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Lions Roar : September 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2009 48 i’ve been leading a tWo-hour Wednesday morning class at spirit rock Meditation Center for more than fifteen years. of the seventy or so people there on any given week, there are the folks who have been coming regularly since the beginning, new people coming to see what it’s like, and visitors to san francisco who come because they are in town. i’ve begun to think of it as our local church. We always begin by greeting newcomers. then i give some meditation instructions and we sit quietly for thirty or forty minutes. in the last minutes of the sitting i remind people that they’re welcome to mention the names of people who they are particularly thinking of, people facing a special challenge, so that we could, as a group, think of them with shared concern and support. i often start by naming someone i know—“i am thinking of my friend allison, who is recu- perating from surgery for ovarian cancer”—and wait for others to speak. people say a name, a relationship, and a challenge. “i am thinking of my cousin Joan, who has macular degeneration.” “i am thinking of my daughter-in-law louise, who just had a miscarriage.” “i am thinking of my brother tom, whose son just lost his job and his house.” “i am thinking of my friend Michael, who has lung cancer.” “...my uncle John, who has emphysema.” “...my son tim, just diagnosed bipolar.” “...my friend bernie, who lost most of the retirement savings for him and his wife.” “...my neighbor virginia, whose daughter died in a car ac- cident last sunday on her way back to college.” i don’t call on people to speak. in random order, from dif- ferent parts of the room, voices speak out names, and relation- ships, and special circumstances. sometimes i recognize a voice, or a name. More often not. there is always a space between the voices, as if people are reflecting on what they’ve just heard. i think we share the sense that there is no hurry to get finished, no activity more important to arrive at. not all the circumstances people mention are dire, although it seems that sad situations are usually the ones that come up first. then, in between difficulties, someone will say, “i’m think- ing of my daughter Jessica, who has just been accepted into three colleges and needs to choose.” or, “i’m thinking of my son and daughter-in-law, who are on their way to peru to meet their new- ly adopted baby daughter.” or, “i’m thinking about my college roommate from Michigan, who has remained my friend for fifty years and who is arriving tonight for a visit.” i don’t think i am imagining the communal sigh of relief or appreciation that follows happy news. those moments seem like opportunities in which my mind, perhaps everyone’s mind, can “catch its breath” and remember the pleasures that punctuate life and make it seem desirable to go on in the face of difficulty. sometimes the listing of names and circumstances goes on for what seems a long time: “...my grandson Jason on his second tour of duty in iraq.” “...my sister ruth with breast cancer.” “...my friend Claire, whose life savings were invested with bernie Madoff.” “...my niece renee, who is nine months pregnant and whose The Suffering We Share At her weekly meditation class, Sylvia BoorStein finds that sharing stories of those we worry about and love leaves her feeling kinder and more connected.