Why Lemony?
(the “About Me” page)

February 03, 2004

NYC and the Buddha

Rush downhill on the narrow streets of Leonia and Fort Lee, NJ past shop windows with mostly Korean names on them, vaguely reminisent of downtown Tokyo. Walk fast across George Washington Bridge. Enter the grime and bustle of New York City subways. Buy your metrocard from a computer screeen that asks you to 'dip your credit card' for payment. Through the turnstile, push through the subway doors and hang on for a swaying half hour. Burst through the doors at 42nd street, and emerge into Times Square at rush hour. Lights are huge and everywhere, a 15 foot high lava lamp above a doorway advertising Target, a beefy Jack and the Beanstalk vine complete with castle on top grows from another corner, all lit up and huge. Walk against the traffic of all kinds of people hurrying by with pink mowhawks and cell phones, pushing handcarts with ironing boards, a sea of black coated business people rushing home from work. Pass Madame Toussaud's wax museum, with Robin Williams in the window. Enter the catacombs of the Times Square Flea Market and see a paperweight memorial of the World Trade Center with molded plastic fire trucks in front. Emerge onto the cold street again and hurry back down into the subway to ride down to Canal Street. Get slightly lost in Tribeca looking for Min's meditation class, then suddenly find it and burst into a bare room of New Yorkers putting down bags, taking off shoes and coats, noisily turning off cell phones and sitting down in a half circle around their Buddhist meditation instructor, Peter Durbinin. Sit down on a little pillow on the floor next to Min (Zivar and Dan's friend from Burma and a very kind Buddhist) and suddenly come to a ringing silence, toes still cold and damp from melting snow puddles and all of me glad to have found a nest of stillness. Whew!

And then we are to meditate to begin class starting and all too soon ending with the ringing of a brass bowl. Ahhh..a mental spa. Then the instructor starts saying all these amazing things and I am so happy that I came here instead of wandering around Harlem trying to find that Guyanese restaurant (Flavored With One Love). Let's see. He says: The practise of this meditation involves being still, awareness of your breathing, awareness of the sensations in your body (the felt sense), and this particular kind is called metta, which means loving-kindness in Pali. So you say these phrases slowly to yourself and let them drop down into your body and awareness like stones dropped into a pond: May I be happy. May I be free from suffering. May I be healthy. May I live with ease. And if you find your mind wandering, you just notice that and come back to the phrases. And when it gets hard to do this, when you encounter resistance to this inside yourself (and this is where it gets good) you try with 'courageous effort' and being a 'spiritual warrior' to battle the five things that keep you from engaging in the practice of meditation. Those five things are: desire, aversion, dullness, restlessness, and doubt. And when you meet those enemies inside yourself, you notice them, but you don't react to them. You meet these thoughts with loving-kindess and you respect them, you bow to them because this is where you are blocked from going forward and opening your heart, and so this is where you need to 'lean into it instead of backing away' so you can grow and so the closed places can open. Ooo...I like it, I like it. There's tension, it's like tuning a dulcimer so it's notes will be pure and true. But it's all very still. Noticing the swirl of thoughts that are all happening above the neck, and then letting that go and feeling down in the rest of your body and in your heart that there is a deeper feeling to be had of stillness and openness from whence can come a wish for yourself of happiness, freedom from suffering, health, and ease. And then, when you've learned to say these phrases for yourself, you can say them for other people. And not just anyone, but specific kinds of people: the benefactor, the close friend, the neutral person, the 'difficult' person, and then all beings. Ooo, this sounds good. And the goal is to open your heart to feel loving-kindness for all beings. I asked Min lots of questions about all this on the way home, and he said that there are four states or qualities you are supposed to attain in Buddhism: loving-kindness, compassion for people who are suffering, sympathetic joy for people who are happy (as opposed to jealousy), and equanimity (kind of like detachment, serenity, etc.). That Peter Durbinin was really good. I learned so much in just an hour and a half, even if my leg did fall asleep.

P.S. So here's a very weird thing. You know how Maya just started calling herself Aung before we left for this trip? Well that's Min's last name. It's even spelled the same. What are the chances of that? He must be her fairy godfather or something.

Posted by Bahiyyih at February 3, 2004 04:02 PM

Just reading this post was calming. And wow! What a crazy coincidence/connection! What does that mean?


Posted by: Suzanne at February 3, 2004 05:04 PM

Bahiyyih. You are such an interesting granddaughter. I love the things you are interested and involved in. That name coincidence is so strange. I still thing it is kind of prehistoric.

