A Sunday letter! To keep to a reasonable length, I will address the happenings of this weekend, in my letter next week.
It began with the beating of the gong. A quiet stillness pervaded the room, making the room filled not with noise, but only with our thoughts.
“Take a moment to arrive, notice the silence, the room, the people around you. Notice the fullness of the moment. Try to do it with appreciation.”
Thus began my first official foray into oriental meditation. While always intrigued, I became enamored last semester with my world religions class, and have done it a few times on my own. I heard about an event happening in Provo, with a SLC group called “Lower Lights” a non-profit expanding to Provo. This was their first event, and it was led by Thomas McConkie, grandson of Bruce. He had left the church at 18 to travel the world, and after two walk-arounds the world, ended up in the Far East where he trained as a Buddhist monk for twenty years. Coming down from a mountain after seven days of silence, he knew, to quote Walt Whitman,
Now in a moment, I know what I’m for.”
“The goal tonight is not to know more, but to know more of yourself,” he continued. And then bells pealed. “Why are you here?” A smattering of answers were whispered in the musky room, musky not with smoke, or scent, but by character, and lit by christmas lights on the walls.
“A break from the grind”
And each abstract idea was answered by McConkie, “Gorgeous, beautiful, thank you.”
“Searching for what feels right”
I had arrived, running to make it on time, dressed in a neon jacket, and paying the suggested donation with presidential dollar coins, thinking I’d fit in better with my imagined crowd. But this wasn’t some group of young rebels. It was an eclectic mix of professionals and quiet middle-aged seekers.
“Breathe it in. If someone here is looking to recover from loss, we are all looking for loss, we all are here recovering from loss. Be a community! Create a collective experience…”
“Notice your spirit, your presence, who you are….”
Our personal meditation continued, kneading out the lumps of our soul.
Time passed serenely, unnoticed. “Let’s have a one-word check in. How do you feel?” McConkie asked the assembly.
“Testimony of doing nothing”
There was no wrong answer, no judging. We were a community.
We then proceeded with group activity, dividing the 80 or so people into groups of 4-5. “Enlightenment is intimacy with all things. Go around in a circle, and answer this question: Right now I’m aware of….”
(And I encourage you to answer these questions as well.)
My group went around, and around, subcounsciously revealing our innermost thoughts to strangers, stopping only when the gong again sounded, and our time was up.
“The next question is: One thing you don’t know about me is….”
Again we shared ourselves.
“Last question: One way I hide in a relationship is….”
We are constantly negotiating our boundaries, deciding what to share with others and what to keep for ourselves. But for now, only space existed.
What did we feel at the end?
“Surprise” “Intrigue” “Love”
“Closeness” “Deepening respect” “Softening”
“Tenderness” “Closeness” “Divine Connection”
“Sameness” “Courage” “abundance”
It was a memorable night, and I am glad I went. I made friends out of strangers, I examined my inner self, I saw new things, and I left refreshed.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, BYU had an unusual guest, Bill Martin, Prof. of Philosophy at DePaul University. He came to deliver a speech entitled, “Marxism and the Secular: from Plato to Badiou” I erroneously assumed he had studied communism to show its defects. As part of Fidelio Society, I was invited to a luncheon the day of to meet and talk with him. I’ll take free lunch anytime, and it proved quite delicious. They even had Pao de Queijo which I haven’t had since leaving Brazil! Dr. Martin showed up, with long hair, a beard, and a jacket decorated with superhero pins. And nails painted. After making snap judgments, he then mentioned his wife, and the axiom to not judge the book by its cover came to mind. He discussed philosophical theories much beyond my present scope of knowledge, but having had done some prior research, I did engage him on the papers he wrote about chess and philosophy. And, again, lunch was good. And I shared it with a commie.
Four dates have occurred, with me going for ice cream with Danielle on Saturday and hosting a game night and inviting Aubrey on Sunday. The game night proved successful, having borrowed three board games from Tanner, and keeping the crowd to a total of 8. We had apple pie, conversed, and played games. It was a good night, and as host I graciously lost the games.
Tuesday, I again went out with Danielle, we went to a BYU Choir Concert. Danielle is from Alpine, Utah, studying consumer science education, and served a mission in Orlando, Florida, spanish speaking. Our list of hobbies is amazingly quite similar, and I’m still impressed by the fact she quilts regularly. However, it was mutually agreed by us both that their was simply no spark for either of us, after two dates, despite friends on both sides trying to help. Our favorite song sung was a new piece, written recently by Daniel McDavitt, and commissioned by BYU, entitled “Locus Iste”
The first two lines are “Locus Ister Deo factus ext,/ inaestimabile sacramentum.”
This place was made by God,
a priceless sacrament.
About the temple, the first part is in latin, but then switches to English, and was the result of a question, “the temple is_______,” posed to many LDS women. It was beautiful.
And on Friday night, I went out with Aubrey again. She actually asked me out, and we went to the BYU Philharmonic Symphony. And finally, there were no pieces composed by Russians. I went really wanting to hear “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and it exceeded expectations. Having been arranged somewhat last minute, we had no car, and Aubrey impressively opted to walk the two miles to get there, and the two miles to return. Thankfully the weather cooperated, and we had plenty of time to converse. She is from New Mexico, went to college at New Mexico State, studying Vocal Performance, before transferring to BYU-I, and majoring in History. She served a mission in Russia, and is currently working two jobs, applying to BYU’s master program.
Thursday I attended the second leg of the start-up competition. The five finalists for this event presented their companies, and I was quite impressed with the ideas, and the executions. And I was surprised by the hundreds of students who watched the event. Big things are happening here.
I left that, and headed to the Toqueville meeting, arriving late, to which a visiting professor would at the conclusion tell the group assembled, “I thought Ben Affleck was joining us for the night.” I mean, I’m missing the Hollywood paycheck, but I’ll take that. We discussed the prison system in the US, and the idea of rehabilitation.
As always, its been busy. And life is good. I am thankful for the many opportunities that I have, and the learning experiences. However, as this weekend that has been filled with friends and families draws to a close, I am more certain than ever, of what Christ said
“I am come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
Nothing fills like the gospel and the family. I am so thankful for both, and because of them, can say I have an abundant life. May you be so blessed as well, and help others learn of Him.