I have had many Zen masters, all of them cats.

– Eckhart Tolle

I began my first buddhist meditation class this week at a Zen Buddhist Temple four blocks from house, down the street from the Whole Foods where I buy organic buffalo meat. The fact that I still eat meat should tell you that I’m still new to the buddhism game.

If you know know me personally, then you are probably wondering why I’m taking a buddhist meditation class. “Don’t you meditate a zillion hours a day already?” a friend asked.

“Yes. But I don’t think it’s working.”

“How do you know if it’s working?”

“If I knew that I wouldn’t be taking another meditation class.”

One of our exercises involves just counting our breath. Sounds easy, right? Try it. Really. Try it. I’ll wait. Exhale, then think, “one.” Inhale. Exhale, then count “two,” and continue.

Okay, now…did you get to number four without thinking of something else? Yep, and that’s why it’s an exercise. It can be really hard to do.

On an average day, meditation for me looks something like this:

Exhale. One. Exhale. Two. Exhale. Three. Shit, it’s cold in here. What it is, like 20 degrees in here? Yahoo weather said it was supposed to be 34 degrees today but it feels a lot colder than that. Remember that winter in Ohio when you were renting a room over the hardware store and you only had a gas stove in the corner for heat? And remember how four rooms shared like eight amps of power or something really miniscule and whenever Weird Roger turned on his hot plate it would blow the whole circuit and shut off your space heater. And remember how agitated he would get and how you could hear him coming down the hallway to ask you if your hot plate was on and you would tell him ‘yes’ because you didn’t want him to know you had a space heater because he was terrified it would start a fire. Mom’s house burned down in fire a Philippines when she was a little girl and she was terrified of fire too. She would check the stove three times before we left for church on Sundays. And remember that time you came home to their house in Florida and discovered that she had left the stove on while she was gone and then you got terrified? The space heater isn’t too close to the rug, is it? I should check. Nope. Far enough away to not start a fire but close enough so I can feel it. Then why am I so cold? Oh shit…what number am I on? Damn. Now I have to start over… Exhale. One. Exhale. Two. I can’t figure out if I’m sitting in lotus correctly and I don’t know if my hands are in the right position. I was sitting in back during class and couldn’t see her hands. Should I have my hands at my stomach, cupped, or am I supposed to do the mudra thing? Damn..lost count again. One. Shit, no, exhale, then say ‘one’…

And it goes on like that for like you know, forever, or technically, five minutes, whichever comes first.

In my best buddhist-style parable form, I have dubbed this the “Taming the Tiger” exercise that I intend to whip out on beginner novice monks when I become a guru. I could be a guru. Okay, no, I couldn’t, but I could meet a guru some day and tell it to him or her.

In any case, whenver I think of taming the tiger, I think of Ben, so here he is: Ben the Tiger.

zen cat