Posted by: Patty at February 3, 2004 08:01 PM

I don't know what it all means, but it's been my experience that strange things like this happen to get me to pay attention to what's going on in life because something important's going to happen. And a few things have. I have been in a parent workshop mode watching Zivar's parenting and learning so much from her, so I know that's important to pay attention to, and then this whole Buddhist meditation thing is really mind blowing and helps me put a lot of issues I've been working on in a really hopeful perspective because it gives me a very useable framework for dealing with problems that come from inside myself. I started reading this book called Loving Kindness: The Art of Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg and everything she's saying seems so right on. It's really fun to be learning about Buddhism in such a personal way. I don't think I knew much about it before. I had been to Buddhist temples in Japan but things were never really explained to me- what it all meant. More pieces to the puzzle of life. And I've found some really worthwhile questions to ask, which is always my goal. Like: How can I actually, step-by-step, learn to love everybody? What are some of the things that make my heart open? What do I do in my head when my thoughts go somewhere negative? How is it that the body is involved in meditation as a resource and aid to awareness? Are there practising Buddhists in Champaign-Urbana? What do they beleive? I want to hear more stories and experiences of meditation and what it does in people's lives. How it can be an active force.

Posted by: bahiyyih at February 4, 2004 01:05 PM


Yes, I feel calmer too after reading about your experience. Qualities to which one may aspire. (I tend to forget the difficult ones.)

As far as the name is concerned, I think that we are all (what is the word?) prescient. (?) I think that you and Bill can congratulate yourselves for listening and not squelching that in Maya--she felt free to express the feeling and the sound.

Maybe this is one aspect of what Baha'u'llah means by "one soul, many bodies."

I have been reading Bill Allmart's entries also, and am now remembering my Pilgrimage (taken almost 20 years ago.) It seemed to me that before my needs were spoken (there), they were met. Sometimes before my needs were felt, they were met. I found myself doing the most bizarre things, without being able to stop myself, and then, finding out later that my (crazy) actions led to filling a need.

Example: A group of pilgrims, of which I was one, was standing in front of the Shrine of Baha'u'llah, not speaking, lingering... We were to return to Haifa in someone's van in the following minutes. We knew that one couple in our group had to cut short their Pilgrimage--they had to return to their three children at their African pioneer post, so they were flying out that evening.

All of a sudden, I told the couple to stand in front of the Shrine, and commanded everyone else to move aside. I told both the man and the woman of the couple to give me their cameras, and instructed one of the members of the group to take pictures of the couple in front of the Shrine with the couple's cameras.

I didn't know what I was doing, and as this behaviour is very uncharacteristic for me, I was kind of alarmed, but I just felt this conviction...

Everyone did as I told them, and nothing was said, until we were settled in the van. Then the man of the couple (a Persian) turned to me and said, "I was standing there in front of the Shrine, longing to have my picture taken with my wife there, but not daring to ask any of you to take our picture..."

We are all sooo connected.

Have to go, but am thinking of you all.



Posted by: Debbie at February 4, 2004 01:08 PM


Your writing is so beautiful - such a gift from your Creator. It made my evening very pleasant and cosy.

Posted by: lizzy at February 4, 2004 09:52 PM

I've just begun taking yoga classes and your experience reminded me of how I felt after my first individual practice session of some of the very basic yoga moves. I don't think I have ever been that relaxed in my entire life and I even did it all on my own. Normally -when I lay in bed at night telling my muscles to relax- it just doesn't work! Now I can't say I've been able to intertwine meditation into my yoga positions just yet but eventually I hope to get there.
On a completely different note - I cannot wait for you and your family to return home! I've had two dreams so far, since you've been vacationing, of receiving hugs from miss Maya and miss Georgia. They are quite the givers of loving-kindness even in the dream world!

Posted by: Liza at February 5, 2004 03:33 PM

Hey, I didn't even know you were gone and I started reading about the subway in New York! I was thinking, oh, Bahiyyih must have put someone else's article on her website. It's really great writing! I love the little details because I felt like I was there. Your meditation experience sounds wonderful. You know, I meditate through exercise and it's such a different experience. The only way I can get my brain to relax is by working all of my body. It's like my brain forgets to worry then. It's very interesting to learn what works for others. Maya is simply psychic. And I'm elated that things are falling into place for what it is that you need. P.S. Debbie, that was such an exciting story!

Posted by: Layli Elena at February 6, 2004 10:45 PM

Bahiyyih, I keep feeling so grateful that you are sharing your thoughts and experiences. I love getting to know you better this way.

Lots of love,


Posted by: Nana at February 8, 2004 07:42 PM

You've done it again, Bahiyyih. You have such a gift for writing things in a way that allows others to participate. I felt like I was meditating with you. Maya Aung must have been telling you that something momentous was to happen. Who knows? love, Amy

Posted by: Amy Eades at February 8, 2004 11:15 PM

Dear wonderful, loving people,
Isn't this a great way to share love and kindess? I get ten times what I put out here. Thanks for the stories, keep them coming! I want to hear more about your lives, not just go on and on about mine!

Posted by: Bahiyyih at February 11, 2004 02:33 PM