This morning I’m leading a session on Meditation and Mindfulness at the Writers’ League of Texas annual Agents and Editors Conference. When Michael Noll, the League program director, invited me, he mentioned that popular author and teacher, Spike Gillespie, led a session on meditation last year and that it was wildly popular. He didn’t mention the session would be at 8:00 a.m. until I had agreed to do it. I didn’t mention that I had led a session on meditation and writing practice for the conference years ago, and it wasn’t popular at all.
At the time, I attributed the poor attendance to the content. Writers were at the conference to make things happen — meet agents, make connections, learn about the climate of the publishing industry. But the poor showing might have had more to do with the schedule. The session was offered in the middle of the day while panels were taking place with industry professionals and agents meetings were scheduled.
My session took place in a typical hotel conference room, with identical chairs lined up edge to edge in neat rows from the front to the back of the room. If I had to guess, I’d say it was set up for fifty. Much to my embarrassment, only five people showed up, including one of my best girlfriends, who brought one of her clients.
The room was bound on one side by a folding wall that opened onto the adjacent room when a larger space was needed. It was a thin wall, and we could hear the muffled voices of the speakers next door, interrupted intermittently by raucous laughter and applause. The door at the back of the room opened onto the lobby, where we could hear anxious writers racing to their next appointment or breakout session, as well as nervous giggles and squeals.
Despite the noise and bustle, it was one of the deepest meditation sessions I’ve ever experienced. Sitting in that impersonal hotel room, decked out with orange carpets and industrial furniture, we felt like the calm center of a storm, as if the five us were holding down the conference center so everyone wouldn’t blow away.
It wasn’t unlike sitting down to write or going into a quiet studio on a weekday. When the rest of society is swept up in the hustle of the workday — fighting traffic or getting on public transportation, getting a coffee to go and running down the to-do list — we stay back and record our observations of the world.
MIchael expects a much higher attendance today, between 100-150 conference attendees. It is only event they are offering at that hour. I’m dubious that 100 people will show up to meditate during an agents conference, but I’m also excited. We have the opportunity to set the tone for the day.
I secretly imagine that for the rest of the day, instead of running across the lobby to grab an agent, writers will mindfully approach the professionals, feeling the ground beneath them and the breath that connects them to all being, then approach with an open attitude. Maybe we will change the entire energy of the event. But even if we have one moment of presence and peace, it will be worth it.
I’d love to hear about your experiences meditating in odd circumstances. When has your practice taken you by surprise?