Mindfulness at the Shambhala Meditation Center

June 12, 2019

Along with terms such as ‘global warming’ and ‘artificial intelligence’, mindfulness is a term that is becoming increasingly relevant in the world of today. A quick Google search reveals the definition of mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” In other words, mindfulness makes us focus on the present in an attempt to not let regrets from the past or worries about the future invade our minds. It makes us be aware of ourselves, the way we are feeling, and our surroundings. When was the last time you walked along the road and looked around at the houses, trees, and birds, instead of immersing yourself in your smartphone, or chatting with another person, or listening to music? I asked myself this question and found that the answer is surprisingly hard. It seems that most of the time when I walk, I think of other things that have gone by or are coming up, or focus on my smartphone. In other words, I am not mindful most of the time. Which brings us to the question – why is mindfulness important?

It is difficult to give a succinct and universally correct answer to this question. Mindfulness may work differently for you than it does for me. In general, mindfulness helps people relax and be calmer. Not worrying about the past or future makes you more accepting of your life, which makes you feel happier. Ever heard about the cup which is half-full? Or is it half-empty? Your worries make you think of it as half-empty, hence making you unhappy. Mindfulness makes you focus on what you have, which is a cup which is half-full, hence making you happy. In other words, mindfulness makes you accept what there is. This can help alleviate stress and anxiety, and improve mental health.

USC has several resources dedicated to mindfulness such as classes and practice groups. Information regarding these can be found at their website. For the purposes of this article however, let me tell you about Shambhala – an organization to practice meditation. I will not go into exact definitions of meditation (if there even is such a thing), however for me personally, meditating at Shambhala helps me to develop a more mindful attitude towards life. Shambhala has various activities; the one I like to attend is Young Meditators of LA – a group which meets in west LA every other Monday, and northeast LA every other Friday. You can find the exact logistical details from their website and Meetup group.

Here’s what happens in a typical Friday evening meetup. People arrive between 7:30 to 8 pm – this time is meant for socializing and getting to know new faces. Nearly half the faces are new in every session. There are snacks and delicious green tea to be had during this time. A few minutes after 8, the meditation instructor leads us to the main meditation room. We sit in a circle, either on floor cushions or regular chairs. The instructor gives some general directions, but essentially each attendee is free to pick his or her own style of meditating. For me personally, I sit quietly and gaze at the floor about four feet in front of me, while letting my mind run free. This continues for about half an hour. Then the instructor rings a gong, and the activity of the evening starts. This can be various things, the most common is reading a chapter from a book and having a discussion about it. Discussions typically happen in dyads, where people break up into pairs and alternate between speaking and listening to the other person, each for about 3 minutes. Once this is over, there is a general group discussion where anyone can bring up any topic and the floor is open to everybody. Finally, we wrap up around 9:30 pm.

These Friday evening sessions have been a joy to me for the last year and more, ever since I started attending them. I find that when I meditate, it’s as if a door has opened in my mind and everything that has been troubling me floats out. I am left feeling a sense of calm, as if I have pressed the reset button and am ready to take on the world again with a mind free from negativity. I feel that meditating makes me feel more mindful and invokes a sense of contentment. I would urge you to try it!

Published on June 12th, 2019

Last updated on June 12th, 2019