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Less stress, more joy


kadampa.jpgMrs. Lammers was a remarkable fifth grade teacher. I went to a Catholic grade school, and as part of our geography instruction that year, Mrs. Lammers included lessons about Tibet and its predominant religion of Buddhism. Seen from my young Catholic bubble, I thought Buddhism was cool. I still do.

I’m no Buddhism expert, but as I understand the core concepts of it, the cultivation of mindfulness, non-attachment, happiness and compassion are some of the main goals — not in some self-indulgent pursuit, but with the perspective that the more peaceful and happy we are in our own lives, the more we can lift up the people around us.

That seems like a worthy goal for 2013, I’d say. May we all get on board. And with that in mind, I decided to break out of my little workaday box recently and visit the Kadampa Meditation Center of New Mexico.Kadampa Buddhism is rooted in Tibetan Buddhism, yet independent and international in its focus. There are around 40 Kadampa meditation centers in the U.S., and around 1,000 worldwide. According to Kelsang Lhadron, the resident teacher at the Albuquerque center, Kadampa Buddhism is less tied to traditional strictures and more interested in offering an accessible form of Buddhism to people of all cultures.

There’s no doubt that the Albuquerque center is welcoming. Ongoing weekend and weekday meditation classes are available. I stopped in on a Thursday night for a meditation led by Lhadron. These $10 sessions run from 7-8:30 p.m., and are currently focused on the theme, “Less stress. Less worry. More happiness.” I was greeted warmly in the lobby of the center by Kelsang Dechok, who gave me a quick tour and turned me loose to the meditation room, where Lhadron was teaching and a group of 20 or so people sat in chairs. Upon starting, we meditated under Lhadron’s guidance for 10 minutes. She asked us to close our eyes and sit upright, and notice the thoughts that crossed our minds. As those thoughts danced, she said, pretend that they are black smoke, and with each breath you are blowing them out. And with each breath inward you are inhaling clean white light.

I’ve meditated before, and I’m always startled by how wild my mind can be in these quiet moments when we stop and pay attention to what’s running through our head. The thoughts — ‘I forgot to pay the car insurance,’ ‘I don’t see how I can make that work deadline,’ blah blah — are like an avalanche of boulders rolling down a mountain slope. There’s no stopping them. But an interesting thing happens as you sit there quietly. You start to see the thoughts build up and gain momentum, then roll by until replaced by another thought. You realize this is just your mind, spinning. It’s not you. You’re actually a pretty calm and cool customer. And then you’re like, “I got this meditation thing down.”

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– By Mike English

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