On Tuesday night, I attended Zen Mediation in the Fava Chapel and my Bostonian nature seemed to struggle with the idea of stillness, the same way the speaker did in "Accident, Mass Ave." by Jill McDonough. My uncomfortable yet revolutionizing experience of Zen Meditation helped me realize that I need to slow down my own life and rethink some of my immediate responses. As portrayed in the poem "Accident, Mass Ave." by Jill McDonough, people tend to be unable to find an inner stillness or think about why they perform the patterns that they do.
I seem to have fallen victim to this custom, seeing as I am a self proclaimed busy body. Either I’m doing homework, seeing friends, having a meal, at the FAC or sleeping and more often than not, a combination of these. Therefor, taking a minute (or 90 minutes) away from everything was a foreign concept to my body as well as my mind. And well, I have never felt more claustrophobic inside my own body. We began our orientation with a small introduction about how to properly enter the makeshift temple and are instructed that we are not permitted to speak upon entering. Fair enough right? My rational mind begins to think, ‘this is a sacred meditation, don't talk that’s reasonable.’ Not that bad.
Upon entering, I see that the room is lined with small black mats and a variety of chimes are placed closer to the one at in the front. Then it began, without warning or explanation, a gong was rung and we commensed. Confused looks and silence filled the tension in the air as 25 students avoided eye contact. We sat stiff instead still, all of us looking for our phones as if they were the only way to escape the awkwardness. As I was supposed to be ‘letting my mind go blank’ I immediately began thinking of lists of things that I needed to do. Brief cases for criminal law, go over chemistry problems, do laundry- CLAP. I am rudely interrupted from prioritizing my list and almost yell due to the surprise. Still nothing is said. Anxious looks return and I instinctively reach for my pocket where I keep my phone, no dice. The meditation continues and I run out of ideas to distract my mind so seek refuge in sleep.
My inability to be ‘physically, mentally and emotionally still’ stems from more than my Bostonian busy body nature. I believe that somehow between briefing cases, reading bible critiques and maneuvering general chemistry problems I have seemed to forget to nourish the spiritual and emotional sides of my body. I have fallen victim to the issues that Jill McDonough described so easily in her poem, "Accident, Mass Ave.". The title alone contains no extra wording or ideas, almost mimicking a text I received from my Dad when I was driving home that warned me about traffic. The poem continues to talk about the immediate and unwarranted response that we are often overcome by. Humans can act due to pattern or expectations without thinking through their actions and their implications.
The poem goes on to describe how these two strangers are outraged with one another until they take a moment to realize that there was no harm and no foul. Once they realize this, they question themselves and the reasons that humanity has become so aggravated. Why can’t we just take a moment to assess a situation before jumping to rash judgments? Does the answer go back to our ancestors or is this a new trend that has been embellished by our need to live ‘1000 lifetimes in one’.As portrayed in the poem "Accident, Mass Ave." by Jill McDonough, people tend to be unable to find an inner stillness or think about why they perform the patterns that they do. My experience with Zen meditation was enlightening, in opposite ways than expected. I believe that I will continue to participate in Zen meditation because it is an enlightening piece of my spirituality that I have not yet explored.