By Wayne Chan, Humorist
You reach a point in your life where you begin to ask often-unanswerable questions: What is the meaning of life? Who is watching over us? Are we alone in the universe? Why does an ice cream store scooper always hand you the ice cream cone first before asking you to pay which requires you to perform a complex juggling maneuver in order to get your wallet out and hand them money without dropping your ice cream?
Such are the unknowns we must all ponder.
Self-discovery can come in many different forms. For some, practicing yoga has helped people find inner peace. Others have chosen to lead a simpler life, sometimes to the point of selling all of their worldly belongings in order to live a less complicated existence. It seems to me the common thread that weaves through every act of self-discovery is the search for an answer to the inevitable question – Is this all there is?
So when my wife suggested that we attend a meditation retreat at a local Buddhist temple, far be it for me to say no. This was to be a daylong gathering of people sharing the goal of rediscovering ourselves, leading perhaps to a better understanding of our spirituality. Not a bad time for a diet either, with all the Asian vegetarian food being served.
As the day began, we were first introduced to the act of “mindfulness”. My understanding of “mindfulness” is quite simple. It means, as I’ve read, “being aware of your present moment.” As we practiced mindfulness throughout the day, the intent was to notice the subtle changes of our bodies as we meditated, understanding how we can control our pattern of breathing, and how we relax or contract the muscles in our body.
Mindfulness, almost by definition, also means that you must be silent. Not a word is to be uttered. It makes sense, for after all, how can you be aware of your present moment when you’re busy talking to someone else, distracting them from discovering their present moment?
I found the necessity of having complete silence a real benefit to the entire experience. I am, by any account, an introvert. If not for necessity, I could go on for days without speaking to anyone. For the first time in my life, I was in an environment that not only encouraged but in fact, demanded my own inclination for anti-social behavior.
It was a different experience for my wife Maya, though. When Maya walks into a room, she is usually the center of attention. She is the life of the party. She makes her living by speaking to others as a management consultant, sometimes one on one, sometimes to hundreds of people.
As the retreat began, it soon became apparent that this whole “no talking” business was going to become a problem. About every other minute, as
I was reveling in the silence, Maya would whisper something like, “Isn’t this temple beautiful?” or “I wonder if they’ll be serving tofu for lunch?”
Each time, as if to underscore the point, I would shush her and quietly say, “Mindfulness.”
As the day wore on, the frustration grew. “I wonder where the bathroom is?” “Shh…mindfulness.”
“Where’s my iPhone?” “Ahem…mindfulness.”
“Well, how am I supposed to…?” “Tsk, tsk…M.F.N!!!”
The day ended, only two hours after it started, when the following words were spoken within earshot of everyone attending:
“That’s it! I’m outta here!”
Well, I suppose we can always give yoga a try.
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