Meditating one’s stress away

A handful of people gathered Sunday morning at the Japanese Tea House in Brand Park to meditate in a class that applies Buddhist teachings for overcoming stress and anger.

The group’s teacher, Caroline Green, with the Kadampa Meditation Center in Los Angeles, advised the class in the beginning to improve their back posture.

“Straight, but not tense,” she suggested. “Place your feet flat on the floor, your right-hand palm on your left, your tongue gently touching the back of your teeth.”

All this for the goal of achieving a “relaxed and alert” state of being, in which the class could deeply breathe in and out. As the first breathing meditation advanced, Green requested that the class ignore stray thoughts and outside sounds, then asked them to picture any stresses “as dark smoke that dissipates in the atmosphere.”

Green, who started meditating in 1998, admitted she is shy and said it’s the reason she declined to teach when she was first asked to do so in 1999.

“But these teachings have helped me so much,” she said. “Why wouldn’t I want to share that with other people? I find that the stuff that used to drive me nuts, now, they just roll of my back. It’s not a problem.”

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Val Bridgeford, 57, joined the class two years ago when she was grieving the death of her mother.

“I saw the flier in the library,” she said. “I thought, for years I’ve wanted to learn to meditate. I tried it on my own and I just couldn’t do it. I thought, maybe this will help me.”

After attending a few classes, she suggested it to her brother, Gerald Bridgeford, 51, who also joined. After working for the same company for 25 years, he lost his job when it went out of business. He decided to go back to school, placing himself in a setting he hadn’t been in for 35 years.

“It helped me incorporate all that I’ve learned here,” Gerald Bridgeford said. “Everybody from class, when they heard I was in meditation, thought I was in a cult. I had to explain, ‘No, these are tools for everyday use to handle problems.’”

In the two years he’s been attending the class, he said his health has also improved.

Green launched into a teaching on anger when the first meditation finished, telling the class how it can destroy a situation and how to be aware of when anger arises. Green also defined anger as placing inappropriate attention on an object, living or inanimate, exaggerating that feeling, then developing a wish or intention to harm.

She emphasized focusing on the faults of anger and acknowledging that anger can often be viewed as something people need, such as in the case of bringing about social uprisings when people see an unfairness and want to be heard.

She suggested applying patience in the face of difficulties.

“[Anger] will take us over if we just go with it,” she said. “When we do those actions, we can’t take them back.”

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