In my quest to try new things and meet new people in this town (or rather, "cosmopolitan village" that is Amsterdam)... I've come across this pretty rad site, meetup.com.
NO! IT IS NOT A DATING SITE!
Basically - if you key in your city and a topic that interests you, you could very well stumble across different groups of people with similar interests who are organising meet ups in your area. Everything from foodies to movie-buffs to kirtan-chanters to vegans to girlie-groups (groups made up of all women - No, not pop-singer-girl-groups!) are represented in my little city. I'm still pretty new to it so I haven't had the chance to check them all out yet. Seems like a pretty good way to get out there and finally make friends OUTSIDE OF WORK! (Contrary to popular belief, I'm actually quite the hermit, preferring my own company at home. And this site seems like a good approach).
I found a meditation group on the site. It's advertised as "Buddhist Meditation" and kinda sorta put me off at first. I don't like things that are overtly/ in-your-face "religious", if that makes sense. But then I decided to keep an open mind and see if perhaps I could pick up more tools in my toolkit to "still my monkey mind".
So I checked it out last night. On entering the place, I was greeted by not one, but TWO monks in full robes! BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Okaaaaaay.
*Keep an open mind*
I should interject here that: I have NO CLUE about Buddhism. My entire family is pretty much Christian and I grew up in a Christian household. Before my grandmother converted to Christianity, I remember she used to have a Buddhist altar at home, with joss sticks burning and lots of food offerings. My only "knowledge" of Buddhism is really an impression... Or rather, an image of gold Buddha idols. And er... that's pretty much it. I'm a little embarrassed to admit I actually don't know anything about its theology. I should add, however, I have come to fully embrace the belief that there are many paths to one light (much to my Christian family's dismay). To me, there is NO SUCH THING AS "MY GOD IS BETTER THAN YOUR GOD."
I guess what made me a bit wary of the Buddhist angle in this meditation class is probably precisely because of my Christian indoctrination from a young age. Funny that - My view of "God" now is so much bigger than how the Bible defines its "Christian God"... And yet, I still carry the remnants of... what is it? Mistrust? Suspicion? of ALL kinds of "organized religion". (I just hate it when people try to shove their point-of-view down your throat. Y'know... I'm happy being a gentile, thanks! Don't judge me coz I don't share your beliefs!)
Now that I've put things in a bit of context, back to my meditation class story.
What immediately clicked when the class started though, was the teacher-monk started off with "Many people ask me if Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy. Frankly, if you ask me, I really don't know what it is. All I can say is that for me, it's a method to find happiness in life."
WOW! What a totally cool monk! (I never thought I'd ever utter a phrase like that in my life! "A cool monk"?! WTF? HAHAHA!) That immediately helped drop all my wariness. And I could just get on with why I was there in the first place: to learn about meditation.
We started off with a preliminary meditation exercise - similar to how you'd ground and centre yourself before a yoga class. Coming to a place of stillness, observing the breath as you inhale and exhale. Umm... my monkey mind immediately went to thoughts of "I really NEED to go to an Osteopath. Can feel this imbalanced pelvis!"
... ... ...
After that centering exercise, he began to explain that there are 21 Lamrim meditation exercises in total and today's would be on the 4 Noble Truths of the Buddha. A lot of it kind of overlapped with some yogic philosophy. And it was at this point I really got lost. I think I caught myself thinking "OK, here goes with the Buddhist teachings, blahblahblah..." To be honest, I thought he was talking about the "4 NOVEL Truths"... Until much later on that I realized he was talking about the "Noble" truths. I'm a terrible student.
And then you know what I was doing? I ended up thinking about dropbacks.
I was sitting in the middle of a meditation class and there I was, thinking of being in a gloriously deep, long, hangback. With arms outstretched, I was imagining grounding strongly through my legs, pushing the hips as far forward as they could go, stretching those hip flexors... then opening up the space between each vertabra as I was ever-so-slowly, with control... bringing my hands down to the floor. With straight feet, grounded to the floor the whole time (coz I tend to lift my heels on landing).
I mean... WTF, right?
He pretty much lost me after that. After explaining the 4 noble truths, we went into another meditation session, but the whole time with my eyes closed, I was practising hangbacks in my mind. I was practising the PERFECT DROPBACK. No splayed feet. No raised heels. Just a glorious opening in every part of the body.
Dhyana, Seventh Limb of Yoga: EPIC FAIL!!!!!
I was obviously still stuck on the Third Limb, Asana. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
Claudia's just done her poll on dropbacks - Did you do them before or after Intermediate? (I had to dropback AND stand up from backbends before I was given Intermediate). If she's not obsessing about dropbacks, I obviously am! I actually really enjoy them, now that I'm into the dropback groove and kinda-sorta over the fear of bonking my head on the floor. HA!
I'm not really sure what I learned from the meditation class, or if I will go again. Think I'll need to give this a couple days to sink in first!