>It was a lark… Eat Pray Love had just hit my bookshelf and I was curious and enamored. When Kristi began talking about visiting a meditation center for a school project, I simply couldn’t resist…. particularly because I walk past the Minnesota Zen Center so often and I always wondered why I never saw anyone go in or come out. Now I could solve the mystery as to why… or at least allow someone else to see a live person walking through the doorway.

We met at the center on an unfortunate Sunday morning – there was a race going on around Lake Calhoun and the street the center is on was closed to traffic. It took me three tries at parking to find a place where I could actually access the street below. Out of time to drink my coffee, I grumpily figured they probably wouldn’t be too keen on me sipping during meditation and left my mug in the car. I was late. Kristi was later. Bad enough to be the new kid, now we were the late new kids. I was not feeling especially still and centered.

Entering, we quickly realized they meant us to leave our shoes in the cubbies by the doorway, which to me gave the distinct impression of going into the ball-filled area at Camp Snoopy. Our little group of Intro to Zazen-ers headed up multiple flights of stairs, led by a sweet seeming lady with gray hair and a funny apron hanging over her ribcage. The uppermost room was almost loft-like, quiet save for the noise of squirrels throwing acorns onto the roof, lit by a halogen lamp and the dappled sunlight dancing through the trees. We sat on mats with round little pillows and tried out lotus. A few different ways. Then she said we could kneel with the pillow between our knees, supporting our derrières, and all of us did so. Much better than twisting the knees to cut off circulation, I thought, though I wondered how many people had had this same pillow in such a personal space.

As we did introductions, I knew I was in over my head. People were spouting off names of Tibetan gurus like nobody’s business and I felt like I got caught with a pop quiz for which I hadn’t studied. There were apparently quite different definitions of beginner afoot here. As our teacher talked I tried not to feel anxious which, of course, made me more anxious. And then she said it:

“We’re going to spend ten minutes in silent meditation.”

Anxiety level through the roof. The little bell rang and I struggled to sit still, not fidget, quiet my mind. Ever notice how when you try to do this it just gets more unruly in there? Her advice was to be gentle with ourselves and kindly say to the thoughts that they weren’t for right now. Mine argued back.

It felt like it had been ten minutes. The guy next to me kept sighing these heavy holding-the-weight-of-the-world-on-my-shoulders sighs and I tried not to giggle at them or wonder what they were about. My toes cried pathetically to be wiggled; my spine cried out for a slouch. Ten minutes yet?

Nope. I finally settled in.. let myself curve just a smidgen, felt closer to sleep. My mind lulled a little. Opened my eyes to watch the light on the carpet blurring before me. Began to feel pretty… nice.

And then the bell rang.

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