Tonight will mark the last meditation gathering held at the space which moved me to create this blog, Inner Peace & Tea. I am moving out of the apartment that’s been home for over three years now, in which I made my first dedicated meditation room, and where I would invite many people to share meditation.
In a few days I will say goodbye to this place which has brought so many memories, precious moments, and new friends into my life. Thankfully, a handful of friends who have gathered here over this past year made it for one last sit, to share this space, both inner and outer, together for yet another time.
Since 2012, I’ve had over 30 or so people come to share sitting and walking meditation, through biweekly meditation gatherings and silent half-day retreats, and occasional meditations guided live by Buddhist monks of the in Thailand.
The gatherings were offered in the spirit of hospitality, with the space open to anyone regardless of their experience, path, or beliefs. What would come from a modest session of silent sitting and tea afterwards was always special, lucid, simple and intimate – no matter the number of gatherers. This last night was no different.
The meditation room is of the last to be moved out, but still shows signs of my departure. Under the same paper lantern, surrounded by the familiar candles and pictures, the five of us sat in a close circle near the small window, a porthole to a closing day.
Amidst starkly contrasting cardboard boxes ready to absorb the contents of the room, John said with a smile, “Will you be offering a Dharma talk about emptiness and transience today, Max?”
I smiled, and, after we were settled in, guided a sit. To share the simple quiet presence once more was very special. Indeed, to slow down and follow the breath in and out, with my friends amidst a more stripped-down version of our space, the sense of departing became enveloped with a great feeling of peace for me.
Just as our timer signaled, I had a funny sense that perhaps I should talk about what I was feeling, as John suggested. No sooner did I strike the bell did it begin to rain outside. Still clear in my mind’s eye are the luscious green leaves blowing in the distance, the smell of fresh rain coming through the window, and the peaceful but gripping ebb and flow as the rain fell harder, then lighter, then harder.
Over a few moments, we would each turn first our heads toward the window, then our whole bodies, and I remember each of us intently watching, with our whole beings, the view through the window. Immediately in my mind, I knew, this was our Dharma talk. Spontaneously, as if on cue, everyone’s attention was on the window as if it were someone making a speech.
As I began to reflect what the rain meant to me—the clearing away, the sense of refreshing, replenishing, even the subtle reminder that my car windows were open—I immediately reflected on how each of our experiences of the rain would be very different, yet we all watched on with the exact same intent and thoughtfulness.
This would lead me to reflect on what was most meaningful to me in sharing my space. The act of purposefully clearing a space in one’s home, meant not to be filled, created a sense of sacredness in my daily life that was never too far away. And once shared, I could see the potential of that empty space grow to hold peacefulness, community, and closeness. To share silence, conversation, and tea… to share our practices together, as well as our laughs and concerns alike, would make for a context in which to connect with people I had not quite experienced before. To make a place that would inspire others like it did me, where everyone could feel calm, comfortable, and natural—this is what I will take with me.
After admiring the rain for nearly 20 minutes in silence, we turned back toward each other, and shared our memories and reflections from the space.
It was touching to hear everyone’s unique sentiments, as well as the common ground we had come to find, just by sitting together this past year or so.
What will this connection become from here? As I can easily feel on the inside, what made the space was more than the superficial. Even beyond the people that would come to gather… I feel a harmony between the space, people, and the intention we bring. The room had incense, tea, artwork and muted lighting, but whenever I myself would go into the room, I would feel most strongly the intention—to make the room in the first place, to keep it preserved, sacred, and silent. Beneath what I could see, smell, and touch would be the returning to that very feeling, that quiet thoughtful space.
This space, then, is not quite physical. It’s not made solely of the group , nor the practice, nor the amount of time we meditate. Yet when all of these combine, the camaraderie felt during our time would be truly unique. We could share a tea worth enjoying in silence, or enlightening conversation. Or, we could share a quick, small glance, lit by a smile that my heart would argue illuminated the entire world for a moment. This moment would remind me of the peace available to all of us in the world, waiting for us in that empty space we can share.
To everyone that has come to share this space with me…
Whatever it made available to you, I hope you can find that feeling again and again within.