good day when I can most of the time successfully bring my mind to focus back and end it with a focused mind. On a not so good day is when somewhere in the middle or towards the end I give up trying to focus my mind due to the amount of times I have to chase around my thoughts. A REALLY bad day is, well, when I fall asleep of course.
On my very first day of trying to meditate inside “my room”, the scene from Eat, Pray, Love (the movie) came to mind. It was the one with Julia Roberts inside the meditation room in India, trying to meditate. It looked as if she had already been in there for a while due to what seemed to be a long conversation in her head with herself, and when she looked at the clock on the wall at the end of her own busy conversation, she realized that the time had only passed for less than 5 minutes since she first planted her behind on the floor. Time truly feels like it goes very slow when all a person has to do is to SIT. This realization resulted in Ms. Roberts’ exasperated grunting and moaning. I always thought of it as a very funny scene. Everyone one of us who has tried meditation understands that scene well. We know how slow the time goes by. We know how when you stop the physical activity of your body and yet still have to stay awake, then the amount of activity seems to be travelling to the mind area. The mind/brain area suddenly becomes very active, busy, and…unfortunately, chatty.
I am happy to have shared “my room” with you. Everyone needs a place like this, a refuge, a get away. Before I came back to my home country, my refuge used to be a big park with a lake, a small forest of trees, a walking path for me to walk, and a family of ducks. It’s a beautiful place, I remember it well. During my meditation attempt here, my mind often wandered to that place. Once it decided to go there, my attempt to bring my mind back tended to be futile. Oh well. Life goes on.
And this brings me to this question for you, my readers. Do you have a “my room” of your own? Feel free to share one here in the comment section, or write it up for your own blog. I hope you all have one.