I couldn’t imagine a life without meditation and accessing my inner sanctuary and peace. Today was a good example.
After walking along the East River, I sat down in one of my favorite spots in Carl Schurz park: a circular alcove with attached benches, and a wild flower garden in the center. It’s a peaceful scene.
Sitting about ten feet away from me on the bench was an older gentleman drinking his coffee and reading the newspaper.
I began my meditation by closing my eyes and taking a deep breath. I focused on my senses and listened to the sounds all around me. I heard birds chirping, dogs barking, and some people playing with children in the grassy area behind the benches. I felt the summer breeze gently caressing my skin and the morning sun warming my face. It was very relaxing.
Suddenly, the old man yelled, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me! There’s an entire park here! You’re going to exercise two feet away from where I’m sitting?”
Another man quickly shot back, “This is a city park. I can exercise anywhere I want.”
My ears were alerted to the commotion, but I kept my eyes closed and took another deep breath all the way down into my belly.
The old man continued, “Didn’t you see me sitting here? You’re standing directly in my sun.”
The second man said, “Yeah, I see you sitting there. And, maybe now I’ll use your head to lean on while I’m stretching.”
“What are you stupid? Are you threatening to attack me? Attacking someone is a felony!”
At this point, I peeked my eyes open and glanced toward the commotion. I wanted to make sure no-one was actually going to get hurt on this beautiful summer morning.
I saw a younger man in his late 30’s, dressed in exercise shorts and a t-shirt. Standing next to him was a young woman about the same age, also in exercise attire. They looked like they had just finished running along the path by the water. They were standing a few feet away from the old man that was sitting on the bench.
They continued arguing back and forth calling each other “ya dumb idiot” and “you know… a low IQ is a permanent disability.” There was no resolution in sight. Each of them was seeking to strike the other’s ego the hardest.
I closed my eyes and went back to meditating on the bench.
The two guys continued jabbering away a few minutes longer and then it stopped. The young couple must have left because it grew quiet. Once again I heard the birds chirping. Maybe they were having similar conversations as the humans – although it didn’t sound like it.
About twenty minutes later, I opened my eyes and looked around. I saw the old man sitting on the bench.
He called to me, “Excuse me. I need to ask you a question.”
“You were here the whole time. You saw what happened with that guy, didn’t you?”
“Well, I didn’t see what initially transpired between you guys because I had my eyes closed. I was meditating. I only heard what happened.”
He explained, “I was sitting here on the bench and that guy came over and started exercising right here.” He pointed to the wall a few feet away from the bench. He continued, “He started flapping his arms all over the place. There’s an entire park here! He’s got to come right next to where I’m sitting and do his exercises?”
“I hear what you’re saying,” I said. “And, I think it’s a matter of perspective. Maybe he wasn’t aware of you sitting there.”
“Of course he wasn’t aware! That’s the problem. He had the whole park and he came right here next to me. He was wrong.”
“Well…I don’t think it’s a matter of right and wrong. Like I said, I think it’s a matter of perspective.”
“Oh, I see… so you’re not going to take a side on this?
“No, but I’ll give you an example of perspective. I was sitting right there, ten feet away from you guys while you were arguing and yelling at each other. I could have opened my eyes and said, ‘hey you two guys! Can’t you see I’m meditating over here? Keep it down, or take your argument elsewhere!’ But, I didn’t. I stayed in my space and kept breathing and relaxing amidst the chaos.”
“Hmmmmm….. but there’s an entire park where he could have exercised. Did he have to do it three feet away from me?”
I didn’t say anything. I just smiled.
“So, you’re going to stay neutral on this?
Just then a small brown sparrow flew directly over his shoulder and into our conversation space. It landed on the fence and started fluttering and shaking its wings. It looked like it was stretching after its flight.
I said, “You see that bird? It just flew right over your shoulder and into this space. And, it’s sitting there flapping its wings right now. We could say it’s being rude. But, we have a different perspective when we look at that bird. It’s a creature that simply landed in our environment.”
I continued, “Not only that, but there’s a language barrier between us and that little bird. We can’t communicate with it and tell it what’s on our mind – we can only accept it, as it is, a bird. And, let it be.”
He looked at the bird and then looked at me, “You seem like a peaceful person. And, you look very relaxed. What kind of meditation were you doing? Was that some kind of Buddhism or a mantra or something?”
“I don’t know the name of it. I was just breathing and relaxing and connecting to my senses.”
“How long do you do it for?”
“About 20-25 minutes every day. Sometimes longer, sometimes less.”
“Really? Hmmmmm. So you’re still going to remain neutral about what happened here today?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Okay, maybe I’ll try ten minutes of breathing and meditating and see what happens. But, just ten minutes! No more than that!”
I smiled, “Ten minutes would be perfect!”
Meditation can not only can help you become more aware of the world you are living in, it can help the people around you become more aware as well.
Can you imagine what would happen if the whole city meditated for ten minutes everyday? How about if the whole world meditated?
It’s a nice thought.
Try some form of meditation in your own life and see what happens with your own state of being. There’s a reason why meditation has been around for thousands of years – it works!
To help you get started, here are some of my favorite books:
- Peace is Every Step – Thich Nhat Hanh
- Where Ever You Go, There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn
- A Path With Heart – Jack Kornfield
- When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chodron
If you can’t seem to get the hang of it, take a class or a weekend workshop. There are many great meditation teachers that can help you find some peace of mind.
I believe it’ll be well worth your time. Just ask the old guy in the park.