Right now as COVID-19 still looms overhead causing a lot of us to feel more scattered and confused than ever, it’s hard to think of specific ideas that might bring relief for our tired hearts and minds. Whether you’re working from home where your days seem to be mired in routine, or you’re separated from family members and your days feel lonely, it’s a welcome thought to know that it’s possible to find relief without ever leaving home.
I recently completed a three-session series of classes entitled, “Heart Medicine-Meditation for Challenging Times” from The Drepung Gomang Center for Engaging Compassion. Through the instruction of Jenny Keller Bell, I learned it’s entirely possible to find freedom (and comfort) right inside my own heart and mind.
I admit that I was somewhat reluctant to begin this class. For me, the thought of meditation conjures a vision of someone sitting in the lotus position (which I cannot do) chanting “Om” (which I don’t want to do). The thought of joining a virtual class on meditation via Zoom where I would interact with strangers felt intimidating, but I am glad I gave it a try. Each of the three classes lasted a little over an hour, had five students, and wasn’t the least bit scary for a beginner.
I wasn’t expecting Jenny to teach us about the history and different types of meditation; nor was I expecting to hear great examples of how to use it and why it works, but this is the way each of the three sessions began. She would start out with a lesson about the practice and later would lead us in a guided meditation. Afterwards, class members would share questions, thoughts and/or feelings if inclined. The entire experience felt relaxed and was very informative.
The first meditation immediately put my “lotus position” fears to rest as she instructed us to make ourselves comfortable “any way” we wished. (I happened to be on the floor of my office because that’s where I had to be.) She told us she purposely refrains from telling her students what positions to use because relaxation is different for all of us. (Yes!) I especially enjoyed her method of guiding the meditation, which encourages being present in each moment, (something easily lost by those struggling with full schedules and by those who feel stuck in a routine.) Her soothing voice coupled with her descriptive yet relaxing narratives made it simple to follow along. Having a skilled leader in guided meditation is important because someone who is too rigid about breathing a certain way or too relaxed about descriptions can frustrate a beginner like me. A frustrated beginner doesn’t want to move forward with learning.
For me, the biggest take-away from all three classes is that meditation and mindfulness are very easy to practice but not always the first things we remember to do. Making a regular habit of training the mind to focus and redirect feelings and thoughts helps increase concentration and reduce stress. (It’s helpful to take classes like this to learn how.) Being present in the moments of our lives, even the mundane ones, keeps the mind from wandering off into thoughts that aren’t beneficial and fears that most often aren’t rational or real. Also, if I’d listened to my inner “you won’t like this,” I’d have missed out on a wonderful experience and a lot of learning.
OTHER VIRTUAL MEDITATION OFFERINGS
The Drepung Gomang Center for Engaging Compassion
Passionists Earth & Spirit Center
Louisville Zen Center
By Bobbe Ann Crouch