Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How to Hold a Meditation Vigil

It's too long, but what I meant to say for a title was, "How to Hold a Meditation Vigil at a Peace Rally...Complete With Music...In the Rain...Alone...

Powered by GoodWidgets.com

First, it really helped that I took Friday off in order to prepare, as well as Saturday for the Peace Rally. I created a tiny flier for the park festival, and other BPF activities, and I rode the bus to get it and some brochures copied at Kinko's. I had to spend waaaaay too much time looking for the banner. I got everything together: the camp chair back-pack, the table, fliers, signs, flags, tarps, canopy, Buddha, incense....but the banner eluded me. I even have a list on my computer of all the things to bring. This always seems to happen. And I can be stubborn, so I kept looking. I can be stubborn especially when PMS comes to visit, so I kept looking. Finally I found it in the closet where I looked first, and again another 2 times, but it was underneath stuff and pushed back.

I created a sign-up sheet so maybe people wouldn't take so many brochures. [note to self--add those people to the email list] The organizers asked us to do this to conserve paper. That actually didn't work out too well...visitors got cranky if you seemed reluctant to give them something to take.

In the morning my sweetie gave me a ride. The organizers kindly put me off to one end away from the other tables. He helped me set up the canopy (so easy with the EZ Up) and I made him go away. He was off to work. Methodically, carefully, I hung the prayer flags all around. I used some of the sides for the floor, and the remainder for a seat. Almost immediately the ballot-measure signature-gatherers swooped in for a voter's signature. I felt rather cranky in saying no, I am busy! The team seemed to be planning their strategy for the day. I don't want to sign these things unless I have the time to learn what it is, and even then it is tricky. I want to know who is behind this ballot measure attempt. Then the Street Roots guy also came around.

As Mr. S left, we saw some food-sellers arrive. They were setting up near me. Whew. I wouldn't have to worry about lunch. That turned out to be a good thing, because nobody I knew joined me long enough for a break. Fortunately I was also near the portable toilets. Still, I drank water sparingly.

So I set up, and I sat. I have this great folding seat that is easy to carry. The weather was promising at first, and I sat just at the edge, ready to meet people, invite them in. What is it about one person meditating in a vigil that people feel the need to interrupt, but more than one, they get it? Again, one of the signature vultures swooped in. I held up my hand, and said, "It may look like I'm not doing anything, but I am." I spent some time getting used to the idea that this meditation vigil would be fluid in nature.

OK, I was there to field questions about my group's purpose, there to help people interested in Buddhism, but not to chit-chat, and not to hear nasty jokes about George Bush. The first one, I moved out of the space and must have looked like I was hearing the joke. I was annoyed that this was the urgent thing that must interrupt a meditation vigil. Do these people not look at signs? Do they tell nasty jokes at their churches? Later in the day, the second jokester interrupted during one of three times that I actually had another person sitting with me. He said, "I have a Bush joke for you." I think my jaw dropped.

I put up the hand again, "I appreciate your...[I scramble for the kind word for the unkind thought] intent, but this is a meditation vigil."

"Oh, well sorry." He turns to the other woman. "Maybe you would like to hear it." She says, "Sure, but we'll go out here."

You may notice I haven't mentioned the music. There was music, loud music. Some of the peace folksong variety...but don't you believe us peace-mongers are a bunch of aging or new millennium hippies...most of the music was hip-hop that day. A self-styled forest mendicant that I know asked me at the end of the day, "Isn't it hard to meditate with all that noise going on?" and I replied, "You'd be surprised. If you can meditate here, you can meditate anywhere."

What I realized later what I wanted to get at is that what matters is the noise inside, not the noise outside. The music, the speeches, the march, that mattered not at all. What did matter that while I might have some hormonal crankiness, and I might be uncomfortable when the rain came...and left...and poured again...and hailed...and while each time I wiped off my buttons and fliers and moved the table back...and while I got cold and wrapped my hands with the blanket that my sweetie thoughtfully came back to offer me...was that I let it go, let it dissolve, and just let it all be what it would be. It mattered that I recognize the crankiness for noise, and the best thing for that is to shrug and let it quiet down.

Some people suddenly would want to join me when the rain came down. I said they were welcome to if they wished to join me in meditation. They said sure...but they didn't. Well duh, I thought, this is a refuge, they want to come in even if not for the reason I intended. I would stand up, meet people palm to palm, sit back down. One time I missed my lightweight seat...my skirt brushed it aside as I sat. Oh, how embarrassing, but nothing hurt with my roly poly body. Even with no one but me in it, some people would come along and exclaim at what a wonderful calm space it was...but they didn't want to sit...they were there to march. Some Buddhist strangers carried the banner in the march, and said about 8 people gathered behind it.
After the first burst of rain, I put up one side for more shelter. Some Earth-Firsters set up some kind of demo across the way, but I couldn't really see because of my wall. Some cops with bikes lined up on the path in front of me; nothing happened. I continued to sit. Sometimes I folded brochures, a sweet work practice. I bought some delicious sweet-potato-lime soup from the food vendors, along with focaccia and a cookie for breakfast/lunch. Sometimes I pulled the table back away from the rain. At one point the only spot where wind didn't drive the rain was the very center of the canopy. I was a bit discouraged, and I sent a text to my sweetie for a radar report. He replied that it was bad then, but would let up soon. At another point I listened to my voicemail from my friend who was offering to help me pack up after all.

A man squatted to look at my flier/altar table, studied them and took a couple, and said, "This has to be my favorite booth." I told a few people about the many Buddhist groups in the area. One woman was afraid to go to any, not wanting to act or dress in the wrong way. I told her to look at our festival website, and if a group had a website, chances are it would have some information about what to expect. [note to self....with a theme of Harmony for the Buddhist Festival, a workshop or two on etiquette at various temples would be appropriate.]

Near the end of the day, after the march, a white-haired man stood in front of the space and said, "I am so happy to see people meditating." (This was one of the three times another person joined me.) Another tawny-skinned man squatted in front of the Buddha and fliers, still and intent. Some dog tags fell out of his shirt. I sat. I wondered if they were the real thing. I stood up and we talked about possible places for him to practice. He needs this in his life. He asked where I practiced. I told him the next day there would be a special ceremony, that people would be taking the precepts and becoming Buddhists. He asked if I would be going. I wasn't sure. I would be tired from this practice. [my forearms still ache from sitting still, and I got a big knot on the left one from the paper-folding double-whammy] I said, "If you want me to be there, I'll be there."

That is the practice, being there for others.

Oh, at the end, my friend quickly packed up the stuff into his bio-fuel-fed truck and hauled it away. I took the one pink rolling crate, and found the bus home. I really must seek such a volunteer in the future. It was so refreshing to go home alone and not have to deal with all that stuff right away.

No comments: