Illinois

Blue Lotus Temple buys former Unitarian church

Chelsea McDougall, Northwest Herald, Il.: Monk Bhante Sujatha’s face drops when he’s in concentrated meditation. He sits cross legged on the floor on a firm pillow. He’s wrapped in a loose robe. His feet are shoeless. A Buddha statue in a similar pose sits directly behind him.

His muscles relax and it’s as if all the day’s problems have melted away.

The Blue Lotus Temple recently bought the former Unitarian Universalist Congregation near downtown Woodstock and Sujatha’s life just got a little more hectic.

The temple bought the building at 221 Dean St. for $125,000, and now is adjusting to mortgage payments and a slew of bills as the temple renovates the former church’s interior.

But Sujatha can deal with it. He’s studied the Buddhist teachings for more than 30 years. He teaches others self awareness and spiritual guidance, and he knows how to cope with struggles.

“Being a monk I don’t say my life is 100 percent peaceful,” he said. “No, I get distracted.”

Back from his mediation, Sujatha is lighthearted. One might even call him jovial. He often tells jokes and flashes a bright, white smile as he laughs along at his own quips.

“People think we are monks, we are so serious,” he said through a thick accent. English is a second language to the Sri Lanka native. “We are funny, always cracking jokes.”

It’s believable. Sujatha calls his smartphone an iMonk. Another young monk – the temple has four and one monastic nun – giggled at a silly YouTube video. Several monks on Friday had just gotten back from a snowy walk to Starbucks. Sujatha has a story for everything.

Having a place to call their own is a big change for Blue Lotus Temple. Until December the temple hosted meditations in the basement of the Unitarian Church.

“Now that we own the building, people feel like home,” Sujatha said.

When Sujatha first started leading meditations, protesters gathered outside the church. But 10 years later the community is more accepting, he said.

“People accept me as more than a religious leader, but as a peace maker,” Sujatha said. “They understand we are doing something wonderful for the community. Not harmful.”

The temple officially will open in May after a dedication at its annual Buddha Day celebration. Monks from all over the world have been invited to the temple’s dedication.

Until then, the temple is planning a large-scale renovation of the building’s interior, all while maintaining the building’s historical integrity. An archway and stained-glass windows with Christian religious icons will stay. The temple will continue hosting a PADS shelter site.

Blue Lotus Temple’s weekly meditations will continue through the renovations. Meditations are open to everyone, regardless of religious background. Meditations are held from 10 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays, and from 7 to 8 p.m. on Mondays. There is monastic practice open to the public from 6 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

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Meditation activity draws concern

Lawerence Synett: Students in a freshman honors English class at Prairie Ridge High School were asked to assume certain positions, chant and lie on the floor as part of an activity connected to reading the novel “The Alchemist,” drawing a complaint from a father who is a minister and thought the exercise had religious overtones.

Teacher Christine Wascher let students opt out if they felt uncomfortable, but now has stopped what was intended as a new way to relate to the book.

“What she had them do was a mind-clearing visualization exercise that a parent felt was transcendental meditation,” Superintendent Jill Hawk said. “It was an activity to engage them in a part of the book that talks about being one with the earth.”

Last month’s activity was designed to help students forge a…

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deeper connection to the text, Principal Paul Humpa said, and was followed by Wascher leading an analysis of specific quotes from the book.

“A parent felt that this could be considered an endorsement of the religious practice known as transcendental meditation,” Humpa said. “This was never the intent of the teacher.”

Transcendental meditation, based on ancient Hindu writings, uses breathing exercises and certain body positions for relaxation. While schools and other government entities cannot lead or organize what could be considered religious practices or endorse a particular religion, Hawk said there’s a fine line between trying to engage students and accommodating everyone.

“In this case, we had a teacher using a creative activity to engage her students in good literature,” Hawk said. “If we have an upset parent, we want to know why and resolve it. In the same sense, I don’t feel that we should have to design our curriculum and instructional practices to the ideology of a certain group.”

Douglas Mann, an ordained minister who works for the Christian-based International Aid Services, took offense to what his daughter described from her class.

“We decided that the lesson plan that day involved transcendental meditation-type poses and postures,” Mann said. “It was quite concerning for me, from my background as an ordained minister and my understanding of transcendentalism, and not wanting my kids forced into those type of positions.”

Mann met with Wascher and the department head about the lesson plan, at which time it was decided the activity would no longer be used as a teaching tool.

