Woman brings meditation movement into south Chicago suburbs

wildmind meditation news

 Denise Baran-Unland, Herald-News, Chicago: A small, quiet flash mob assembled Dec. 22 at the New Lenox Public Library and, instead of singing, they mediated, leaving behind a spirit of calm, serenity and stillness.

The event was soothing and educational for participants and those spectators unaccustomed to the mechanics and benefits of meditation. More than 20 cities worldwide participated in meditation on the same night, said Michelle Ann Frank, founder of MedMob South Suburban Chicago.

“Some people think meditation is religious, that’s it’s about worshipping false gods or that it’s for pot-smoking hippies, but science has shown we’re wired for this,” Frank said. “I just want people to know all the good it can do. We’ve have the Occupy movement, but this is a way to change things without saying one word.”

Worldwide movement

The New Lenox Library will host a second MedMob on Saturday. Frank’s chapter is part of a worldwide movement to send positive energy into the world through meditation. Frank will offer meditation instruction prior to the event so even the uninitiated may participate if they wish.

The basic method Frank will demonstrate is a simple process of mentally tracking one’s breathing. Sitting cross-legged on the floor is not mandatory. One may successfully meditate from a chair.

“We want you to be comfortable, enjoy the experience and not have any goals in mind,” Frank said. “If you find yourself planning your grocery list, just come back to concentrating on your breathing.”

Frank understands the misconceptions surrounding meditation. She herself experienced them 10 years ago when she first began meditating. Then, Frank thought proper meditation meant ceasing to think. When that did not happen, Frank became frustrated until a teacher simplified the process for her.

“He explained how the act of the mind is thought, so meditation is not about shutting off all thought, because you are going to think,” Frank said. “You just don’t want to get wrapped up in your thoughts while you are meditation. From that point on, I meditated every day.”

Library welcomes group

Kate Hall, director of the library, said inviting MedMob South Suburban Chicago is part of the library’s overall mission: to provide a variety of educational resources to its patrons. Hall had even created a display of supplementary meditation materials for the December event, which she will repeat Saturday.

“So many people today are looking for ways to relieve stress and become healthier, more balanced and centered,” Hall said. “This fit in well with it.”

Dulcinea Hawksworth of Joliet, who attended the December event and plans to participate in the next one, feels the overall environment of the library prepares one to meditate.

“The coffee shop has cinnamon rolls and a lot of wonderful windows close to the landscaping,” Hawksworth said, “so you can sit down, enjoy your coffee and a good book while looking out a window at the beautiful scenery.”

Some people believe prayer and meditation are identical — because they both stress focus — but Hawksworth sees one distinct difference.

“When you pray, you are asking the universe for what you need,” Hawksworth said, “but when you meditate, you get the answer. If you are not meditating, you are not listening.”

The one-hour event concluded with an 11-minute sound bath, where those meditating chanted a single syllable — such as Om — or created certain tones with a singing bowl. At the sound bath’s conclusion, the mob was done.

“People chant at their own pace and men have different voices than women,” Hawksworth said, “but it all came together because it’s the same two or three sounds repeated.”

Read the original article »


Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Read More

Readying for quiet–but joyous–celebration

Manya A. Brachear, Chicago Tribune: For some Zen practitioners, an all-night session of intense meditation in honor of the Buddha’s enlightenment is a virtual Buddhist boot camp–a rigorous regimen that prepares them to rise above any challenge, whether mental, physical or spiritual. For others, like Nabi Anita Evans, it’s a welcome respite from the other holidays’ hustle and bustle–a chance to clean the clutter from her mind and start the year anew.

“I really feel like I need to recharge myself,” said Evans, a Chicagoan who took the name Nabi when she became a Buddhist last year. “I like to go in and not expect anything and be open to how it affects me. I do hope it gives me some renewed energy to start the new year with a kick in the butt.”

