Multifaith Prayer Room

Multifaith Prayer Room

One day, I was working on a piece of writing for my studies in the university library and was aware of a strong ripple of anxiety coming on, as the deadline fast approached. I was also aware that my writing wasn’t going to be up to scratch if it were written by the anxious version of me. My meditation cushion waited in my bag, I used to carry it around a lot to facilitate and take part in meditation groups in various places. There’s an idea! I thought, I could set aside a half hour for meditation… in the library! I had my cushion, I had an urge, the library was a quiet (enough) place for it, but where?

I had a wander. I had heard of the library having a prayer room, but I had never thought to use it. I didn’t know what the situation was in terms of using it; could anyone use it, at anytime? I assumed so, it was called, at least in one sign, a multifaith prayer room. But even so, did that mean at the same time or did it have to be booked, at least in some casual but polite way? I found it eventually, and without seeking an answer to these questions, I ventured inside with my cushion underarm.

The room was small, tiny, I dare say smaller than most rooms I have ever been in. It didn’t feel too small though, a huge window took up one wall and made the room alive with light. I shut the door behind me. There was a lock. Should I lock the door? I didn’t lock the door.

I place my cushion in the centre of the very square, very small, room; assumed the posture and began concentrating on the breath, after a body scan. Standard meditation procedure.

I don’t time meditations usually, and didn’t this time, but some time into it the door opened. A fellow student entered the room. I turned slowly, aware of my movements, attempting to maintain the awareness that had been cultivated thus far.

The young man was a Muslim, and he asked quietly if he could use the room for prayer. I nodded and moved to the back corner of the room, aware that he would need more space for prostrations. It turns out the room planners didn’t consider the orientation of the room very well as in order to pray in the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca, the chap had to lay in his prayer mat diagonally in what was already a small floor space. I don’t think he expected me to stay, I think he expected me to leave. I resumed my posture and centred my attention to the breath once more, but this time the young Muslim was in the centre of the tiny room prostrating and uttering phrases under his breath.

I’m pretty sure he had no idea what I was doing, or why, and I hadn’t the faintest idea what he was uttering and why. Nevertheless, in that room, with an assumed capacity limit of 1, there were 2 people creating an atmosphere. He left before I did. But, as I looked back on that moment, I realised that my meditative practice was not less because of his prayer, and I like to think my presence offered something a little different to his noon prayer. I don’t like to try to verbalise precisely what we were offering each other, I don’t think it would do it justice; but, maybe, his praying was offering me to contemplate humility, and my mediating was offering him some balance. He was moving a lot, I was still; he was speaking, I was silent; he was reaching far out, I was reaching far in.

But then again, maybe, maybe he’s thinking, what was that weirdo doing just sat in the prayer room. 

We are that which is breathing;

We are that which is breathing;

I often think about this as a way to conceive of meditation in the mystical sense. The breath is the thing — the prime mover. The meat that forms around it and generates the electrical impulses that form sensation, thoughts, and the construct of self, are mere […]
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A Week of Hell #01

A Week of Hell #01

“I didn’t expect Buddhism to threaten people with demons and torment and Hell.” -a spiritual but definitely-not-ever-ever religious person at a meditation session last year. 

At the time, I approached this perspective softly and carefully, tip-toeing around, after all I didn’t want to put him off. “Don’t focus on it, if it’s unhelpful,” I suggested. 

But, now is the time the talk about Hell. So, this week, everyday, sometimes twice a day, I’ll post about Hell, in a series termed “a week in Hell”. We shouldn’t not talk about something just because it’s unpleasant to think of or talk about, nor should we focus on that something ever second of our waking life. I think a week will suffice. 

I did write about Hell briefly last year in the 12 Days of Christmas series. So, to start of and set the scene, here’s what I wrote:

“We will all come to know Hell, if we have not already. In this realm we are under the spell that life is suffering, and anything else that comes to visit, whatever its intentions, will only cause more suffering. Freedom seems to have left us out in the cold dark dust. Space, if you can find it, is filled by suffering before anything else even has a chance. But even Hell is impermanent.”

The intention is that by exploring concepts surrounding Hell, and the faces of Hell, we can eliminate, or free, certain misconceptions and worries we may have, realising the 3 dharma seals along the way. 

A lotus for you,

Buddha to be.

You’re not going to Nirvana 

You’re not going to Nirvana 

Is there some special train ticket you may buy? 

For a special train you may ride? 

From a special platform that may reside, 

In some special place up into the skies? 

You may be a meditator, you may call yourself a Buddhist, and when people ask why? You may answer, there are many answers, that you long for liberation, and what you may say if you were to add some technical jargon is Nirvana

Not the rock band. But the place, right? 

Nirvana is not a place with some location in the heavens. You will never go to Nirvana. 

What is happening on one’s unfolding into the nature of things is best described as  Nirvanaring or Nirvana-ing. Because what is happening is indeed a happening. This is interesting. 
It is interesting because instead of asking questions like “What would it take to be a Buddha and be in/got to Nirvana?” or “How does one get to Nirvana” or “Where is Nirvana/ How do you know when you get there/find it?”, one may ask different questions, which may sound similar but in my humble opinion I am inclined to say the following questions are more helpful; “Is Nirvana something that happens to me, or do I happen to Nirvana?” or “Is Nirvana always happening? Do I just need to realise it?” or “Is realising the Nirvanaring a question of refinement of discernible qualities, increased intellectual knowledge, oral dissolving of the idea I hold about my self? Or all, or none?” 

Is Nirvana something that’s happens to me? 

If Nirvana is a happening, does it happen to me? Someone once asked me this precise question, and I like it. I like it because it’s a good question to ponder over and to probe into. The process of Nirvana here is assumed to have an effect on an object, which is the me.

By suggesting Nirvana is a process, a happening, as oppose to a place/Buddhist Heaven, it seems to straightaway suggest that it must happen to us, like a sickness. This is because of the fallacy of the self as a separate, unchanging entity, which grips societal thinking. Nirvana is not happening to you. Nirvana is happening with you (or as you are happening). There is Nirvanaring and humaning; there is nirvana-human-ing.
Nirvana is not a place; you aren’t going there. You are not a separate unchanging object hanging in the Universe; Nirvana isn’t coming to you. Like torrents maintaining each other’s power, but in actual fact connected intimately as one, there is happening happening. 

Thank you for visiting Only Yoking,