He also contacted The Rutherford Institute, a non-profit conservative legal organization dedicated to the defense of civil, especially religious, liberties and human rights. The group sent a letter to the district demanding the activity stop and never happen again.

“Most teachers have no clue what they can or cannot do,” said John Whitehead, president of the institute. “Teachers are forced to do these inventive things that aren’t necessarily bad, but illegal.”

Mann was pleased with the outcome.

“I was very satisfied with their response and they assured me that was an isolated incident, and I believe that,” Mann said. “This is a wonderful teacher, who aside from this incident, we are very pleased with.”

Wascher could not be reached for comment.

This is the second activity at Prairie Ridge in recent months that’s drawn a parental complaint. Late last fall, a parent complained that “The Vagina Dance” used to teach students about the female reproductive system was inappropriate. It is no longer used.

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Minding mindfulness can ease anxiety, depression

Helen Adamopoulos: First, get into a comfortable position. Keep your spine erect, but don’t get tense. Close your eyes. Now breathe. Concentrate on the air filling your lungs.

If your mind wanders, note the thought (with a label such as “last night’s dinner”) and then return your focus to your breathing.

That is how to practice basic mindfulness, a meditation technique that can help people cope with conditions including depression, anxiety and chronic pain, according to Chicago social worker Georgia Jones.

She teaches clinicians the fundamentals of mindfulness and its relevance to psychotherapy and covered the basics at a lecture Wednesday at Chicago Lakeshore Hospital.

Jones works for the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago and also has a private practice. She said she practices mindfulness meditation herself. She saw the lecture at the hospital as a good opportunity to spread the word about how it relates to psychotherapy.

“I’ve always been interested in how those two practices intersect and inform each other,” Jones said.

She defines mindfulness as “being where you are in the moment.” She said people are generally happier when they keep their minds on what they are currently doing instead of letting their thoughts wander.

Mindfulness has several components, aside from living in the moment, she said. One involves people who practice mindfulness creating a slight distance between themselves and the situation they are currently in by observing their thoughts and feelings.

“It gives you a little bit of space, a little bit of time,” she said. “The mindfulness allows that break in the automatic reactivity.”

This aspect of mindfulness can help people end negative behavior patterns.

Another key part of mindfulness is acceptance. Practitioners must approach their thoughts with a kind, compassionate and open attitude. They need to simply accept negative emotions and thoughts without seeking to change them, Jones said.

As an example of how that can help people in therapy, she described a client she saw on Tuesday night. The client had recently gone through a break-up and was anxious about being alone. She didn’t think she could live without her former significant other.

To calm the anxious woman down, Jones said she asked her to focus on the immediate moment: the state of her body, her feelings and her thoughts. This exercise in mindfulness made the client realize she was getting along just fine at that moment on her own.

“She could experience for herself that she could survive without that person,” Jones said.

Mindfulness also helps people cope with common annoyances, such as getting stuck in traffic, she said. Instead of trying to avoid those experiences, people should accept them as unavoidable and work to control how they react to these events.

“You can allow that experience to destroy you, or you can learn from that experience,” she said.

People suffering from depression can also benefit from mindfulness. Jones described another client who hated his job. He spent most of his time at work thinking about how he didn’t want to be there. Jones encouraged him to practice mindfulness while he worked, and he discovered that he actually enjoyed some aspects of the job, such as riding around in a van.

“He was able to experience a few moments of not being depressed on the job,” Jones said.

However, she noted that mindfulness may have drawbacks for some clients. Those recovering from traumatic physical experiences might have memories or flashbacks surface when they try to focus on their breathing. She said these individuals might benefit from concentrating on something outside their body, such as tactile sensations.

Jen Rude, a youth outreach minister who attended the lecture, said she intended on incorporating mindfulness into her work at The Night Ministry, a non-profit organization that offers supportive services to homeless and at-risk people in Chicago.

“I felt like there were some really practical ideas that you could use right away,” she said.

She said she intended on teaching the young adults she works with to concentrate on their breathing and note their feelings.

Tom Delegatto, hospital director of business development, said the psychiatric facility decided to address mindfulness because clinicians can use it to stay centered themselves as well as using it in therapy.

