The room was always dim and cool in a wet kind of way, like cinder block basements often are. Four twin beds with simple blankets. Big pillows on the floor. It was a room meant for relaxing, for shutting out the extra noise. And for meditation. It was all a part of my yearly retreat at my small Catholic high school. It was a chance to escape the academic emphasis for a single day in the middle of each winter, to do something different without the regular classrooms or teachers or uniforms. It was an opportunity to spend time with friends, eat pizza for lunch, learn from episodes of DeGrassi, and meditate for the first time.
Sister Carole’s classroom during retreats was the basement room. She’d welcome us inside, tell us to find a comfortable place to lie down down, an play soft music. And in those 45 minutes or so, Sister Carole would walk us through a meditation. I don’t know if she read a script or memorized the words. And I can’t quite remember if we did the same meditation each year.
Here’s what I do remember. The path of the meditation involved traveling in a bubble or balloon of some kind as I floated up over and away from every day stress. Sister Carole always guided me to shine a colored light–red for love, green for forgiveness, yellow for happiness (or something like that)–on people in my life. I remember feeling very calm and relaxed. I remember the giggles and sighs quieting quickly as my friends fell deeper into their moments (or asleep). And I remember blinking and moving so slowly wondering where the time had gone when it was time to move onto the next part of the retreat.
I wasn’t unaware of meditation. My Uncle Mac and his family live a life, in part, molded around their firm belief in the benefits of transcendental meditation. But those minutes in a basement retreat felt monumental, like something brand new. It was my favorite part of every annual retreat. It felt like vacation, escape, peace. And it was something I could take with me even after I climbed the stairs back to street level, even after I’d left the quiet of the retreat house. Even after I’d gone back to my hectic school and basketball schedule.
In these 30 Days of Daily Meditation, I’m remembering that this is what meditation is. It’s an opportunity for a break in the regular hustle and stress. It’s a moment that is just a moment, nothing more. It’s quiet and calm and complete by itself. And it’s something I can carry with me to mine and tap into when I need it most. I realized it then, and I’m learning it again now.
So tell me about your first time meditating.