I went to the Frederick Tibetan Meditation Center for the first time last night and meditated for about an hour. The center sits on the top of a mountain, smack in the middle of a state park. I drove my struggling, little, black truck up the long, winding road — turning around twice thinking I was lost. No lights, just woods on either side of me, going up and up.
Then I saw a small, wooden sign with the word Dharma carved into it — simple and perfect. I turned in and drove underneath a line of tattered prayer flags. There was only one other car in the parking lot, and when I turned my headlights off, I had a hard time navigating myself up to the front door. Inside, two men (one hippie, one self-described mathematician) were talking about learning Chinese in hushed voices. I took off my shoes and put them inside a square cubbyhole — just like the kind we had in kindergarten.
It was colder inside than I thought it would be, so I kept my scarf on. The place smelled of incense and burnt leaves. I made small-talk with a girl named Natalie who was observing the meditation for a college course on world religions. I made a note not to sit next to her, as I was no shining example of a Buddhist.
When it was time, we went into one of the red and gold covered shrines and took our positions on round, plush pillows. Natalie sat down next to me on my left, the mathematician to my right — the hippie stayed out in the lobby and read a book.
The teacher didn’t show (he travels a lot), so an old-timer took the lead. We were to do sitting meditation for twenty minutes, followed by a walking meditation for twenty minutes, and then a prayer meditation.
He chimed the bell and we began. I started out being a good little meditator and focused solely on my breathing — in and out, cold than hot. But my mind kept coming back to Helen. I’m feeling closer to my muse more than usual lately. Maybe she knows I’m coming to pay her a visit in just a few weeks. I can almost hear her breathing.