News at Tipitaka Network
Embracing the calm
by Laura Cummings, EastOttawa.ca, Friday, August 29, 2008
As summer recedes and stressful fall routines creep in, one Beacon Hill North resident is helping others relax and unwind with the ancient Asian wellness practice of meditation.
Asoka Weerasinghe, a retired public servant and seasoned Anapana Sati meditation follower – as well as an active member of Ottawa’s Theravada Buddhist community – has been organizing meditation sittings at the Theravada Buddhist temple on Heron Road, Hilda Jayewardeneramaya, as well as in outdoor settings.
Twice-a-week noon-hour meditation sessions are offered at the temple, he explains, as well as twice-monthly sittings specifically for seniors. Recently added to the agenda was the inaugural ‘Meditation in the Park’, held Sunday, Aug. 24 at Strathcona Park, Weerasinghe recounts. Calling the event “very successful,” over 30 individuals came out last weekend to try their hand at meditation, he says, with the next outdoor session scheduled for September.
For any amateurs looking to give the art of meditation a try, they should start by sitting comfortably with their backs straight, typically in the lotus position, Weerasinghe explains. Once relaxed, they should fix their concentration at the tip of their nose, cut out any ambient noise and “try to understand the rhythm of their breathing, try to focus on where the breath goes in and out of the body,” he continues.
While the mind may start to wander, Weeransinghe says it’s a natural part of the process and once those slips of concentration are recognized, individuals can use methods like counting to regain their focus.
“It’s a difficult process in a way, because you have to train yourself to do this,” he adds.
Twenty minutes of meditation in a quiet place each day is an excellent way to unwind and de-stress, Weerasinghe continues, as well as promote positive energy and thoughts.
Concentrating of the principals of “loving-kindness,” the practitioner repeats wishes of goodwill – like “may I be well, happy and peaceful,” he recounts – for themselves, family members, friends, colleagues and even enemies.
For Weerasinghe, becoming a life-long meditator has lead to “calmness,” he explains, as well as the ability to better deal with strong emotions like anger.
“I try to be quiet as much as I can,” Weerasinghe says.
But “anyone and everyone” can gain something from participating in a meditation sitting, he continues, even on their first try. Meditation teaches how to be calm and serene, even when faced with stress in personal, social or professional settings, Weerasinghe adds.
Andrea Mailhot, a yoga instructor based in the east end, agrees that meditation has something to offer for everyone.
It calms both the mind and body, she explains, as well as improving focus, helping with mental abilities, boosting creativity and easing stress and anxiety.
“It’s good for you,” Mailhot says. “Everybody would benefit from meditation, from kids all the way up.”
Even less-than-healthy habits like excessive coffee consumption or road rage can often be conquered by adding meditation to a routine, she continues, encouraging beginner enthusiasts not to get disheartened quickly.
“Too many people get discouraged quite early,” Mailhot explains. “It’s not like a sport where you can pick it up right away, but it’ll benefit you in the long run.”
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