Meditation for Spiritual Minors
Haruka Centre's beginner meditation classes bring enlightenment to even the brazen city folk.
Heruka Buddhist Centre Promotes the Still Life, Quietly
"It's quite unusual to have a little peace and quiet in the middle of Covent Garden, really," says the Venerable Kelsang Lodro from his centered chair, his robes drawn up around his shoulders and his hands resting easily on his lap. A little lamp warms his soft features and a lapel microphone broadcasts his downy voice through the room.
In a strange collection of backgrounds and beliefs, the basement meditation space is filled with a range of young and middle-aged people, some still in their workday clothes, sprawled out in a maze of cushions, folding chairs and velveteen pillows. Each comes for their own purposes, in the midst of their own spiritual journey, but all perhaps for a little relief from the urban jungle.
The meditation itself is like a languid form of yoga: a mix of breathing exercises done close-eyed while seated cross-legged on cushions or pillows, and a set of chants promoting peace and love and wholeness and stuff.
It lasts for about an hour and a half and, in this session, Lodro speaks about the foundations of Kadampa Buddhism - a denomination created by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso specifically for westerners, that heeds the instant-gratification, low attention span, highly structured culture at which many in this room are adept.
Lodro gently tosses out sets of rhetorical questions: are you happy with your life? Is anyone happy? How is happiness found? For him and for many Kadampa Buddhism followers, the plague of unhappiness and suffering simply a complication of being human: following Buddhism removes the connections that cause such suffering, and Lodro is keen on spreading this opportunity, comparing human life to, of all things, daytime home improvement television.
"We've been rearranging the external furniture in our lives for quite some time, but still we're not happy," he says, "Real happiness can only be found by working with the mind."
The mind is truly the focus of the Heruka Centre's meditation classes, with little talking and lots of time to sit back and breath, sometimes until your back aches from being pressed against the wall and your bottom hurts from not moving from against the velvety pillows.
Then again, this is practice in being spiritually in-tune, and just like yoga, a little tenderness the next morning is a sign of a good class.
- Megan M. Retka