I went to a Buddhist Center tonight for the first time. I've wanted to learn more about mediation for years, but I've been intimidated about what it would be like. I went to a centering prayer retreat several years ago and loved it. I practice on my own, but I was nervous about going to a Buddhist center. The unknown scared me.
There are so many things I didn't know. Would there be pressure to convert to Buddhism? No - the people there were a mix of religions. There were Buddhists, Catholics, Quakers, Lutherans, and some with no affiliation. It was quiet and welcoming place. They invited me to come back anytime, but there was no pressure. They didn't ask for contact information so I know they won't call me or anything like that. I want to go back and I will, but I wouldn't feel guilty if I didn't either.
What were the rules? Would I be rude? I didn't know I was supposed to take off my shoes (any movie that I've ever seen about China or Japan should have told me that, but I didn't think about it). A kind man walked me back to the front and showed me where to put my shoes. I didn't feel any judgment. I probably did other things that weren't "right" but I was accepted as I was. It was really nice.
How did it work? I walked in without any idea of what the service (right word? probably not) would be like or how long it would last. It lasted an hour. First, a teacher explained the basics on how to meditate by paying attention to my breathing. Then I joined the group in the meditation room. Some people sat on chairs. Others on cushions. Someone started the silence by ringing a bell. For 25 minutes I paid attention to my breathing (or tried to anyway). Then the bell rang and we walked in a slow circle for 10 minutes. The bell rang again and we sat back down for another 25 minutes of sitting meditation.
I'm really glad that I went. All my fears were unfounded. I found a great group of people who seem comfortable being themselves and letting me be myself. There are many things I still don't know, but it's okay. I can learn as I go along. They have several classes that I'm welcome to attend or I can just go to meditation.