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Located in the downtown area of the rural college town Northfield, Minnesota, the Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center celebrated its 17 year anniversary on April 14, 2013. Though it is now a center with a fairly sizable membership and its own space to call home, it started as just a few people circulating between one another's own homes. Founding member and local professor of religion Roger Jackson recalls that the motley group of Northfield residents interested in various types of Buddhist meditation drifted "from living room to living room on Sunday mornings" for several months before finding a regular site. Eventually, the group moved to an art studio run by one of the members' wives, where they "would have to clear out all the art stuff so we would have space for sitting [meditation]." The group also used a meeting room in the Northfield Arts Guild, and eventually found a space of its own in a small office building next to a construction company. The NBMC found its current location just over a decade ago.
With high ceilings, large windows facing out over Division Street, plain off-white walls, simple black mats, and two subdued Buddhist shrines or altars in each corner, the meditation area exudes an atmosphere of calmness and simplicity. The number of current members fluctuates, but an average Sunday meditation practice draws between 10 and 20 people. The center's bimonthly Dharma Talks from local and regional teachers draw larger groups. The center's membership is primarily Caucasian, which is also a reflection of the town’s demographics generally.
The NBMC is an entirely donation-dependent non-profit, and, during the economic downturn, not unlike other non-profits, they have struggled to meet their expenses, including rent. Their solution was to share their space and the expenses, by renting it to two other businesses, a tactic that many religious organizations have turned to in these economic times. They were deliberate about what kind of businesses would be able to share the space. They now rent to a yoga studio and a healing practice.