The lecture was part of the hospital’s Lunch-n-Learn series, which allows clinicians to learn more about behavioral health issues and earn continuing education units. For information about future programs, visit www.chicagolakeshorehospital.com/events.

via Medill

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Meditative channel added to TV choices at Illinois medical center

Patients watching television in their rooms at Springfield, Illinois, Memorial Medical Center now can turn on a channel that features instrumental music and soothing nature scenes.

The CARE Channel was added to the hospital’s TV lineup a few months ago, Memorial spokesman Michael Leathers said.

CARE, which stands for “Continuous Ambient Relaxation Environment,” is provided through a 19-year-old company in Reno, Nev., called Healing Healthcare Systems.

A news release from Memorial said the channel is designed “to enhance and promote healing.”

Susan Mazer, chief executive officer of Healing Healthcare Systems, said Wednesday the channel’s videos of waterfalls, mountain ranges, wildlife and flowers are not repetitive and have original music playing in the background.

“It’s kind of like walking in a garden,” she said.

The channel’s programming changes by the time of the day. It includes sunrise and sunset scenes during the day and starry skies at night, Mazer said.

More than 600 hospitals nationwide pay for the CARE Channel, which Mazer said has unique content designed to promote rest and sleep. Scenes on the channel focus on nature. They contain no people or “artifacts” of civilization such as telephone poles, fences or buildings, she said.

In downstate Illinois, the CARE Channel is offered at Taylorville Memorial Hospital, Passavant Area Hospital in Jacksonville, Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, and Methodist Medical Center in Peoria. The channel is scheduled to be switched on in April at Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Lincoln.

St. John’s Hospital in Springfield doesn’t offer the channel, but St. John’s spokeswoman Erica Smith said the hospital does have “meditation” recordings on CDs and cassettes that patients can play in their rooms.

A sample of the CARE Channel is available at www.healinghealth.com.

Memorial officials didn’t say how much the hospital pays for the 24-hour service, but Mazer said: “The cost is truly reasonable. It’s pennies per bed per day.”

Dean Olsen can be reached at 788-1543.

[via BeHealthySpringfield.com]
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Patch portrait: meditate on this

Holding a little bell in one hand, Dr. Om Johari instructed the eight meditation students before him in a Niles classroom to focus on breathing in and breathing out.

As they focused, he occasionally tapped the bell, producing a chime that reminded them to bring their attention back to their breathing.

“His meditation techniques have helped me so much,” said one of the class members, who didn’t want her name used. “It helps me not to worry about things as much as I used to.”

That’s exactly why Johari, 70, facilitates the meditation classes, as well as teaching laughter meditation, sudoku and a certified driving course for people age 50-plus that can get them a discount on their auto insurance.

He started life as a scientist, leaving his native India to get his Ph.D in materials science, specializing in electron microscopy at the University of California-Berkeley.

He worked for 11 years at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, then started his own…

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business in 1977, publishing and organizing conferences in the electron microscopy field.After retiring in 2001, Johari was looking for activities to do in his retirement and decided to teach driving safety courses to seniors. When he was teaching a woman who complained that her mind raced too much when she tried to drive, he taught her a meditation technique. Staff at the Wheeling Senior Center heard about that, and asked him to teach meditation.

It went over so well that when he offered to teach sudoku, gratitude meditation and laughter meditation, the answer came back an unequivocal “yes.”

Now he teaches those subjects and more, such as a program for cancer survivors, at the Niles Senior Center and senior centers and park districts in Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village and elsewhere. He lives in Elk Grove Village with his wife; one son teaches at Stanford University and the other runs a business in Minneapolis.

Johari teaches nearly every day, and says it energizes him.

“I don’t count the hours,” he said, “because it’s so much fun to do it.”

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Yoga class aims to heal trauma victims

wildmind meditation news

Matt Brennan, The Beacon-News: Medical studies show that trauma is carried by cells and tissue in the body. Physical activities such as yoga can help alleviate that trauma. A Geneva social worker and a yoga instructor are teaming up to offer a program helping those who suffer from PTSD to heal.

“There’s no other program out there combining the verbal and nonverbal like this,” according to Isie Brindley, a licensed clinical professional counselor practicing in Geneva.

Brindley is working with Green Leaf Yoga instructor Pam O’Brien to develop a program that incorporates the benefits of therapy with a type of yoga designed to help victims of trauma. The program they are looking to create is called Pathways to Empowerment.

They are trying to generate enough local interest to begin the class.

Sometimes someone with severe trauma has lost the connection between mind and body. Something simple such as a command to lift your left leg may not compute in the mind of a trauma victim, she said.