Although some Buddhists celebrate their founder’s birth, enlightenment and passage into nirvana in the spring, followers of East Asian traditions observe the enlightenment anniversary in December…

Read the rest of the article…

Called Bodhi Day, the holiday celebrates Buddhism’s beginnings, when its founder, the Indian prince Siddhartha Gautama, attained enlightenment. After a six-year journey to find the meaning of life, he fasted to free his spirit, replenished himself with a dish of rice and milk, then sat overnight meditating underneath the Bodhi tree. When he awoke, he turned his eyes to the heavens, saw the morning star and was enlightened.

On Friday, Evans and other members of Chicago’s Buddhist Society of Compassionate Wisdom will begin a five-day retreat at Zen Buddhist Temple, 1710 W. Cornelia Ave. The retreat ends Wednesday, but not before members complete an eight-hour overnight sitting to commemorate the holiest day of the year.

In Zen Buddhist sects, predominant in the Chicago area, the occasion calls for intensive meditation, or sesshin, a metaphorical re-enactment of the Buddha’s quest for spiritual enlightenment.

In a meditation hall with mirrors, practitioners will sit from 8 p.m. Tuesday to 4 a.m. Wednesday, just as the Buddha did roughly 2,500 years ago.

Although members can meditate in two-hour intervals between 8 p.m. and midnight, those there at midnight must stay sequestered until 4 a.m.

To clear the mind, novices are taught to focus on their breathing, counting as they inhale and exhale. More advanced students concentrate on spiritual riddles referred to as koans.

Questions can include: “What is it?” “Who am I?” and “Where does a flame go when it goes out?”

The riddles, which have no answers, force the students to suspend their thought processes to reach a deeper truth.

“We always use our mind in a reasonable, reasoning fashion,” said Sensei Sevan Ross, who is head of Chicago Zen Center, 2029 Ridge Ave., Evanston. “What Zen requires is that we use it in a very different way. It’s like working a weak muscle. We must alter the way we use our minds for spiritual growth.”

Regardless of the tools available, sitting for even a half-hour in the lotus position and emptying one’s mind can be arduous.

Knees, ankles and other joints begin to ache. The mind starts to wander and daydreams take hold, as does exhaustion.

Thinking about the suffering only makes it worse, said Kosu Diane Snider, who became a Buddhist in 1997. The purpose of the sesshin is to rise above it, she said.

“I can be struggling and feeling like I’m going nowhere, and in a moment it clicks,” Snider said. “All of a sudden I can concentrate, and it feels wonderful.”

Kojun Kim Rodriguez remembers crossing that threshold during her first Bodhi Day sesshin in 1997.

Her body temperature suddenly rose as if a fever were washing over her. Then, as if the fever had broken, she was overcome by euphoria.

Ross said Zen is a practice of spiritual cleansing from experience instead of doctrine.

“The sesshin may be the most noble and most intense experience that a human being can pass through outside things like childbirth or near-death experiences,” Ross said. “Most people after sesshin feel like a lot of the weight has been lifted from them. What’s been lifted is the weight of their personality.”

That feeling of accomplishment is celebrated when the meditation ends. Practitioners leave their coats behind, venture out into the frigid dawn and look at the stars. The awakening is exhilarating, Evans said.

“There we are, just a bunch of Buddhas standing in the street laughing at the stars.”

Snider said what the Buddha saw when he looked at the morning star is yet another koan.

“What he saw is something that is not visible with our eyes,” she said.

Back inside, members eat porridge of brown rice, seeds and nuts boiled in soymilk, similar to what the Buddha ate before his enlightenment.

It is another reminder that everyone has a Buddha nature and thus the capacity for enlightenment.

For Rodriguez, the meditation strengthened her resolve to stay on her spiritual path.

“Something inside me significantly shifted,” Rodriguez said. “Suddenly, going to meditation wasn’t a drag anymore. It kind of inspired me to keep meditating.

“It gets very crystal clear what it’s all about.”

Read More