My Christian friend was having a crisis of faith. She wanted to get completely outside of her box for a better view of what was inside.
She asked me about Buddhism and contemplative practices. So I took my Christian pal to my Buddhist meditation group.
I sat just in front of her so she could take cues from me if she ever felt like she didn’t know what to do. Not that there’s a lot to do when you’re just sitting on a cushion. But just in case.
I ended up thinking about what was happening three feet behind me the entire time.
Is her foot falling asleep? Do her knees hurt? Is her head about to explode?!?
I heard her scratch something, and then I remembered that she gets eczema.
Oh no, she’s broken out in itchy eczema right now, and I brought her to do something where you sit still — this is going to kill her! Why did I do this to my dear friend?!?
Spending two hours with your mind three feet behind you might sound like a neat trick, like levitating, or getting that sticky song out of your head (truly miraculous!). But it’s not what you’re supposed to do when you meditate.
At the break, she seemed OK. She didn’t run away screaming — always a temptation when left alone with your thoughts.
The second half got a little exotic. We breathed through our third eyes. I immediately thought of Susan Sarandon’s character in “Bull Durham” telling Nuke to “breathe through your eyelids, like the lava lizards of the Galapagos Islands.”
What does my Christian friend think of breathing through her third eye? Does she know where her third eye is?
Afterward, we debriefed over beer. And I learned I didn’t need to worry.
She did just fine. She wasn’t itchy. That the whole thing wasn’t unlike many of the practices and rituals that are familiar to her as a Christian, she said.
At first, she didn’t know the third eye is, but then she remembered a Buddhist painting she asked me about once.
As she told me about her experience, I realized she’d been far more present than I was. My third eye twitched.
My Christian pal is an excellent Buddhist.