“It helps people come back to awareness and learning how to self regulate,” she said.

Yoga for trauma patients is different than traditional yoga in how it is taught. It involves a more sensitive approach.

“The intention is different,” she said. “With this, you never force and you never push. You’re just inviting the student to explore.”

O’Brien is a certified Trauma Sensitive Yoga Teacher through the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Mass. The class she is certified to teach is based on the research of Bessel van der Kolk, an expert on PTSD who is exploring the use of yoga to regain a physical mastery.

O’Brien is currently teaching an eight-week session of yoga geared toward trauma victims. For that class, there is a screening process to ensure that people are also seeking outside help.

With the program they are looking to create, O’Brien and Brindley will be able to more closely intertwine the yoga and therapy. Brindley said it would help to put someone in a place where they can process the information related to their PTSD without the trauma.

“It’s shifting the unconscious mind into the conscious memory,” Brindley said. “Rather than being victimized, they’re now in control.” The therapy also will help them to process the information related to the incident, she said.

Original article no longer available

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begin the class.

Sometimes someone with severe trauma has lost the connection between mind and body. Something simple such as a command to lift your left leg may not compute in the mind of a trauma victim, she said.

“It helps people come back to awareness and learning how to self regulate,” she said.

Yoga for trauma patients is different than traditional yoga in how it is taught. It involves a more sensitive approach.

“The intention is different,” she said. “With this, you never force and you never push. You’re just inviting the student to explore.”

O’Brien is a certified Trauma Sensitive Yoga Teacher through the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Mass. The class she is certified to teach is based on the research of Bessel van der Kolk, an expert on PTSD who is exploring the use of yoga to regain a physical mastery.

O’Brien is currently teaching an eight-week session of yoga geared toward trauma victims. For that class, there is a screening process to ensure that people are also seeking outside help.

With the program they are looking to create, O’Brien and Brindley will be able to more closely intertwine the yoga and therapy. Brindley said it would help to put someone in a place where they can process the information related to their PTSD without the trauma.

“It’s shifting the unconscious mind into the conscious memory,” Brindley said. “Rather than being victimized, they’re now in control.” The therapy also will help them to process the information related to the incident, she said.

For more information on yoga for trauma patients, visit www.greenleafyogastudio.com or call 630-917-9171.

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Great escape: Meditation for active moms in downtown Palatine, Illinois

wildmind meditation news

Melanie Santostefano, Patch: If you’ve already experienced yoga or you’re thinking about trying it, Himalayan Yoga and Meditation Center in downtown Palatine could help you find the peace and balance so many busy Moms seek.

“Our focus is on meditation; it will help with stilling and quieting your mind so you can begin to discover more about yourself,” said Diane McDonald, director.

During meditation, instructors encourage students to keep their spines straight, which not only promotes good posture but also proper breathing technique.

McDonald said classes can give Moms the tools to meditate at home so even the busiest calendars can be accommodated.

“Meditation has really helped me to focus; as Moms we do so much multi-tasking and 20 minutes of meditation in the morning helps me to feel centered the entire day,” said McDonald.

“It calms me, makes me more alert and my awareness is heightened,” said McDonald.

A six-week meditation course is set to begin Thursdays from 6:15 p.m. to 7:30p.m. starting Feb. 24.

The second four-week class will be held Saturdays from 10:30a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; but the start date has not yet been scheduled.

Between now and April 15, ‘Patch Moms’ can take advantage of a 10 percent discount; just mention the ‘Patch offer’ when you call.

“Meditation creates an inner awareness and attention, and that is where you want to be,” said McDonald.

Original article no longer available

Bodhipaksa

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

so even the busiest calendars can be accommodated.

“Meditation has really helped me to focus; as Moms we do so much multi-tasking and 20 minutes of meditation in the morning helps me to feel centered the entire day,” said McDonald.

“It calms me, makes me more alert and my awareness is heightened,” said McDonald.

A six-week meditation course is set to begin Thursdays from 6:15 p.m. to 7:30p.m. starting Feb. 24.

The second four-week class will be held Saturdays from 10:30a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; but the start date has not yet been scheduled.

Between now and April 15, ‘Patch Moms’ can take advantage of a 10 percent discount; just mention the ‘Patch offer’ when you call.

To learn more, observe a class or to register, call 847-221-5250.

“Meditation creates an inner awareness and attention, and that is where you want to be,” said McDonald.

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