An old friend and my boss in my first job 15 years back stayed with me and my family for a week. I had always known he was a practicing Buddhist and both he and his wife were deeply spiritual, but this had never been a matter of longer discussion between us. This time, we talked a lot about spirituality, religion, belief and the like.
As parents of three children, my husband and I felt this was something we are lacking in our life. We are both protestant Christians but not practicing. I have tried, but never developed any close relationship with any church or institutionalized form of Christianity or any other religion.
On one of the evenings, we shared our regret with our friend that spirituality did not play a stronger role in our lives, in particular in bringing up our kids. But as I had not been brought up in a religious or spiritual way myself, all our attempts to 'get closer' to church had felt artificial to me. Meanwhile, I know that my husband has been longing for a stronger role of religion in our life, but practically never did anything to introduce our kids to religion although I had encouraged him to do so.
My friend utterly surprised me when he answered that he saw me as deeply spiritual person. He talked about the love he felt in our house, about something strong which he felt when being with me, when seing me and us interact with our children. He said he saw that my husband had a more traditional Christian approach to religious belief, but would not conclude that my lack of relationship to the Christian church and Christian rituals made me a less spiritual person. He also added that he did not think that our children lacked the experience of what he would call spirituality. But he did agree that we did not have any routines and traditions which, we all found, can be important, in particular when bringing up children. At first, I had some difficulty in accepting his observations. Although I somehow felt relieved, I also thought that this would be a too easy excuse for me to do away with one of the weak points we felt in our bringing up of our children. Despite my doubts, I continued thinking about his words the next days and they made me more and more happy.
A few evenings later, we were sitting at the dinner table and again discussed religion. My husband took our two little ones to bed. My friend, our ten year old daughter and myself stayed at the dinner table together. She asked him lots of questions about meditation and he suddenly asked her whether she would want to give it a try. She did, so we all went to the living room. He told us how to sit, how to breathe and how to hold our hands. My husband, who had done some Zen meditation when he was a student, quietly joined our small circle.
I closed my eyes and was able to let go quite easily. I saw landscapes passing my eyes and only marginally noticed our daughter who was giggling, changed positions etc. I had my eyes completely shut and felt a growing presence of my friend who was sitting left of me. It felt like the left of my upper body was getting warm, in particular around my heart. If I think back, the feeling was a mixture of tremendous closeness to him and a very abstract feeling of warmth and love that was filling me. Although he paid more attention to our daughter, it felt like he channeled this to me. After some time, she left the room, and it became very calm and the feeling of his presence on my left and the warmth in my body grew stronger and stronger.
Since we sat on the floor in our living room that evening, I have longed back to that experience. But I did not suggest sitting for meditation together again.
Today, three days later, he left our house. I have had the same warm feeling come and go since we first sat down for meditation. It feels like my heart is filled with love, but this love is wide and not related to anyone particular. I still feel the warmth. I wonder what it is and what to do with it. And I definitely don't want to let it fade, but I want to let it grow.