The Place HTML version

I soon got a job working for my father. After retiring from the local fire department, he went to work for a
friend of his who had been chief of the department some years earlier. Dad was now the vice-president of one of
the largest parking concerns in New England. I began my career as a booth attendant. It was a somewhat
mindless job as I think back on it, but it afforded me exactly what I needed at this point in my lifetime!
I was running a small lot outside Copley Square in downtown Boston. Most of the spaces in the lot had been
leased to the Copley Plaza Hotel since parking in that area of the city was extremely limited. I worked with one
other person. We’d get a call from the concierge requesting a guest’s car and would take turns running them
down to the hotel. My preference was to stay in the booth to read and study what had become my newest
pursuit, Zen Buddhism. I had been introduced to Buddhism through the “Kung Fu” series, but through my
studies, I learned that Buddhism and Zen Buddhism were very different. Zen dealt primarily with the spiritual
and philosophical aspects of Buddhism, whereas Buddhism focused more on the practice of the religion.
In the beginning I had a hard time recognizing that religion and spirituality were different. It didn’t take long
for me to discern between the two and decide which road I wanted to travel. I have no quarrel with anyone who
follows their own beliefs, as long as it works for them. Growing up Catholic, I realized very quickly the
differences between religions. Just as my mother’s father was Jewish and my father’s family was Catholic, so I
was exposed to various beliefs early in my walk. I just wanted something simplersomething that would help
me find The Place where the voice emanated from.
I read everything I could findfrom Humphreys to Watts, and Krishnamurti and Meher Baba to Suzuki. The
more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. I rearranged my bedroom to duplicate the lifestyle of a monk as best
I could. My mattress lay on the floor. There were two small brass lamps, no more than a foot and a half high,
standing next to the bed and across the other side of the room.
There was a poster of a mandala on the wall, next to the window. I had a batik cotton wall hanging I used as
a bedspread, and that was it. My clothes were in a bureau outside the room. It was simple, but perfect. I would
soon learn just how important simplicity was in my quest to find The Place.
The book I had been reading, Concentration and Meditation, by Christmas Humphreys, had become my
favorite primer. I read from it day and night. I knew there was something special within the covers of that book,
and I was committed to uncovering what it was.
I hadn’t yet begun to practice meditation, when I began to hear others speak of transcendental meditation as
the newest thing in Western culture. After reading about it, I decided instead to commit to Zen meditation
because the lessons I was learning were becoming more impactful every day. It was the simplicity that
continued to appeal to me.
After reading a chapter on the process of meditation at work, I went home that afternoon enthralled by what I
read and excited to begin practicing what I had learned. It was important to meditate at the same time and place
each day in an effort to reduce distractions. I read about becoming and so many other things, but I never really
understood what they meant. I knew that experiencing them first hand was the best way to learn. I began to
practice meditation and never missed a day. Each experience left me relaxed and was more insightful than the
previous one. I read in the very beginning of my studies that the mind is like a wild horse; one doesn’t simply
saddle it and expect to ride. The wild horse cherishes its freedom because that is all it has ever known. Change
is difficult for all beings.
I recalled my initial instruction that directed me to place an orange on an empty table in front of me. The
challenge was to focus on the orange for as long as I could, but as soon as any thought other than the orange
entered my mind, I was supposed to stop. My first attempt lasted a total of four seconds. I quickly realized I had
little control over my mind; instead, it was in control of me. I quickly came to understand the wild-horse
scenario. As I progressed, I became more comfortable with my practice each day. It became easier to focus on
the orange, but I was still having difficulty with distractions, not to mention moving on from the orange to
something else.
Each time I practiced I became very relaxed, but not much more than that. I began going into my meditations
asking a question for which I sought an answer. After many months of practice, the answers never came. I kept
trying and trying, without success. On several occasions I had reservations about continuing, but I knew these
were challenges placed in my path, and I simply could not give up.
Somewhere deep in my subconscious, I knew there was a key to helping me find The Place, and I had to stay
the course in order to discover where that was. The answer came one afternoon some nine months later. As I sat