“Come, pray with me.”
Those words spoken like a plea but also an instruction.
My first impression of my tutor were not what I had in mind. I had pictured a gentleman of forty-ish years of age, a receding hairline, and bathed in the scent of a spice market. Instead, when I entered the chapel on the university’s auxillary campus, I was greeted by a woman of possibly sixty-ish years of age with a full head of dark hair and misted in an aromatic halo of vanilla and peaches. She reached for my right shoulder, put a hand behind my back, and guided me towards the pews.
“Come, pray with me, we have much work to do,” she said as she pulled me down into a kneeling position to her left.
“Excuse me, but I thought I was here for a fencing lesson,” I said in case she had mistaken me for someone else.
“Oh, you are, but we must take care of the calling first.”
When I remained as stiff as a board and hadn’t brought my hands together as she had done, she sighed and explained that “the calling” was a sort of warm-up exercise to help clear the mind…because “meditation takes too long” and “time is wasting away.”
I’d partaken in meditative rituals in the past and didn’t think they took any longer than warming up muscles for aerobic or anaerobic activities, but I also didn’t want her first impression of me to be one of recalcitrance, so I followed her lead the best I could. She sank onto the footrest, I sank onto the footrest; she put her hands together, fingers interlaced, I put my hands together with fingers interlaced; she told me to repeat after her, I repeated after her.
“Dear Maker of the Stars, Father and Mother of late night cravings for starch, hold the curtains back for our footwork and labors, so we may channel your restlessness and unwavering search for stillness. May your sweat be our sweat, may your swiftness be our swiftness, may the light of your pain be the shadow of our victory.”
She continued for several minutes more. By the time we were done and she helped me stand up, my feet had fallen asleep and I really wished I’d packed knee pads in my bag.