Last night I went to a 2 hour presentation by Lama Surya Das sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship at the UU Church of Reading. When I got my ticket I considered contacting the organizer and inquiring where it would be (the hall or the chapel) and whether the Lama would be using a microphone. Then I thought, “Eh, how much worse could it be than some of the meditations where I don’t hear the Buddhist Priest very well?”
I got there a little early and got a spot on the end of the third row where I was close enough to lip read. Saw the organizer and he said the Lama would wear a microphone. I figured, with the adjustments I can do with my hearing aid, I’m good. How wrong one person can be?
The first clue I got was when I realized that even with a microphone the Lama speaks in a range I have a hard time hearing, even with augmentation. The second clue was that during normal speech his lips don’t move – his mouth opens, but he’s one of those folks who speaks relatively softly and has little lip motion. Rats! So, I maxed out my hearing and and set the microphone to forward. Uh, huh… Then he started a chant using HH the Dalai Lama’s Chant – Om Mani Padme Hum. Did I mention there were quite a few more people than the normal Satsang? Maybe 50 or more? And the Lama (who is a Chant Master) chants far more loudly than he speaks. So I turned down my hearing aid. Then in the middle of the chant I realize that he is breaking away to say some sort of prayer while the others are chanting. I try turning up the hearing aid – bad, bad idea. I settled on a setting that let me sort of hear him through the drone of the chant around me.
Rather than relaxing into the chant, I’m desperately trying to lipread someone who tends to speak without moving his lips. If he paid any attention to me at all (assuming he saw me) he must have wondered why a woman was starting intently at him. 🙂
After the chanting and the obligatory joking about when the meditation really was over, he began his discussion of Buddha Standard Time, based on his book of the same name. By that time I had the mother of all sound headaches and cut way back on the hearing augmentation, focusing more on lip reading. Challenging! At an rate, the Lama posits that it’s not that we don’t have enough time, it is how we allocate our time. As he discussed being in the now without anticipating the future or worrying about the past, I thought, “He ought consider how hard it is for the Hard of Hearing to understand what’s being said, how intensely we have to focus, and how much we do live in the moment. ” I momentarily contemplated how wonderful it would be to have one of my regular interpreters on the stage where I could watch him or her and how much better it would be. At that moment I realized that in the future I was going to ask everyone for an accommodation. Life is too short not to ask.
Interestingly enough, for all the discussion of not watching the clock, having to watch him all the time, I noticed he checked his wristwatch frequently to make sure he was on time. 🙂
Once the discussion was over and the questions were asked and answered he took a short break and then went in for a book signing. I did have the book, but I’ve never really understood the purpose of having an author sign a book. I suppose it is a memento of the night or a way to sell it for more – whatever. That being said, I’ve signed a few of my workbooks upon student requests (still baffled by why anyone would care about a signature). While the Lama was signing books the organizer asked me if I was able to hear anything. I allowed as how it was, “Not much.” and then asked if there were another event if the Buddhist Fellowship would pay for sign language interpreter(s) for me. “Of course!” I was told. Andy doesn’t realize how much that means to me, considering how often one has to fight to get accommodations – and he knows they’d have to pay for the terp(s), not me. I’m gratified by the warmth and inclusion. But they’re Buddhists, of course they’re about inclusiveness. And, he pointed out, having an interpreter for me would open up events to many others.
On my way out (no, I didn’t have the Lama sign my book) I ran into someone having a set of meditative sessions at her home and was invited to attend – and sit right next to that Lama so I can hear him. Again, that inclusiveness of Buddhists.
When I got home I went to bed nursing that sound headache – and could not sleep. In the middle of the night I pondered on one of the stories told about a Lama who meditated so deeply he had no need for sleep. Apparently, despite the need to break away and watch, I’d been into the rem states for sleep long enough and deep enough that I didn’t need sleep. I was up and down much of the night, finally drifting off for a few hours in the early morning. Note to self: No deep meditative states for long periods of time in the late evening.