It is Wednesday, and in Catholic school, that means Mass Day. To many people, church provides a place to be at peace and to pray quietly. I, however, take 16 first graders to Mass. Sixteen. First graders. To Mass.
During this hour of (please be) quiet prayer (“God, please make him take his finger out of his nose,”) I am on guard, ready to quiet cough at someone at any given moment. Because of my constant state of angst during Mass, I sometimes lose track of what the priest is saying. But today’s homily caught my attention. Today’s homily was about respect for other religions.
This issue was quite important to me because as I sit there (sit there, stand there, kneel there, stand there, sit there, and kneel there…) each week, I am keenly aware that I am not Catholic. I was very thankful to hear this homily, as religious respect and acceptance is something I feel very strongly about.
For a very long time now, I have held an interest in the Dalai Lama. I have read his books and watched documentaries about him, and I hold him and his thoughts and opinions about religion, politics and life in great regard. There was a short time around 2008 that I thought perhaps I could be Buddhist. But then I sat in the chairs.
I had decided, for my own personal interest and as research for a paper I was writing for college course, that I would attend a Buddhist meditation service. Trust me when I tell you there is not one of those in my immediate area. I live in the rural suburbs. The ruburbs. I had to drive an hour to get to this service, which was held in a room in a beauty salon. I signed in, paid my ten bucks (I guess they decided to drop the pretense and just go ahead and charge a cover,) and fully expected to go into a pleasantly lit room with pillows or mats. Instead, I was shown to a nearby enclosed porch with hair dryers and folding chairs. And seeing as my hair was overly dry already, I grabbed a folding chair.
But these were no ordinary folding chairs. I would have given an extra ten bucks for an ordinary folding chair. These were extraordinarily small, rickety, thin metal folding chairs. How bad could it be, really? I mean, how long could this thing last, anyway? It couldn’t last any longer than the Jewish Bat Mitzvah I sat through in quite another story.
We began with prayer and meditation. We continued with prayer and meditation. I was good with this for approximately, oh, the first hour. And then my concentration began to slip. I began to think about nothing besides the chair, my back, my ass, my hips, my ass, and how the hell I was going to get off of the damn chair and out of that damn room. My attitude changed from an open-minded, positive, inquisitive girl into an internally raging maniac, sitting quietly in that metal chair trying to bring death upon myself in order to find some relief. Another hour and a half later, I left the salon with a renewed love for Jesus Christ and His cushioned pews.
Nope. Not Buddhist. However, I now have a healthy respect for those who can sit and meditate in uncomfortable situations. I suppose I have even become a person who can kind of do that, as I sit in Mass each Wednesday and try to pray while giving the stink-eye to the kid in the row next to me making pterodactyl noises.
Peace be with you. And with your spirit.