An encouraging friend, a plain sign: Meditation Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7:00 PM. Readiness for meditation is all it takes. Mindfulness, focus, intention, being in the moment: these are current words that can be turned into real experience through practicing meditation. A meditation class? In the western sense, the word, ‘class’ brings to mind going to school to learn something. More often than not, going to school involves talking about what is to be learned. Meditation class at Chicago Buddhist Vihara temple is not a ‘class’ in that sense. The student learns meditation by practicing it, not by talking about it. Like all good teaching and learning, practicing meditation starts with where the student is, and it involves sharing the meditation experience with others to the extent that a person wants to share. So the Thursday evening class for beginning learner starts with greeting the Buddha, with some introductory guidelines about letting go of distracting, hurtful or angry thoughts, quieting oneself, as well as being attentive to posture. It is a mindful letting go of the baggage of the past and of the future that I carry with me so that I are free to enter the world of mindfulness. Once I quiet myself, breathing meditation on mindfulness can begin. Periodically, the teacher calls my attention to breathing. If my mind has wandered, this brings me back to the present moment! Blessing Meditation and Loving kindness meditation follow. Today, especially in a time in which individualism seems to be tearing society apart, Loving Kindness meditation continues to have important healing qualities.
One practice that I have developed because of meditation class is to literally ‘shake off’ whatever is exciting or bothering me at the door of the temple or prior to starting an activity that I want to do mindfully. It helps me to free myself from thoughts that interfere with my intentions at the moment. I am finding that when my mind is clear and in the present moment, I can focus and see more clearly, and understand who I am in relationship to what I am facing.
I meditate alone, but in the temple, I am not alone when I meditate. There is the sense of all the other persons who have been to the temple to meditate, to attend services, and to enjoy the social life that surrounds celebrations. The room may be almost empty, but the presence of the members remains in the room.
As I grow in the practice of meditation and in applying this practice to other situations, I grow as a person and bring more to meditation. It is like a circle that spirals upward. Persons more experienced in meditation are welcomed to the Tuesday meditation. What is added here is ‘Dhamma’, or a time to listen to and share understandings of a saying of Buddha. What this sharing does is to ‘update’ and apply the teaching of Buddha to my experience today. An awesome thing about practicing meditation is that it develops the wisdom and understanding that enables me to bring value to my journey in this life. Readiness is all!