Nine of us sit together inside a small room toward the back of St. Helens Hall on the Trinity Episcopal Church campus. We're here to calm the mind.
It's hard work.
You've heard of Monday Night Football? Call this Monday Night Mindfulness, courtesy of a local group known as Bend Zendo. Each Monday, this group, along with meditators from Bend Zen, gather here to take another small step on a never-ending journey.
The night's divided into two parts.
1. The Dharma Talk
Tom Wykes, one of the original founders of these groups, leads the nearly hour-long "dharma talk" – which covers different mindfulness/meditation themes. The talk begins with introductions, with each person having a chance to speak for a minute or two about topics generally revolving around their current meditation practice.
Afterward, the conversation shifts to what it takes to meditate consistently on an (ideally) daily basis. You wouldn't think it's that difficult, this notion of paying attention to the present moment and just noticing when the mind begins to wander. (When it does, the instruction is to bring the focus back to your breathing.)
If you think this sounds easy, perhaps you've never tried it.
The first step, Wykes suggests, is to simply make a commitment to meditate each day. Next comes "showing up." The third he borrows from writer Flannery O'Connor, who once advocated setting aside three hours a day to write. It's perfectly OK, she said, if you decide not to write during those three hours. The catch? You can't do anything else.
The same principle, Wykes hints, can easily apply to meditation. It's a simple, yet powerful discussion with all participants invited to take part. The talk lasts about 45 minutes followed by a short break.
"May I be well. May I be at peace. May I be joyful. May I awaken."
2. The Meditation
Now comes the time to put theory into practice—literally. We total nearly 20 people after joining the Bend Zen meditators who have gathered inside St. Helens Hall. Once together in one big group, our meditation begins with a chant. Then comes three silent 25-minute sessions divided by two brief periods of silent "walking meditation." Trying to sit (or walk) for a total of 85 minutes while focusing only on your breathing is like going out to a river and trying to stop the water from moving. Has anyone perfected this?
Probably not, but now you see why they call it a "practice."
Once you attempt to calm your thoughts, you notice how they're typically a frazzled stream of words and images. Your job, your house, your finances, your car. It's a jumble. The problem here? A mind like this can often lead you to some troubled places. No doubt, meditation takes a long time to learn, but just from one evening inside St. Helens Hall, you can subtly begin to feel the effects and imagine how a dedicated practice might lead to less suffering and, the theory goes, more happiness.
"The Buddha Way is unsurpassable. I vow to embody it."
Following the evening's final chant, we head out into the night. We're taking deeper breaths and noticing our thoughts. We're not there yet.
But we're on the path.
Editor's note: The Source's calendar is one of readers' favorite features—so we figured, why not start trying out some of the many events we list each week? In this new "Calendar Tap" feature, Source writers open a page of the calendar, close their eyes, tap one of the events—and then go try it out. Look for Calendar Tap in the 1st issue of each month.
Brooks Hall at Trinity Episcopal Church
469 Wall St., Bend
Email: [email protected]
Look for listings like this in the "Meetings" and "Wellness" sections of the Source calendar.See the calendar listing here