Many meditate to stay focused

Chelsie Hanstad

Seated on small black cushions on the floor of a small Coffman Union room, the Diamond Way Buddhist Meditation group settles in for its weekly meeting at the University. Some sit with legs akimbo. Others sit with a leg on each side of the cushion. Some hold beads with their eyes closed, deep in concentration.

“Karmapa Chenno!” or “The power of all Buddhas works through us!” is written on a white board. The phrase will be repeated later in the meditation.

“Try to sit with your back straight. Sit comfortably,” said Eric Gibson, one of the more

experienced group members. He was instructing those who were there for the first time.

“You can’t do this wrong,” he said.

The meditation begins. Lakeesha Bowers reads calmly from a small book in front of her. Everyone else falls silent. For 15 minutes, they concentrate, occasionally punctuating the space between Bowers’ words with their own.

“Om Ö”

Meditation helps the mind and body, said Aaron Crook, a Diamond Way officer.

Each person has a different story about how they discovered Buddhist meditation and what it has given them. But most students participating in the group said meditation helps them keep their lives organized and their minds clear.

“I’d go in sleepy and kind of sad and leave feeling wonderful,” said Bowers, one of the more experienced members leading the group.

“It helps you focus and keep your life organized,” said first-year biochemistry student Jonathan Popko.

“Guided meditation has a flow to it,” said Andrea Loubert, a first-year elementary education student who tried a few different meditation centers before finding the campus group.

“Life has its ups and downs. Meditating helps keep it in the middle,” said Jody Rader, an art and architecture junior.

Kimberly Johnson of the Minneapolis Zen Center said many people come to Zen meditation – a meditation founded in Zen Buddhism – because “they’ve had some sort of crisis. It may be health-related, may not be.”

The benefits are apparent to those who practice, but abstract to explain.

“It does appear that Zen meditation or meditation of any kind can help to integrate the body and the mind,” she said.

“Our groups are for lay people and our members are not monks, but normal people who do normal jobs,” Crook said.