Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Om Mani Padme Hum

Curiosity got the best of me tonight, and led me to a workshop involving some ideas that have always intrigued me, but about which I know very little.

Our local art museum is sponsoring three sessions that introduce Qigong practice, silent meditation, and the spiritual teachings of Eckhart Tolle.

I was most interested in viewing the DVD interview with Tolle, after hearing about him and his book, A New Earth, from my sister. I skimmed through her copy and added it to my list of possible reads, but then found out that he wrote a book before that one that was also a huge success, called The Power of Now.

About a month ago I purchased that one, but hadn't had the urge to go too far past the first few pages, until now. I think it's vaulted to the top of my reading list. Whether I find the reading as interesting as I found his interview is yet to be determined.

The workshop tonight began with a meditation expert leading the group through various Qigong exercises. (for those of you who don't click the link, it's pronounced chi-KUNG.) I'd never heard of it before, but it seems to be a close relative of Tai Chi.

After 15 minutes of Qigong, we sat for 15 minutes of silent meditation and were advised, as in most forms of meditation, to concentrate on following our breathing. (did I mention I was really there for the hour-long Tolle interview?)

When I was considering whether or not to attend tonight, I wondered what kind of crowd a workshop like this might draw, and what the demographic would be. There were more than 40 people, most of them women at least 15 to 30 years older than me, but there were two other guys there, also, and a couple women in their 30s.

Not that I exactly had visions of telling my children years from now, "Yeah, Junior, your mom and I met one night while we were both learning to pronounce chi-KUNG." It wasn't what I would call a singles hot spot, is what I'm getting at.

But I digress.

I don't scoff at meditation and practices like Tai Chi and Qigong, but not being an avid practitioner, I couldn't help but lose focus a bit and look around the room to see how others were doing. Some were experienced at Qigong and knew the moves and their meanings, while others were just as green as I was.

Turns out I wasn't the only one paying attention to my neighbor. During the Qigong exercises, we were all standing and spread out a bit, but for the meditation and the interview, we were seated in chairs, and while the DVD was being set up, a friendly elderly lady next to me introduced herself and asked if I'd ever done Qigong before. When I told her no, she replied, "Well, you looked like you were doing very well to me."

So I guess I was being checked out a little bit, and admired for my, um, moves.

The Tolle interview was worth the price of admission. While he doesn't have the most dynamic personality, the substance of his answers held everyone's attention. (Except the nice little old lady next to me, who nodded off about a dozen times.)

Tolle went through many rough times growing up, dropping out of school at a very early age, educating himself between the ages of 13 to 19, then later passing the necessary exams that allowed him to go to university in London.

He suffered from anxiety, dealt with several bouts of depression, and one night when he was 29, he woke up in the middle of the night and said, "I can't live with myself any longer."

Examining this sentence led him to wonder if he was one, or two. Are the "I" and the "self" different? They must be if the "self" is someone that the "I" cannot live with. And he thought, "Maybe only one of them is real."

This is what started his transformation, and he awoke the next morning in a state of peace, recognizing his surroundings for the first time as new and fresh. And so began his teachings.

I have yet to delve more deeply into the book, but in his interview, he also stated that people are so caught up with always pushing toward the next moment and the next...whether that be an hour from now or tomorrow or next week...that they forget to live in this moment.

I'm not yet ready to say that I've found my new spiritual path...but a lot of what he says makes pretty good sense. And I think I'll go back next month for session No. 2.

Now that I know how to pronounce "Qigong."

So yeah.
I spent seven bucks to meditate in public tonight.
How did you spend your Wednesday night, hmm?

"Be at least as interested in what goes on
inside you as what happens outside.
If you get the inside right, the outside
will fall into place."
—Eckhart Tolle

1 comment:

  1. You crack me up!! We do a session on Qigong at my Aging conference for work - it's a great way for old people to exercise and relax. Oh, did I say old? Oops :o)