Recently, I was in one of those places that jars your mind back to a lost memory, almost forgotten. The last time I attended a party at this place, some 25 or so years ago, my brother, despite my protests, was betting on me (with real money$!) to win at Ping-Pong. Player after player, to my horror, he bet that I would win. He did so because he knew that I had been trained and he was the one who had trained me.
Once upon a time in my younger days, I was a fairly decent Ping-Pong player. Of course, I was laughable competition for anybody that really knew the game, but I was good enough to hold my own and win our unofficial high school Ping-Pong championship held on weekends at one of my friend’s houses and to be a real challenge at college parties. I’m old enough that in that day and age girls weren’t really “supposed” to be good at sports and no one expected that a “Girl” could be good at table tennis. How those guys hated being beaten by a “Girl”!
What they didn’t know was that I grew up with a table in our garage and my brother and I had spent many a day practising. I say practising because we didn’t really play games. He was practising; I was his practice wall, the Returner. He would spend hours on his serves, smashes, top spins, side spins, off the corner edge shots, etc. and my job was to hit them all back. I learned how to return just about anything and everything. I had absolutely no real skills other than being able to play a fast game; no fancy serves, no fancy shots; I just hit everything back, every time. Those many hours of practice in the company of my brother really worked to my favour. Being pretty much the only female wanting to play, I remember patiently awaiting my turn at the table, the guys resisting what they expected to be a “boring slow lob game with a girl”. I remember my reluctant opponents smirk when they saw my serve and then their surprise when their smashes, normally ace serves and spin shots were simply returned back to them…over and over…without any fanfare…until they became so frustrated they would beat themselves. (Did I mention how much the guys hated losing to a girl?)
What I didn’t realise was that training, those years long ago with my brother in the garage also trained for something else. What little skills I once had at Ping-Pong are long gone, but the lessons I learned from the practice have been useful for something far more important than a game – my meditation practice. I don’t use any fancy methods; I don’t have to be in any special place; I just consistently sit and simply return, again and again. No matter how many thoughts my mind serves up; no matter how many off the edge side shots try to divert it; no matter how often it wanders off to other places; however many times it takes, I just keep bringing it back. And eventually, my mind, frustrated of fighting me, allows me to sit in sweet silence. Just by simply continuing to be the returner.