I felt safe in my rented room, even though life was passing me by. But always some inner imperative insisted I move out into the world. There were people out there, and in my locked away aloneness there was only me. I believed I was not enough without those other people. So I continued to seek out activities where people gather for a purpose. A bar implicitly has a purpose, but I began to feel less and less hope each time I found a new bar. Perhaps I would find engagement in a place of more explicit purpose. I believed if I could find purpose I would also find engagement.
One fortuitous day on my solitary ramblings through the city, I saw a poster on a shop window: “Bee Mindful Community”, it was headed. I scanned through the rest of the text:
“Are you unable to find the contentment that is your due? Are you seeking for answers outside yourself? Is it perhaps time to sink down deeply into your own radiant being?
We are a community of people just like you. We meet every Wednesday evening for two hours of Mindfulness Practice.
It is not only a solitary activity. We look inside ourselves in silence and then we join together into sharing our own insights about ourselves. We might dance a little. In this way we harness the energy of each other to break through the energetic barriers that prevent our own self-discovery.
You are welcome to join us. No commitment. If it is for you, you will stay with us.”
And then there was a phone number.
A few days later I rang, and the next Wednesday evening I found myself in the Mindfulness Session.
As we sat scattered around the room, eyes closed and breathing slowly and deeply, we were given instructions like:
"What is the feeling in your lower back right now, as you sit on your cushion? Stay with that feeling. Breathe in, breath out and notice. Nothing more to do than notice. We will come back in 20 minutes to check in with each other.”
Eventually we were invited to open our eyes. Eventually. I was sure the facilitator has passed away, abandoning us in eternity.
“Take some time to connect with yourself. Remain silent for a few more minutes while staying inside yourself. Be present in that.”
I peered around at the other people carefully. I wanted to appear as if I was connecting with myself, while really I wanted to connect with someone else. A few of the women caught my eye. None seemed to be aware of me at all. The facilitator must have noticed I was checking the people out. He was smiling at me. I tried to look contemplative. He kept on smiling and then began to turn up the music. It seemed like some Himalayan monks chanting, and they did not seem happy. He invited us to chant together. I had no idea what the words were but some people seemed to know. I tried my best to follow along, at least keeping my lips moving. After a few minutes the chanting stopped and the facilitator asked if anyone had something to share about what they had become aware of in themselves during the session.
Five or six people spoke. One guy seemed to want to tell his entire life story starting with the trauma of his childhood, and letting out a few tears. An older lady beamed and declared she had realised her connection to source. I had no idea what that meant. A couple of people shared they found it difficult to still their mind. I nodded my head in agreement. The facilitator offered:
“Just do not be concerned with stopping the mind or altering it in anyway, our task here is to watch it. Be mindful of whatever is occurring. Sit in the depth of your feeling. Be attentive. That’s all”.
He seemed to be looking directly at me, so I nodded my head again.
“That’s all? Feel it deeply? I just want those feelings to go away.”
I felt like a phony. I managed a small laugh inside myself as I caught the thought, “Just watch that phoniness, sit in the depth of that phoniness, Stuey”.
I did not share my experience into the room, and felt reasonably comfortable with that, because quite a few others did not share, also.
Eventually the facilitator started the music again, this time with a more upbeat song, and he invited us to stand up and dance. I felt embarrassed. I shuffled around and hoped the track would not be too long. At the end of the track the facilitator called out:
“Amazing energy, all of us. See you all next week."
After the mindfulness session I sat on a bench in the foyer drinking some jasmine tea that had been offered to me silently as I left the meditation hall. A few other participants were sitting around on various chairs and small tables. A man was intently perusing the leaflet stand as if searching for the lost chord or the holy grail. A few people just walked straight through the foyer and down the steps out of the building into the night. I wondered what value this evening had had for me. Now that it was over, I did feel a lovely sense of calm but somehow the feeling that my life was pretty purposeless wrapped its arms around me as well.
I tried not to frown, rather to smile slightly as I looked at the miniature water feature next to the bench, in what I hoped was an appearance of rapt attention. I did not immediately notice that someone had very quietly sat on the other end of the bench perhaps a metre away from me. A quiet cough drew my attention to her. She was looking at me and when I turned my head towards her she commented, “You like water, I see”.
I knew this was an offering to chat but in the moment my mind went blank and all I could think was, “No, I was just pretending to be engaged with something so I would not look like a loser”. I am sure my mouth opened once or twice as my mind fought with itself to not convey such a ridiculous thing. Eventually I replied, “Yes, it is so tranquil don’t you think?”
“Water is a symbol of ease in movement and change,” she offered. I wondered if she was an expert in this. She went on, “when we see water it is a good opportunity to reflect on where we are heading and how we would rather move”. She smiled slightly and just looked into my eyes. I am sure I blushed. I hate it when I blush. I managed to ask, “Do you study such things?”
“I dabble in many aspects of the great mystery”, she whispered.
“And I come to these kind of evenings as much as I can. I think a life spent just adapting to the demands of society is a waste. I like to find out how other people have managed to transcend the mundane. I imagine you do too, or you would not be here.”
She peered at me as if waiting for me to confirm that I was indeed seeking some higher truths. I just nodded my head and said “Life can be a challenge at times”. She smiled at that and said “Challenges are opportunities in disguise, you know, and we can create the energy field that we want to abide in”. Again I nodded, but I was feeling quite a bit out of my depth.
She stood up, as if to go. I was disappointed. I imagined she might have settled in for more of a get to know each other. I mumbled something about enjoying her viewpoint and could we meet again? She seemed not to hear all of that and just replied “Oh yes, I like to keep my perspective fresh at all times”. With a huge smile she turned towards the stairs, then over her shoulder just said “I hope you are here next week too, I will be”, and down the stairs she went, lightly like a kitten playing at being a balloon.
I wanted to call after her “What’s your name?” but I could not disturb the reverent silence that had fallen over the foyer now that we had stopped talking. The man at the leaflet stand had been watching us, I saw now, and when he noticed me looking at him he nodded his head to the staircase and said “Lovely girl”. I turned my attention back and she was nowhere to be seen. I stood up to go and at the bottom of the steps saw her riding her bicycle off down the High Street hill.
I ambled up the hill a block to where my car was parked. I climbed in behind the wheel and just stared through the windscreen for ten minutes, deep in thought about girls who like water and imagining how she might look in a bikini. Finally I pulled myself out of that, started the engine and drove carefully to my house.
That night I slept peacefully for the first time in many months. But, in the early hours of the morning I had a long dream about travelling to a snowy mountain top where people looked after each other in houses made of glass and I was treated like a long lost relative for a season until the snow began to thaw and silently one by one my new family just disappeared. I was left alone on the mountain top and there was no obvious way for me to climb down. I looked up at the sky and an eagle hovered overhead. It slowly began to descend towards me. In my dream I felt unprotected on the rocky top of the mountain and I did not know if the eagle wanted to rescue me or to eat me.
I began to awake and for a moment or two believed deeply that I had made a huge mistake going to the mindfulness evening because clearly the beautiful girl was a witch in disguise. Why else would this warning be coming to me in my dreamstate?
My rational mind slowly came back into existence to do its job and announced to me that it was time to get up and all this silly nonsense about eagles, girls and witches was to be forgotten.
As I went about my daily activities I managed to let go of the eagle and the witches but the girl kept playing in my mind enticing me to imagine her coming out with me to the movies and the night of passion we would abandon ourselves to almost before leaving the cinema.
Again, I wished I knew her name. I began to count down the days and hours until the next Mindfulness Evening.
Coming up next: Stuart discovers a new trajectory for his life, and we witness his first night with Aleena.