They're held at an old convent on Nunnery Lane. This means nothing to anyone outside of York, but I just like the fact I live somewhere that has loads of street names like Nunnery Lane. It's evocative. Although I couldn't much imagine the nuns trogging past the public toilets and fast food restaurants that now adorn that area.
My steps were reluctant, it has to be said. And, just as I thought, as soon as I was inside and unexpectedly greeted by a Buddhist nun in full orange robe and shaved head regalia, I was fighting my fight or flight instinct.
Any time I participate or spectate at some kind of religious service, ceremony, assembly or gathering, I have an almost uncontrollable urge to flee. I get a whole body itch and feel deeply uncomfortable, like I'm facetiously gatecrashing someone else's private thoughts. Because, and this is true, I just don't get it. I don't understand Christianity or any of its offshoots that I've ever read about or heard about. It makes no sense. There is no place in my world for a god who smites or punishes people for things like being gay. I mean, are you kidding? So I don't sing hymns, say prayers, chant responses or kneel when I'm told. I just stand quietly shifting from one foot to the other, looking at stained glass windows.
I found my traditional seat - at the back on the end. This is the optimum seat position for a speedy exit. Locating and honing in on this seating position is a skill I generated at an early age and it has served me well.
Five minutes later Scottish nun lady announced the teacher. A guy with the biggest grin on his face sails in, robes flapping. He sits down and introduces himself as a Canadian Buddhist monk. His accent instantly reminds me of all the jokes I have ever seen on American TV about Canadians. I just about stop myself imagining a hinge opening and his mouth flapping.
I decide I'm probably not going to like him. Then they switch on a tape recorder and this voice starts sort of singing/chanting a prayer to Buddha. Everyone joins in. It's like that Catholic mass I went to once where everyone knew what to do and I didn't.
After that the Canadian guy starts explaining Buddhism. And meditation. And the benefits thereof. And he guides us into a couple of meditations on the breath. I immediately forget how to breathe normally. I feel like I can only breathe in and then my mind gets confused because how can I only breathe in? I'll die? So I breathe out. Really loudly. I honestly have a moment of panic where I feel like I'm the only person in the world who can't even breathe properly. And then something happens. And I forget about everything in the room, all the voices in my head shut up and I see and feel something I haven't had since I was approximately five. Peace of mind. Actual, honest to god, peace of mind.
They charge £5 for a two hour session. I've now been to seven hours' worth of meditation with Canadian Buddha dude and have had more benefit that with hundreds of pounds worth of therapy. My ma has been telling me to learn how to meditate since I was about 16. Why is it that I never listen to her the first time?