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