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Buddhist Meditation and the Profound Experience of a Darkened Church

March 1, 2011

Sun through the Windows of the Church in Pucallpa

A Story from last week:

 

Tonight I walked into a church to attend a Buddhist meditation.  Yes, that happens.

My first thought walking through the door was “It smells like home.”  The scent nearly bowled me over and there were several points in the meditation where I was moved nearly to tears.  The love, the cooperation was evident!  The kind of church that hosts a wide array of spiritual groups and welcomes all within her doors?  That’s the kind of place where I grew up.  After months and months of hearing and seeing the evidence of some of the worst reactionary forms of Christianity (read: judgmental and hateful), I was grateful beyond words for the sights and smells of unity and openness.

Sitting in that space, meditating I could not help but be moved.  The energy of group meditation has a potency that always carries me to another level of mindfulness.  It is a particular kind of experience that is distinct from my private contemplative time and one that I am deeply grateful for.  There are miracles in community.  And too, I found myself deeply moved by the setting this group has chosen.  Walking through the under-croft and parish rooms after the meditation, I could see signs of the patterns of fellowship and worship that have been a spiritual home for me my whole life.

Just before leaving, I decided to step inside the sanctuary and sit in the darkened church.  It was silent.  The air thick with that heavy silence that I’ve only experienced in churches, a silence filled with the smells of incense and aged wood, heavy with mystery while at the same time leaving me feeling cradled rather than oppressed.  Like walking into the presence of greatness and love, I felt myself at home and uplifted in the dark and by the holiness of the space.  I knelt down and said a prayer—short, as my companion was waiting for me–but meaningful.

As I felt the worn wood of the pew in front of me, my mind recalled a remark I’d heard some years ago “can you just imagine, the number of prayers that have washed over these pews over the years?” and I could.  In that moment, I felt the number of prayers, the hands, the hope, and the emotion of all that is the human experience.  And with it all I could feel the loving tenderness of the wood that holds those memories somewhere within its grain.  I felt like it could have Easter Vigil and if I’d stayed to the morning light, the room felt so welcoming, so full of promise and home that I would not have been surprised if I were blinded by the brilliance of epiphany and resurrection at the first rays of dawn.  It felt so real, it felt so true, it felt so home.

 

I took the photo at the top several years ago.  It’s not the church I was in for this story but  this was the main church in Pucallpa, Peru.  The morning sun was coming in through the stained glass at the rear of the church and it was one of the most glorious sights I have ever had the pleasure to witness.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. tigger permalink
    March 3, 2011 9:45 pm

    sounds like you found a wonderful thin place. isn’t it wonderful when you can really feel the prayers of those who have come before us? i’m glad you had such a great God moment.

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