Utah Buddhists share meditation tips

Brigham Young University: Members from several different sects of Buddhism came to the Jordan Peace Park in Salt Lake City, Saturday, June 7, for music, poetry, dancing and meditation.

Change Your Mind Day, a Buddhist gathering, takes place in over 30 cities across the United States.

This year marked the third annual celebration of the event in Utah.

During the tradition, different Buddhists come together to teach and learn meditation techniques from a variety of Buddhist traditions.

“The teachings and meditations focus on awareness and compassion, and they are appreciated by anyone wanting more spiritual understanding,” said Rande Brown, the national Change Your Mind Day coordinator. “Change Your Mind Day reflects the Buddhist concept that if we transform our thinking from confusion to wisdom, we will have much happier lives.”

Shirley Ray, a resident of Salt Lake City and an organizer of the event, said many people have misconceptions about Buddhism.

Buddhism is not a religion but rather a way of thought, Ray said.

In Buddhism, there is no church and there is no hierarchy, someone simply chooses the way of thought and they do it for themselves, Ray said.

“What we teach is how to meditate and to listen to your inner wisdom and to know your own mind,” she said. “That is the only reason for mediation – to sit and watch the mind.”

Ray said Western Buddhism comes from many different stems of Buddhism that intermingle and converge.

“Each sect of Buddhism is a cultural-based expression of Buddhism,” she said. “Since the turn of the century, we have been developing a Western Buddhism, so that it reflects our culture, like in other Asian cultures,” Ray said.

Change Your Mind Day is unique because it brings together a tapestry of beliefs and approaches found only in Western Buddhism, Ray said.

Roberta Chase, a Salt Lake City resident attending the gathering, was drawn to the Buddhist way of thought five years ago because of the example of a Tibetan family.

Chase said she noticed how peaceful, kind and loving the family was, and she found a greater respect for the things of this life.

“I came to realize that I could be a better person by incorporating some of the principles they lived by,” she said. “It has given me more respect for life and an appreciation for people.”

Chase said the Buddhist way is much a philosophical, rather than a religious practice.

“Buddhism does not address the idea of a God, so you can live your life according to these ideas and be any religion,” she said. “There is no conflict.”

Chase said they don’t worship Buddha either and that Western culture often has a misunderstanding about how they worship.

Chase said it is a tradition to bow to the Buddha, and it is much like saying hello.

“When Westerners see this, they think that we are bowing to a golden statue,” she said. “Buddha was only a man, a teacher who came up with these ideas.”

This is how Buddhists show respect and tradition, and how they greet each other, Chase said. She said they bow to friends and family as well.

Chase said this change of thought has helped her in her life.

“It’s inspirational,” she said. “It’s a practice that you can use every moment of your life especially in being kind to everyone and not excluding anyone or anything.”

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