As a certified meditation teacher, one of the fundamentals we pass on to our students is that sound is not a barrier to meditation.
In fact, before I lead our class each Sunday morning, I parrot the teaching with such frequency, that my students can often chime in word for word, repeating this fundamental, almost like a mantra.
Sounds, external are not a barrier. But what about the collective post election shouts inside each our minds and hearts after such a tumultuous election cycle? Can those get in the way of going to and staying in peace and silence?
Can the collective shrieks of mourning or gloating flying about on the energy patterns douse a meditator's peaceful practice?
It's all certainly side-lined my own practice this week. I, for one, have had a hard time turning it all off, when trying to find my center.
And this morning, I anticipated that my meditation students in Las Vegas would likely have the same difficulty.
So last night, with news reports of thousands protesting, and with my Facebook feed full of people calling "the other" stupid, bigoted, criminal, etc. etc. etc. I took my kids to a little sandwich shop to just get away from everything and focus on feeding the mouths of our three adopted children.
Soon, the answer to how I would lead people in to meditation came in the form of food.
There, on the shelf of Kneaders Bakery, was the answer: BREAD.
Growing up, I was taught about our individual "still, small voices" when times are tumultuous, and to always heed the whispers of the still, small voice.
My own still, small voice whispered: HELP THEM BREAK BREAD.
I resisted, at first, as my mind did the math of how many loaves I would buy, what kind of overage I'd have if nobody showed up to class, what I would do with the left over bread, what flavors I would even buy....
And then the whisper: HELP THEM BREAK BREAD.
Soon, I found myself loading my arms up with loaves of pumpkin bread and cranberry bread, paying for it all and stacking it in a bag, leaving the cashier to wonder what the Hell the guy who tells the evening news every night was going to do with so many loaves of bread.
I bought them out of every loaf.
The next morning, while readying myself for the experience designed to clear a path where we could all go to silence, I really didn't know what I would say, or how the whole thing would come together. I simply loaded up paper plates, a knife to cut the bread, and napkins.
BREAD IN A YOGA STUDIO? This is nuts.
Kids and hubby loaded in the car, we were off, looking like a gay, hippy commune of bread people.
Leaving the garage, I looked at the clock to note that I had to really speed to get to class on time, and calculated my right turn, my left turn, the lights I would wait for, the next right, the curvy road ahead and the right turn in to the yoga studio parking lot.
Would we make it...with all this damned pumpkin and cranberry bread?
After my right and left turn, after the series of lights, after the next left turn...I sped past a man and woman walking alone on a sidewalk.
He, a striking man with coal black hair. She, with piercing eyes, wearing a Hijab.
I sped right on by, noting them, wondering what their thoughts were on this morning...determined to not be late to class.
And again, that still, small voice persisted about breaking bread in our world.
This time, the universe was shouting, as I hit the brakes, and began backing up our bread wagon, causing fear to creep up in the eyes of the people I had just passed.
"What are you doing?"
My husband asked the question, barely able to finish before I answered:
"I'm going to practice what I'm about to preach."
The man and woman alone on the sidewalk slowed and looked at me like some sort of nut, running towards them with a loaf of pumpkin bread.
Once in front of them, out of breath, I offered the most inarticulate greeting I've ever offered, followed by:
"I just want you to know, I love you and I wanted to break bread with you this morning."
They were stunned.
"Thank you sir," was all they spoke, before I turned, to get back in to our SUV and once again on our journey to the yoga studio.
The remaining moments in the car were spent explaining to our twins, 8 and our daughter, 4, why I broke bread with this pair in particular.
"How do you know they even like pumpkin bread?" My son, Asher asked.
"Hell, I don't know Ash," was all I could offer.
Maybe they didn't. Maybe they don't. Maybe they were creeped out by the running bread man.
But I was changed and had a measure of peace for the interaction.
Maybe the change inside me was all that mattered.
In the yoga studio, I asked our students to sit in a circle.
Usually, I let them come in and sit wherever, and however they want without imposing anything on them.
"Today, I just don't know to do anything but have us form a circle."
From the back, a woman could see what I was up to and pumped her fist:
I turned on some music, randomly from my play list and wouldn't you know it? Snatum Kaur's "WE ARE THE PEOPLE, THE PEOPLE OF LOVE" began to play.
"LET US PEOPLE, BE LOVE TODAY, LOVE TODAY, LOVE TODAY, LOVE TODAY...."
"Sometimes before we meditate, we need to prepare the space, prepare our bodies, prepare our minds. There's a lot going on outside these windows and walls my friends, and I want to share with you something I read that is attributed to Lao Tzu: "If we want peace in our world, we must first have peace between nations. If we are to have peace between nations, we must first have peace in our cities. If we want peace in our cities, we must first have peace in our neighborhoods. If we want peace in our neighborhoods, we must first have peace in our homes. If we want peace in our homes, we must first have peace in our families. If we want peace in our families, we must first have peace in our hearts." That's why I believe the most holistic approach to world peace, is through peace in the individual heart. My friends, I'm going to serve you today before we meditate, hoping that we can break bread with one another."
I then asked each student to stand, and offer their name before approaching with a paper plate to collect their bread.
I made it a game, asking the rest of the class to guess if that student was a pumpkin or a cranberry type.
"My name is Kathie and I am a _____"
The class yelled out: "Cranberry?"
In unison, everyone began to laugh at having missed the guess.
I thought: "Laughter. Lightness. Good! Connection."
Up Kathie came....to get a slice of pumpkin bread.
By the time 33 people had spoken their names, and the rest of us had had a shot at which type of bread the person would want....it was clear that most of the time, our guesses about a person's tastes were wrong.
But we ALL loved bread. And when the exercise was over, we all BROKE BREAD.
The room was clear of all of the "stuff" we've all been carrying around this week, and we enjoyed a deep, meaningful METTA meditation before listlessly drifting in to 15 minutes of utter, healing silence.
When the silence was over, I encouraged everyone to slowly open their eyes. Usually, class over, this is the time when people get up, begin their folding or rolling of mats, and talk again.
Today, they opened their eyes and just remained silent. Profoundly silent, as if trying to hold on to the feeling in the room for just a little bit longer.
So, I took the opportunity to offer to them the same challenge I offer those who will read this post.
"This week, aside from your morning and your afternoon 20 minute meditations, I challenge you to make or buy a loaf of bread, and knock on someone's door to give it away."
This week, in the frenetic beauty of the Las Vegas Valley, I trust that 33 families will find their way to their neighbor's homes, carrying bread and the echo of the Metta meditation in their hearts.
MAY YOU BE WELL. MAY YOU BE HAPPY. MAY YOU BE FREE FROM SUFFERING AND THE CAUSES OF SUFFERING. MAY YOU KNOW PEACE.
May we all find a little peace, and may it start, with following the still, small voice, and a warm loaf of bread.
I offer this to you this week without ANY political expression whatsoever, and only with a prayer that our world will become breakers of bread once again.