The class begins today at the Zen Buddhist Temple(1710 W. Cornelia Ave). It goes from 7pm to 8:30 (though don’t get too hung up on time, it can go long sometimes). The cost is $160 and the course lasts 8 weeks. If you’re interested you can give them a call 773-528-8685.
A couple of months ago I decided I need to learn to meditate. At the time, I was a first year teacher teaching 33 8th graders all subjects on the west side of Chicago. I also heard that meditation might help with a whole bunch of health related things such as ADHD, stress, and high blood pressure.
Teaching is a stressful job in and of itself. Add to that the fact that I was teaching way too many students every single subject (which is way too much planning for one teacher) and the other stresses of being a Chicago public school teacher (such as not getting paid for a month due to an accounting error), then it makes sense that I had high blood pressure and a pretty negative mental state.
I’ve always had an interest in Zen Buddhism partly because of my fascination with samurai and the Beat Generation. So I signed up for a five week zen meditation course at the Zen Buddhist Temple. I loved it for two reasons: one, it is a great and thorough introduction to the practice of mediation, and, two, it was a wonderful and insightful introduction into the ways and beliefs of Zen Buddhist. And meditating felt great, especially after a crazy day in the classroom. However, meditation is not easy for me. My thoughts move fast, and my body does not like to hold still. That means that I would get frustrated when the yoga instructor in the organic cotton sweat pants makes meditation seem like the easiest thing to do and find time for. Sure it’s easy if your job consists of helping adults stretch for an hour. Try spending 6 hours absorbing a deluge of misdirected anger while trying to get an unenthusiastic group of youth to focus on passing state standardized tests in math and reading so your school does not get shut down, then close your eyes and see what your brain has to say. (Quick post script to that: my students were 80% passing in reading and math which is pretty amazing and worth me taking this time to brag about it)
I am not telling you my frustrations to let you know I should have chosen to be a yoga teacher instead of an 8th grade teacher. I am telling you my frustrations because I want you (the person who is interested in Buddhism and/or meditation) to not be intimidated, and go learn. I still suck at meditation, but it is a practice. Like any practice, it’s awkward and difficult at first. Take time to enjoy that awkwardness and difficulty because as adults we don’t experience that enough. I also don’t make a very good Buddhist, but I’m a pretty lousy follower of any religion including atheism.
If you don’t have the money or can’t commit five Tuesdays, then stop by the temple for one of their two Sunday meditations. There is a service at 9:30am and 4:00pm. The services involve sitting meditation, chanting, and a dharma talk. If you are not sure what to do then just follow what the other people do. I never do the chanting since I do not know the Korean words they are saying. The dharma talks are talks lead by the head of the temple about some aspect of Buddhism, and are more enjoyable then my lackluster description just made them. In fact, the dharma talks are my favorite part of the services. Afterwards, you can have tea and go to an “ask a Buddhist” session to quench your curiosities about Buddhism.
Meditation is not a panacea, but it definitely helped me. Hopefully, it can do the same for you.
(“my other vehicle is the Mahayana” photo by ktheory)