The Times will occasionally feature reports from the field from readers experiencing events or classes we’ve listed. Newly arrived from New York, Jenny Klion decided to check out Mindfulness Meditation. Seen an event listed that you’d like to try? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s a tip for going to the mindfulness meditation class at the Unitarian Church in Vineyard Haven: When someone brings up getting cold while meditating, don’t raise your hand and suggest zipping up your sweatshirt, because that, if I understood the brouhaha surrounding this offhand comment, is the root of all of my suffering …
What is mindfulness meditation, I wondered as I studied The Times’ event listings last week; I thought I was somewhat familiar, having practiced on and off for quite a few years. I’ve also watched many YouTube videos of Jon Kabat-Zinn, a leader in the movement, who created a center for mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Jon describes mindfulness as simply “presence of heart.” He talks eloquently about distractions of the mind, wanting to be where we’re not, thinking about tomorrow, or yesterday. The intention of mindfulness meditation is to lead us toward an ability to just be where we are, in the present moment, regardless of circumstances.
Last weekend I joined the two-chairs-deep circle of meditators, introducing myself as new to the Island, and that I’d meditated some in the past, and was writing up the class for The Times. I kept my introduction brief and friendly, but what really I wanted to say was that I had a raging headache, and was wondering how I was going to sit there for three hours.
Chas DiCapua, who lead the class and offers monthly teachings and meditation instruction on the Vineyard, along with being the resident teacher at Insight Meditation Society in Barre, is certainly a charismatic and highly respected teacher here. During class, other meditators expressed much gratitude for his presence and guidance, and all had their own reasons for being in class: “I need a teacher,” said one. Another: “I hate sitting still.”
Throughout the three-hour class, there were three meditation sessions, each approximately 20 minutes long. I kept trying to time them, but lost track as I created my intention, which I think meant identify my anchor, which I think meant following my breath. It was pleasant for a while — a judgment by the way — as I listened to the birds outside and the ticking of a wall clock inside. There was some distraction though — by Chas, giving the instructions. I realized I was being harsh, but I tried to notice that thought, and then go back to my concentrated breath.
The second round of meditation was not as pleasant — another judgment — and I did get cold. And I did zip up my sweatshirt, for which I later got quasi-reprimanded. I think I also fell asleep and started dreaming, but snapped back to life when my head hit my chest. Then I heard Chas say something like “15 more minutes,” and I had a near panic attack wondering how I was going to write this article if I left at the break.
I didn’t, though, and stayed until the end. During round three, which I’m pretty sure was a more advanced version of the first two sessions, I was quite distracted by my inner drama; that I had maybe hit my limit of awareness and self-acceptance. Either that, or there’s just way too much fresh air around here!
OK, I admit it. I’m a New York City woman, now on the Island, but still running at a city speed. In reviewing my experience, I think I understand some of what transpired, and I’m grateful for the experience. And on the long bike ride home, in honor of the group, and myself, I left my sweatshirt unzipped, and experienced the chill of it, all the way home …
Chas DiCapua joins the Mindfulness Meditation Community of Martha’s Vineyard at the Unitarian Church in Vineyard Haven, on Saturdays July 11, August 11, and Sept. 5, 9:30 am to 12:30 pm.