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Meditating at the NBMC
“. . . meditation practice is transformative. . .”
“‘radical acceptance’ and that’s what meditation is, in a way, . . . it’s radical self-acceptance because you are looking at what’s going on in your mind, completely, and not trying to stop anything, not trying to get something.”
The meditation area of the NBMC is striking in its simplicity and tranquil. Its high ceilings, off-white walls, large windows, and relative lack of decoration unite in an aesthetic that calls attention to the practice, rather than the environment. Though the sounds of cars rushing by are audible, they seem to fade into the background. Every once and awhile, a car horn honks, someone outside yells, or some other loud noise reaches the sanctuary of the NBMC, but part of meditative practice at the center is learning to accept disruption, and learning to accept that whatever is, is.
“. . . being in that space, it’s a kind of a sacred space,it’s quiet, it’s. . . other people are there. The meditation is timed, it does create an opportunity for discipline. . .
As a non-denominational center, the NBMC is united by one common thread: silent meditation. Some people practice Zen meditation, some Theravada or “mindfulness” meditation, some Tibetan, some Mahayana, some an entirely secular version, some combinations, and some entirely different forms of meditation. What type of meditation one practices at the center, though, is part of one’s own individual practice.
They share their practice in silence
It is internal and personal. When a group of people are sitting, they do not know if members of the group are all practicing the same version of meditation, but they share their practice in silence. One member will time the sit, and beginning and ending it with a gentle tap on a gong. Some people sit on the black mats provided, and some sit in chairs at the back to be more comfortable. When the gong sounds to end a sit, and those sitting begin to come out of meditation, the silence continues for awhile until giving way to friendly conversation among those who had been sitting.
“. . . I like the camaraderie. I like the ideas of the others . . . everybody gathering to support each other in a very silent and sort of implicit way, in pursuing the same activity. . .”
Many members have participated in short or long meditative retreats that help individuals develop both meditative practices and understanding of Buddhism. Some members described meditative retreats abroad, and many described local retreats, including some with Mark Nunberg’s mindfulness-based Common Ground Meditation Center in the Twin Cities. Some members had experience with meditation, either through retreats or through individual practice before joining this center, while some began developing their connections with meditation after coming to the NBMC.
“. . . the support is important, I think, knowing that other people are doing this and you’re going, okay, I’m not the only one sitting here. . .”
Meditating at the center is different for everyone, but many speak of two distinct characteristics: group support and individuality. While one’s own meditation practice is seen by members as very much determined by one’s own decisions, beliefs, and understanding, many also feel that having the support of other people who also are working to develop their individual practices to be extremely helpful. Members support one another and truly want to help one another develop a meaningful meditation practice. Both at practice periods and regular sits, the members sitting are very attentive to those sitting with them, and not just to themselves. At the same time, there seems to be an unspoken agreement of not intruding on those who wish to come anonymously to meditate. If people want simply to meditate, that is fine. If people want to share personal questions about Buddhism or meditation, that is also fine. One interesting thing that several people mentioned is that, though they are interested in developing their own individual practices, they really love the idea that the center is open to anyone, and that the center can provide a sanctuary to those who need it.