From Wednesday, September 26, 2007:
So, we did. And it was beautiful, as always. D drove down from Vallejo, S came from San Francisco. I had been nervous about how to integrate the Ramadan iftar (the breaking of the fast) into the meditation gathering, but it wasn’t much of an issue at all, since the former was at about 7pm and the latter began at 7.30. My favorite little coffeeshop by the post office was closed, so I stopped by at Starbucks – much to my own self-disgust – to pick up a slice of coffeecake and some fizzy clementine-flavored juice to fortify myself beforehand, in hopes that this would be enough food for me to hold out until the 9.30pm dinner. And it was – much more than enough, actually, since my stomach seems to have shrunk over the past couple of weeks, and a simple serving of fruit and a small helping of salad are enough to fill me up.
I was so focused on my own iftar. It humbled me to remember, much later, that Mrs. Mehta – who opens her home to host the gatherings every Wednesday evening – fasts that entire day, even as she provides home-cooked dinners for the dozens who show up at her doorstep and meditate in her den.
Meditation-time is in darkness again, which is comforting to me. The first time I went to meditation during a Spring month, sometime back in early 2005, I was blinded by the sun directly in my eyes and got lost and missed my exit off the freeway. The previously-familiar streets became strange and unrecognizable in daylight. But once again, sunset is earlier now – it was almost completely dark by 7.30, and I was reminded of those November evenings nearly three years ago now, when I first began attending the Wednesday meditations, driving there in two hours with minimal traffic so that I could sit in silence with like-minded individuals whose company brought me such joy.
Their company still brings me joy, whether they are people I know or not. Every Wednesday that I attend, there are new faces and stories and reflections and smiles. And what brings me even more joy is that this is really the first year I’ve regularly made a habit of telling others about the Wednesdays. To see the level of interest people have expressed in attending – and to see my friends follow through and actually attend – always make me smile inside on the days leading up to the Wednesdays…and even on the days after the Wednesdays, such as this morning, when a friend – who, it turns out, lives in the South Bay and regularly meditates himself – messaged me out of nowhere with,
Do tell about the meditation sessions. What have you been doing? I’m curious.
I joke that every time I go now, I have a different “entourage.” Why did I keep it to myself for so long? People love these gatherings just as much as I do – it’s something to be shared.
After dinner last night, we all stood around and chit-chatted, as always. Nipun dispensed hugs and highfives and pats on the back, as always. I laugh to myself whenever Nipun wanders by and throws an arm across my shoulders or gives me an exuberant little side-hug. It reminds me when I first began attending the Wednesdays; that was the year I wasn’t shaking hands with – much less, hugging – guys, and I’d politely fend off the highfives and hugs that came so naturally to Nipun. “I’m sorry, I keep forgetting,” he’d say, laughing (with Nipun, there is always laughter).
Last night, we talked about Karma Kitchen and the Disco Dishes write-up. (So many rocking stories! I can’t believe I haven’t made it there yet.) Afterward, I stood in the Mehtas’ hallway, talking to S, and was interrupted by Nipun calling out my name as he walked by. “Yes?” I asked.
He pointed. “Smile Cards!”
To my surprise, D was already there. While S and I talked, D had already joined the assembly-circle around the square table that unfolds so amazingly, and was busy chatting away with new friends and sponging envelopes closed. I inserted myself into the circle and joined the effort. Some of us counted Smile Cards in batches of ten, some of us inserted them into pre-addressed envelopes, some closed the envelopes, others added stamps. There is so much love in these simple tasks. It’s never about the numbers. And that’s the beauty of it.
Two years ago, D was the first person to ever accompany me to the Wednesday meditation. That evening, she took one look at the items (notes, magnets, cards?) on the Mehtas’ refrigerator and said, “They’re Gujarati!”
“How can you tell?” I asked.
“I just know.”
When I retold this story in the Mehtas’ kitchen last night, Nipun laughed and punched us in the arm and said, “Gujaratis are known to be the most generous, you know.”
We laughed and nodded, Of course, and I remembered the same night, two years ago, driving home with D sprawled in my passenger seat, smiling to myself as she babbled loudly and excitedly in Gujarati to her mother at the other end of the phone: Mom, I met this family, and it was so beautiful, I felt just like I was home!
“How do you meditate?” I had asked D then, baffled. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.
“You just kinda concentrate on your breathing.”
All these years later, I still don’t know what to do with myself as I sit there for an hour.
But, somehow, the silence and stillness are always enough.
And the food, and the sharing of stories, and – always – the laughter.
The photo accompanying this post is one of my favorites, and I’ve wondered for months when I would add it to the weblog. It seemed fitting for this entry. And I never talk about the post titles (most are song lyrics, some are lines of poetry), but this one is from a piece by Brian Andreas at StoryPeople, a rockstar website which I love.