Nearly every Wednesday night, Toronto resident Emily Marshall opens up her home to friends and strangers alike.
You need not let her know you’re coming. There’s no need to bring anything, and there’s no charge at the door.
In fact, there’s no barrier to entry at all.
By 7 p.m., the house is filled with Torontonians from all walks of life, their only commonality being a curiosity or passion for the practice of meditation.
Marshall came to meditation later in life, after a family hardship sent her on a search for spiritual fulfillment.
“I grew up in Forest Hill, in a very affluent home,” explains Marshall. “I was living a carefree life, wanting for very little.”
But by her teenage years, Marshall’s father had developed a drinking problem, and it soon led to bankruptcy and the divorce of her parents.
“All of a sudden, I realized that the happiness I had obtained — mostly from a materialistic lifestyle — wasn’t always going to be there.” Says Marshall, “Everything that I thought would bring me joy just fell away.”
Marshall set out to find that stability elsewhere. She travelled the world, living in an ashram for a year, and a remote cabin in British Columbia. She studied abroad. She followed her heart in and out of relationships. But no city and no partner brought her the comfort and contentment she desired. She knew that she needed to find fulfillment from within.
“I was back in Toronto for work, and saw a sign for a free meditation class,” she recalls. “The class was intriguing, and at the end, I was invited to one of Meditation Toronto’s Sunday evening events.”
Meditation Toronto is a volunteer-run group that has taught and hosted meditation classes in the GTA for over twenty years. Their Sunday evening gathering at Trinity-St. Paul’s Church is free of charge and attracts upwards of sixty people.
“It was so beautiful,” says Marshall. “Seeing this community come together to share in breathing meditations and chant mantras, all set to live music. It was an incredible experience, with the added bonus of a delicious vegetarian meal!”
Marshall is quick to mention that Meditation Toronto is not affiliated with any religious organization although the mantras are spiritual sound vibrations that are sacred and incredibly powerful.
Shortly after her first Sunday evening gathering, Marshall attended a Wednesday night meditation session at the home of Madhavendra, one of the organizers of Meditation Toronto.
She recalls, “As we began to chant, in that warm and welcoming home environment, all of the ache and heaviness that I’d felt for years was lifted…lifted by the mantras and this family of kindred spirits. As I began to deepen my own practice, I was even able to repair the relationships in my own family.”
As Marshall continued to meditate at home, she began to feel more and more connected: not just to this kindred community, but also to herself. Feelings of envy and anxiety began to fade, and she couldn’t help but feel a sense of arrival.
“I decided to begin hosting the Wednesday evening sessions,” Marshall shares. “So now we gather at 7 p.m., in my home in Trinity/Bellwoods. We do a series of mantra meditations, with some lovely musical accompaniment. I serve tea and dessert and then we all watch a video on spirituality. It’s such a nourishing, connective evening.”
It took a number of years for Emily Marshall to find a sense of home and community again. But she has found both through meditation, and on Wednesday evenings, we are all invited to share in that with her.