My First ‘Discussion Group’

Many moons ago I attended a beginners’ meditation class that also involved a discussion group. Now, discussion groups and I don’t really get on. I’ve only ever attended them under extreme duress, and have never been able to enter into the right spirit. I usually pick a fight and expend most of my energy on trying to make the others laugh. Basically, the discussion groups I attend usually turn out badly. Except this once.

It’s true, I was in a pretty depleted state. I may have had a hangover, slutty lush that I was, and definitely felt far less pugilistic than usual. For some reason, I’d created a fantasy for myself that I owed it to my singing teacher to learn to meditate as a way of calming the inhibiting nerves that made my performances so hit and miss. Where that came from I really don’t know, because when she found out she was so utterly appalled she slammed the phone down on me. Anyway, the point here is that I didn’t give my inner Valkyrie her head, and even experienced an unaccustomed wave of sympathy for the nervous, grey woman who was moderating the group.

What, then, did we talk about? Shamatha practice? Vipashyana? Something more exotic? Frankly, I have no clue. From the moment we sat down I became transfixed by a sight so unexpected that not one word of our discussion penetrated my mind. There’s no delicate way of putting this, so I won’t even try. We all made a stab at sitting cross-legged and once I’d settled myself, before me, in all its naked glory, gaped our moderators grey and white hairy bush. I swear I spied a labium too.

There were second, third and fourth glances, of course, but far more veiled and as a result details escaped me. The really big challenge was not to stare open-mouthed, or point, or nudge my neighbour and giggle. The effort sucked every ounce of concentration from my other senses. A bit like a black hole.

I do remember speculating about the mechanics of such a display. Was it an accident? Or some kind of bizarre vajrayana ritual? Whatever its cause, not one member of our group gave the smallest sign that they’d noticed. A bearded man asked if the seven-line prayer was the eight-lined stanza on the sheet he’d been given and a middle-aged woman droned on about her knees aching. But no one drew our moderator’s attention to her exposed state, or appeared to be in any way disturbed by it.

Eventually the discussion group was brought to a close by a jangling of indian bells and we rearranged ourselves for the final meditation. Later, over tea, everyone thanked our moderator for gently shepherding us through our first time, and pledged to return for lesson two the following week. Again, not a word or gesture gave the slightest inkling that anything had been amiss.

I didn’t return the following week—not for want of trying. Somehow I managed to put myself in the way of three angry youths in St John’s Wood, of all places, and turned back home to lick my wounds. I still chuckle over that group, though. I think I achieved a more acute state of one-pointedness during that session than I ever have since. But honestly, could it have happened anywhere other than England?

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