Theresa Hogue, Corvallis Gazette-Times (Oregon): When Abby Terris was a little girl, she used to sit in the garden and do absolutely nothing, and it was wonderful.
When she got a little older, and the world got a little more complicated, that kind of peace left her for awhile. But she found it again when she discovered Zen meditation and learned once again to live in the moment.
Her first experience with Zen meditation took place 28 years ago, when she sat in with a Zen group at a friend’s urging.
“I didn’t have a reason, it just seemed right,” she recalled. “It was truly intuitive.”
While Terris had tried other forms of meditation, the practice based on Zen Buddhist principles was the right fit for her.
“You feel like you’ve come home,” she said. “It’s something natural.”
Terris is now a licensed counselor at Heartspring Wellness Center…
at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, as well as a dharma holder in an old Zen lineage. She leads a Zen meditation group every Sunday in Corvallis, and she suggests meditation to some of her counseling clients.
As the New Year arrives, many people focus on resolutions both realistic and far-fetched, but most involve self-improvement and making a better life. Meditation might be one way some consider changing their lives because, although less dramatic than diets and exercise regimes, it can alter the practitioner’s attitude and outlook.
Meditation is not just for relaxing, although that can be a primary benefit. It is important to find something in life that demands moments of absolute focus, Terris said, and it doesn’t have to be just sitting quietly.
“Not everybody can do that,” she said. “It can be running, swimming, something you are pointedly focused on. There’s so many different ways to meditate. They all use the same focal practice.”
Meditation helps the practitioner temporarily forget the past and the future and instead focus on one idea, “a mantra, counting breath, visualization or a feeling of kindness and intention.”
It’s not about achieving a goal, Terris said.
“You don’t meditate to get something,” she said, although at a certain level, meditation can bring about peace, relaxation and even realizations about life. When Terris began meditating on a regular basis, she found her life and viewpoint changing.
“My mind was more settled, my focus was better, I was not so scattered,” she said. “I attended more fully. I was more aware of what was going on in life, moment by moment.”
Kicking out the mental clutter and concentrating can help people see things in their life a little more clearly.
“My favorite thing to say is, ‘No place to go and nothing to do,’ ” Terris said.
Adults frequently can’t imagine taking a moment out of their lives to concentrate on doing nothing. It’s hard to cast off that goal-oriented attitude. But it can be worth it.
“They get much more in touch with what they’re feeling,” she said. “It helps them put a lag time between their reaction and acting the reaction out.”
It can improve sleep and reduce stress and chronic pain, as well. And while Terris is a Buddhist, meditation does not have to be linked to a religious or spiritual practice. She does encourage those interested in meditation to take some introductory courses before sitting in on a group, mainly because it’s frustrating to be with so many people meditating without really knowing what’s going on.
Once every couple of weeks, Terris teaches an hourlong orientation to her Zen meditation group, which meets at 7 p.m. each Sunday night at Return to Edin in downtown Corvallis.
Meditation classes also are offered at Heartspring Wellness Center, including an upcoming course on reflection, titled “Loving Kindness Practice,” that starts Jan. 14.