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Fifth and Broadway
The bell was softly chimed. There would then be slight moving around on the cushions and blankets. Throats would be cleared, hopefully for the last time.
There was a little more shuffling on the cushions and some clothes would be rearranged. Then came the moments of silence that seemed to linger in the early morning air; sweet, like the smell of hickory on a cool autumn's night. Then slowly, ever so slowly there would be a rush and the slow sounds of leather hitting pavement. Then there was the sound of muffled voices, whispered giggles and faster sounds of leather hitting pavement. Then there were the sounds of vehicles. There were the sounds of bicycles, motorcycles, small cars, large cars, cars in need of a new muffler. And there were the usually startling sound of cars with no mufflers. There were no electric cars back then. But there were trucks. There were small trucks, large trucks and very large 18 wheeler trucks. There were garbage trucks, concrete pouring trucks and trucks with singing brakes of an octave or two, sometimes stuck on a particular note. Each had their distinctive sound. And underneath all of those sounds, distinctive or not, was the sound of silence. That is what we were here to create after all. We were here every weekday morning at this busy inner city intersection to create silence. And silence always existed under the noise. We all discovered that.
In the mid 1990's I started a modest meditation group. We met at a busy inner city intersection at 6:30 in the morning in a mid-sized American city in which we all lived at the time. We met five days a week. We met at the intersection of Fifth and Broadway. There were two of us who would almost always be present. Sometimes there would be four; sometimes eight of us would be present. Every great while someone would be walking by on the street who was not a part of our regular group and he or she would stop. They would stare for a few moments. Its amazing how one can feel a stare even with ones eyes closed. Perhaps we can feel them even more with our eyes closed. So they would stop and stare and then one could also feel the moment of release that would come and he or she would decide to join us, would sit down and meditate with us. We would meditate for 30 minutes and then we would go off to our respective jobs. This was the Fifth and Broadway meditation group.
Why sit at a busy intersection in the early morning and meditate? Perhaps the better question is, why not? We were not out to prove anything. We did not have a conscious agenda. I don't even remember why the decision was made to do it in the first place. But we did it and it was good. We did it and it was true. We did it and it was real. We did it and it was difficult. It was difficult because we were at a busy intersection and our goal was to quiet our minds. Those two things didn't seem to go very well together and at first indeed they didn't.
Most of us were experienced meditators. So perhaps it was a tad bit easier for us. I don't know. Have you ever had the experience of seeing something "bad" about to happen? For example, you see you are about to hit another car with your car. You see and you realize there is not enough time even with the best brakes in the world, on both vehicles, to avoid a collision? I believe there are probably several different ways to respond to that type situation. Some people may scream and close their eyes. Other people may brace themselves and stiffen their bodies. Others still may go into a sort of zone where everything slows way down, everything gets very quiet and yet simultaneously there is still, somewhere deep in the background, the very loud awareness of what is about to happen. And with that awareness comes an indescribable calm. That is what eventually became my constant state when meditating with profound noise directly in the background. Underneath the noise was an even more profound silence. It has just occurred to me that there is another word that describes this experience. That word is peace. May you too know this peace and may this peace stay with you, in some form or another, all the days of your life.
Sage Mahosadha writes and teaches in Tucson, Arizona.
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