[Warning: This post is Rated “P.” If you are sensitive to Potty Humour, please do not read!]
I recently joined a new sangha, a small group of people who gather together regularly to learn and meditate in the Pure Land Buddhist tradition. I’ve actually only met with this group a couple of times, and have barely had a chance to speak to anyone. So I don’t know any of these folks yet, and they don’t know me.
Last Saturday we got together for a morning-long session of meditation and chanting.
Let me set the scene for you: we’ve just completed a beautiful walking and chanting meditation. We’ve returned to our seats and are now beginning a period of sitting meditation – or “calm abiding,” as our teacher calls it. The room is definitely calm – and totally silent. In fact, it’s so tranquil in that room that you could hear a tummy growl, if there happened to be a tummy so inclined.
I’ve been sitting there on my cushion, watching my breath, for about ten minutes, when it slowly dawns on me that I’m going to have to use the washroom before this meditation period ends. I wait a bit, just to be certain; and sure enough, the call is definitely there.
This, of course, is nothing new – everyone has to answer calls of nature, after all, meditation period or no. When it happens, you just quietly rise and leave the room and go about your business. So I proceeded to do just that. Slowly, relatively soundlessly, I set aside the blanket I keep around my legs so that my perennially cold toes won’t freeze solid, and stood up to leave.
Suddenly I realized that I couldn’t feel my right foot on the floor – it had turned to deadwood, all the way up to my knee!
Unfortunately, this realization came a nanosecond too late. (If you’ve ever tried to take a step onto a leg that has gone to sleep and has absolutely no feeling, you know exactly what I’m talking about.) My arms windmilled frantically as I tried to adjust my balance, but the dead leg gave way and I toppled sideways like a felled moose…. directly into my neighbour’s lap!
To make matters worse, I immediately realized that my unexpected fall had precipitated had a tiny, wee accident of a type that most ladies of a certain age are familiar with, which usually occurs if you sneeze unexpectedly, or cough, or if you’re startled.
I was definitely startled….
And so, of course, were all my fellow meditators, whose eyes immediately snapped open and fastened on me lying half across my neighbour.
A chorus of concerned voices asked, “What happened?” Are you all right?” “Do you need help?”
“Sorry,” I muttered, a bit red in the face, “my foot went to sleep.” I gathered what dignity I could and limped gingerly out of the room.
Now safely in the washroom, having used some toilet paper to blot the results of my little “elder surprise,” I saw that the toilet paper needed replacing, and there was a spare roll on the back of the toilet; so I picked it up, inserted the plastic pin, snapped it all back together, and then finished what I had set out to do.
I grabbed and pulled to unroll more toilet paper; however, the plastic pin that holds the roll onto the holder popped out of its mooring and everything tumbled to the tiled floor – whoever knew that such a little thing could make so much noise! – my erstwhile toilet paper merrily unrolling its way across the bathroom.
I could only wonder what else might happen to conclude the morning’s entertainment, as I reached for pin and paper and snapped it all together for the second time. Thoroughly.
Now, the thing is this, you see. I have this little film reel in my head that starts up whenever something tickles my funny bone. And the toilet paper skittering across the bathroom floor did it for me that morning. The whole scene played itself over in my head like something from The Simpsons as I sat on the throne with my knickers around my knees, giggling to myself.
When the session was over, my neighbour leaned over to ask if I was okay. Having assured her that I was fine, thank you, I couldn’t resist asking, “And did you get the sound effects of the toilet paper roll dropping to the floor too, and the giggling?” She assured me that they all did.
Rule No. 1 for New Sangha Members: If it’s funny, then you might just as well laugh. After all, Hotei** did – often – and look where it got him!
[**Hotei, known as the Laughing Buddha with his big belly and happy, laughing face, is considered in East Asia to be a deity, the god of contentment and happiness, one of the seven deities of good fortune. He is sometimes confused with Shakyamuni Buddha, but Shakyamuni Buddha has never, to my knowledge, been portrayed as a jolly fat man.]