Alone in a Room

Somehow, this is special – to be all alone in a large room, one that’s used for meetings, gatherings, and socializing.  Me and a big space.  And when I’m quiet in that space, all by myself, it’s a holy feeling.

My most vivid memory of this is one late evening during a retreat at the Insight Meditation Society.  The last sitting was over at 9:30, and I had gone outside to sit with a cup of tea and the stars.  And now to bed?  No, actually, back into the meditation hall.  I walked in, glanced around, and saw that I was alone.  Facing the statue of the Buddha at the front were rows of square purple meditation cushions, with chairs at the sides and back.  Just me.  I sat on a chair in the back middle, central to the Buddha’s gaze.  And something slowly happened.  In my meditation, I could feel warmth cuddle me close.  I got glimmers of all the human beings who had sat here since 1976, and I felt cradled in their company.  I stayed a long time.

About ten years ago, I had the rare opportunity to visit my former high school during school hours – Lawrence Park Collegiate in Toronto.  I walked into the foyer to find my name on a plaque … and there I was, circa 1967.  Ahead of me were the doors to the auditorium.  I pulled on a handle and it gave, opening to me a grand space of soft chairs sloping down to the stage.  I walked a few rows in and sat down.  Just me.  And so quiet.  I remembered the acne-sprouted teenager who sat in these chairs – for assemblies, concerts and plays.  I also remember the young cellist who got to play some stunning symphonies on the stage, surrounded by many gifted musicians.  A younger man, and he sat there quietly beside me.

And then there was the fall of 1974 when I helped the caretaker close up the Prince of Wales Hotel in the Rockies of Alberta.  Built in 1927 as a huge chalet, the PW’s interior beams and posts of the darkest wood, plus its chandelier and interior walkways, left me in awe.  And that fall I often got to be on the fourth floor balcony alone, looking down into the lobby as I sang a little song.  And then fall silent as the space of history wrapped itself around me.  Just me.


Three big rooms and an itsy bitsy human being, enjoying each other’s company


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