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Buddhist Meditation Group
Participate in a Buddhism-based meditation experience in a group setting. Contact Rev. Marcia Curtis at 312-431-0381
Join us Sundays at 7:30pm in the church sanctuary. Newcomers welcome.
The article below about the Meditation Group was written by Susan DeGrane.
Beverly Unitarian Church Hosts Buddhist Meditation Group
It’s around 7:30 p.m. on a [Sunday] night at Beverly Unitarian Church, located at 103rd and Longwood Drive in Chicago. Inside, eight women and two men gather in a circle for a group meditation led by Marcia Curtis, a Unitarian Universalist minister and Buddhist meditation instructor for more than 20 years. Some people sit lotus style on floor cushions. Others sit upright in folding chairs.
Wrapped in a blue prayer shawl and seated on a seiza bench, Curtis begins the meditation with gentle tolling of a gong bowl. Within seconds, the people close their eyes and calm descends upon the group. For the next thirty minutes, the church is quiet except for the sounds of breathing, the ticking of a clock, the wind in the trees, cars passing on the street outside, and intermittent instructions offered by Curtis.
“Let your thoughts flow in the background of awareness,” she says, directing the group to focus on the physical sensations of breathing. More calm follows with additional instructions, such as: “And, if you find that your mind has wandered, making the choice to let go of thoughts and bring the foreground of awareness back to the breath.”
Operating with the belief that there is truth to be found in all the world’s religions, Curtis has taught meditation and Buddhist philosophy to people in a variety of settings, including prisons, homeless shelters and mental hospitals. For the last two years, she has led weekly meditation sessions at Beverly Unitarian Church where she is a member.
“The goal of the practice is to find freedom from suffering,” she explains. “The purpose is to be present with what is, and sometimes what is is frustration or irritation or some other non-calm state. But doing the breath meditation is generally calming and soothing, and certainly over time the effect is an increase in calm.”
When the meditation finally ends, Curtis gently sounds the bowl. Participants open their eyes, press their hands together and bow at the waist. Curtis then leads a 40-minute Dharma discussion about patience and forbearance, or Khanti, one of the 10 Buddhist perfections.
“I’m not talking about biting our tongue,” Curtis says. “This is about internal acceptance of what is. Again, that doesn’t mean that we don’t act to change what is.”
Throughout the Dharma talks, Curtis offers helpful quotations from Buddhist masters along with thoughtful explanations of Buddhist virtues. “When we think of having patience with another person’s actions, we have some tolerance for them,” she says. “We don’t immediately lash out. We give them leeway, and thereby we give the same to ourselves.”
Several people ask questions and relate their own examples of how learning and applying these virtues might help them in their daily lives. Some are coping with economic uncertainty. Others are seeking relief from the workplace stress or anxiety concerning ill relatives. And still others simply want to grow as individuals.
The group finishes up for the night with a brief “lovingkindness meditation” that allows participants to concentrate positive loving thoughts on themselves and their loved ones. Those who participate regularly have insisted that attending the sessions has helped them to improve their outlooks, overcome challenges and even make new friends.
Jennifer Cottrill of Lansing found out about the group meditations at Beverly Unitarian Church from the Insight Chicago website, http://insightchicago.org/. “I really enjoy the Dharma talk every time,” Cottrill says. “I feel like I grow from that.”
The group meets Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m., except for certain holidays. Donations are encouraged. Anyone is welcome.
Ten Perfections (dasa pāramiyo) are (original terms in Pali):
1. Dāna parami : generosity, giving of oneself
2. Sīla parami : virtue, morality, proper conduct
3. Nekkhamma parami : renunciation
4. Pañña parami : transcendental wisdom, insight
5. Viriya (also spelt vīriya) parami : energy, diligence, vigour, effort
6. Khanti parami : patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance
7. Sacca parami : truthfulness, honesty
8. Adhitthana (adhitthana) parami : determination, resolution
9. Metta parami : loving-kindness
10. Upekkha (also spelt upekhā) parami : equanimity, serenity
Childcare for our youngest is available during services.
All children are welcome!
Reverend Marcia Curtis invites you to participate in a Buddhism-based meditation in a group setting. Join us Sundays at 7:30pm in the church sanctuary. Newcomers welcome.