Naturally Rockford: Finding enlightenment and wisdom through Zen

The carpeted floor around me began to meld into an array of blue and purple blobs that seemed to float gently. The floor commenced to move in waves. No, this wasn’t a drug-induced stupor. This was one of the side effects of my first instructed meditation experience.

Rock Valley College history professor Dr. Beth Ingle has coordinated a Zen meditation session open to all. She hopes regular sitting sessions can be developed encompassing all people. She feels meditation “brings together different communities.”

Reverend Meido Moore, a Zen priest with 17 years of meditation experience from the Chozen-ji Illinois Betsuin temple of Chicago, leader of the gathering, explains that, “during meditation, when one is trying to keep a clear mind, the brain becomes bored, and starts to conjure up visions.” He goes on to explain once these visions are conquered, one can truly free the mind, and meditation really begins to work.

The traditional goal of Zen meditation is enlightenment and wisdom from within, but people practice for many reasons. From anger management, to increasing focus, to spiritual quests, to taking a break from the world for a while, meditation is a wonderful release.

One of Moore’s main goals is to make meditation accessible to all people. Moore says humanity is analogous to a wave structure. “We are not separate points,” he says, “but all different parts of a wave, one movement connected.” One of the offerings of meditation is feeling a bond with the very ground you sit on in the present moment; and from there, everything—helping you deal with every aspect of life.

It’s interesting how this all came about. Professor Ingle attended a Japanese festival at Anderson Gardens where Moore was demonstrating his proficiency in Aikido martial arts. Ingle invited Moore to her Eastern Civilization classes, where he spoke of Aikido, Buddhism, and meditation. When Ingle proposed a meeting out-of-class to learn meditation technique, many students responded enthusiastically. After an initial session at Rock Valley College, the monthly meditation session moved to Pranayama Studio, where Ingle attends Yoga classes.

Joan Hurd and Mary Beth Robertson, owners of Pranayama Yoga Studio, have been kind enough to offer a space free of charge to parties interested in these meditation sessions. People in the Rockford area are being offered a place to connect, de-stress, and relax; all appreciated and needed commodities.

Tips for meditation:

Find a quiet spot where you’ll be undisturbed.

Sit Burmese style, half-lotus, or full lotus, whichever is most comfortable.

Have your spine straight (sitting on cushions helps), slightly leaning forward.

Put your left hand in front of you, grasp your left thumb with your right hand, enclose your right hand with your left fingers, and bring the combination to your center of gravity, palms up.

Rock gently back and forth; slow it down until you find a comfortable sitting zone, keeping your spine straight.

Relax all muscles, including your belly (your stomach should move out when you breathe in).

Keep your head focused straight ahead. Lower your eyes (not your head) about 45 degrees, keeping them open, taking in your peripheral vision instead of focusing on one spot.

Breathe in. For each breath out, count a number up to 10, and then begin again. Don’t let your mind wander from this count.

Eventually, one can master meditation and allow it to help in life. Mike Karceski, a meditation participant, says meditation has “eliminated unnecessary clutter of everyday life. Life has become clearer and easier.” It seems the act of sitting quietly has much potential.

From the May 4-10, 2005, issue

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