How did your first Meditation go?
I thought it would be interesting to know everyone’s first meditation experience, where did you find out about meditation? where did you first meditate? And what was it like?
My first personal experience with meditation took place at Thích Nhat Hanh’s Monastery called Plum Village in France. It was during a winter retreat where I would spend 3 months learning for the first time this ancient art form we call mindfulness.
How I found my way to spending 3 months with Thich Nhat Hanh was by pure chance. I had met very briefly while walking the Camino Do Santiago a guy who had told me of a special enlightened master living in France.
On returning from the Camino I began a little research and found Thay, as he’s affectionately known, to be inspirational and enlightening with everything he was saying, and relating so much to what I had just personally experienced while walking the Camino. I immediately booked a 3 month stay, having no real idea what to expect. Call it impulsive or a little hasty but sometimes that’s me, I leap before I look.
On arriving my first impressions were of amazement, a Zen Buddhist nun was waiting at the train station for me and a couple of others who had also come to stay, her presence and calmness were awe inspiring. The monastery was clean, calm and nature seemed to thrive everywhere, a few monks we in the gardens dressed in robes and everything seemed just so magical.
After resting from the journey our first instructions began. Brother Pap gently explaining how we were to watch or follow our breathing, breathing in we are truly aware we are Breathing in. Breathing out we are truly present in breathing out. A small explanation on our posture of sitting crossed legged with a straight spine. It all seemed to sound easy enough. Questions and answers were followed, before the main bell sounded for Meditation in the big hall.
We all flowed into the main hall and started to take our cushions, Monks and Nuns had the first two or three rows with a few cushions set in front of them. We as lay meditators we allocated all the other cushions. I remember thinking, as I took my seat, there were a lot of places maybe 200-250. Slowly almost all the cushions filled up, there were so many monks and nuns it was so impressive, then Thich Nhat Hanh entered with a few attendant monks following. He gracefully entered as if floating or gliding across the floor, perfectly aware of each and ever moment, he paused and looked my direction, like a lions roar, gentle but with such power behind the words, he simple said “Smile” there were at least 20 people sitting around me that really believed he looked directly at them, a personal message from the great man himself. Myself included. It was amazing to feel, but more amazing that so many around me had that exact same experience.
Everyone had now taken there cushions and were facing the same direction, so all you could look at was the back of someone’s head. A deep gong sounded and reverberated the most awesome sound throughout the meditation hall. Three times the gong sounded, initiating the start of meditation.
I slowly closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths, focusing on breathing in I counted one, that’s right isn’t it, I’m thinking, I’m following the instructions, wow this meditation lark is well easy, follow the breath breathing in, I’ve got it already! Oh Hang on a second…….
I open my eyes and glance at the clock, less than ten seconds had passed…ok, ok, calm now come on refocus.
I close my eyes and breathing in I count one, breathing out I loose my thoughts and start thinking of how many people are here, or some other nonsense. I suddenly realise I’ve lost concentration and open my eyes, not even a minute had gone by.
Ahhhhh I’ve got to do 30 minutes. Ok, ok, calm breathing in count one breathing out mind gone….
And this was the same for the next 30 minutes.
This was my first first experience, and can still remember it vividly to this day. If it wasn’t for being sat with about 100 monks and nuns and a further 100 or so lay people like you and me. I would have given up before the first minute had passed.
I had just signed up for 3 months of this as well!
My meditation over those 3 months slowly got better and better, my mind of course would still wander, but the monks and nuns had explained I should always be kind with my inner dialogue and bring the attention back to breathing.
I was also introduced to walking meditation which seemed to suit me and I loved to wander the monastery grounds practicing just that. It was while doing exactly this, walking Meditation barefoot in the snow, that I quite literally bumped into Thich Nhat Hanh doing exactly the same thing, He motioned me to sit next to him on a log. I didn’t feel nervous or apprehensive in any way, it just felt like I was returning to my mothers arms, honestly it was just so comfortable and secure to be in his presence. He told me three things that day, that would ultimately changed my entire life, and led to my own ordination as a Buddhist monk. I shall tell you just one of those 3 things he said to me, and that was to “smile more” maybe, just maybe he really did pick me out of a crowd, on that very first day. But now that’s just my ego talking.
I really hope you feel compelled to tell me you first experience of meditation and how it went for you. It really can’t be as bad as mind, can it? Although I do think I was incredibly lucky to of spent so long in the company of one of life’s true enlightened masters, I know it’s the reason I strive so hard today. Because I know it’s possible.