By Ingrid Hannan
Imagine for a minute, the busy-ness of the city. Lines of traffic, bustling coffee shops, children and dogs and sirens and crows and buses all making a cacophony of sound. Everywhere you go, there's something to think about, to do, to react to, interact with, respond to.
And then, you walk into a little church with no pews, and you take off your shoes, and walk to a cushion on the smooth wood floors and have a seat. A fig tree gently waves outside, the early evening light filters in, and quiet settles in around you. You are in the company of kind people, who will let you be exactly as you are, and whose genuine interest in that moment is to cultivate peace.
Welcome to Wednesday nights with Caverly's meditation group. It's my favorite part of the week. Truly. I look forward to that sweet moment when I exhale quietly, and feel the day's stresses fall off my shoulders, not because it's a magic stress relief tool, but because I know I can put them down for the next couple of hours. I know it's a space where I can be, and exist, and relax into the moment as it's unfolding. It's a space where we connect to our universal human struggles, share dialogue and narratives about our search for peace and meaning, and where we can ask questions about suffering and the liberation from it.
Sometimes people tell me, "Wow, it's so great that you are so committed to a weekly practice like that." But to me, it doesn't feel like something I have to make room for, or push myself to get to, or a heavy obligation. Instead, I feel disappointed when I can't make it. It's become a treasured ritual, a deeply valued time and place in which I come away feeling lifted, cleansed, buoyed, and re-centered. Caverly is the kind of teacher that gently guides you to your own answers, and her patient wisdom sits quietly and compassionately as a witness to our collective learning. Week after week, she and the sangha help me take off the lenses, filters and blinders I've been wearing, and shift my focus to instead see with clarity my place as one human experience in our shared existence. It's a perspective and practice that I've come to value on a level with clean drinking water, a good night's sleep, a filling meal, a breath of fresh air.
The irony, of course, is that this mindfulness, awareness, and sense of connection can be tapped into at any time, in any place. But I am human after all, and there's something powerful about the act of coming together in solidarity, in support of one another. It's not an app, it's not a recording, it's not a perfectly quipped social media nugget. It's real people coming together in real time, listening and sitting and being together. A radical, ancient, invaluable moment. And one that happens to be available every Wednesday night in a quaint, peaceful little space in NE Portland.
Learn more about the Wednesday Night Practice Group here.