By Maria P. Galeano
It is dark and the stars are shining bright in the night sky. The air is still. Everyone who is part of this meditation feels the loving arms of the universe. There is no doubt that healing will occur, for the highest light beings are gathered here.
You look at everyone in the room. They look relieved; you sit down quietly, breathing deeply in a receptive state, and you notice how your heart fills your entire body with light. You are now whole again and can experience peace and harmony.
Every Monday evening at the Center for Mindfulness in Shrewsbury, a group of people gather together to heal, grow and master their minds.
This group branches out of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. As described in www.umassmed.edu/cfm, MBSR is an 8-week class. It includes psychoeducation, formal meditation and movement practices and teacher-led discussion and inquiry.
MBSR participants learn to recognize habitual, unhelpful reactions to difficulty and instead learn to bring an interested, accepting and non-judgmental attitude to all experiences, including difficult sensations, emotions, thoughts, and behavior.
The Monday evening group has been around for 2 ½ years. The meditation community “sits” are offered at no charge and are supported by all those who help guide and set-up for the weekly sitting periods.
“The mission of this sit is to end all suffering,” says Dr. Paul Galvin, the expert psychologist trained in psychology of religion who leads the group. “It seems like a lot of nothing going on…but there is a lot of something going on.”
During the “sit,” Galvin guides the participants through the path of healing and transformation. Everyone sits in a circle. As Galvin speaks, their eyes close, the atmosphere changes, and the sound of deep breathing fills the room.
Soon, everyone in the room has entered into a deep meditative state. Silence takes over space and minds. All is safe and well in this moment. After about 40 minutes, Galvin gently rings a bell to bring their souls back to reality.
“Listen to what the body may need…feel every part of the body,” he says.
Once everyone is back, a conversation about the practice takes place. It helps to develop a clear understanding of the mind.
“In the spirit of mindfulness, there’s nothing to be hidden here,” says Galvin. “We listen, that is a rare quality.”
According to Galvin, the purpose of talking about suffering is to end unnecessary suffering. Suffering happens and we can’t run away from it but these kinds of practices prepare us for it.
Joe Johnston is in his late 60s, and has has been a member of the group since it began. He believes the sits are an effective form of disease prevention.
“I’m in a time in my life that I don’t know what’s coming up; this is preventative medicine,” says Johnston.
According to Johnston, the group “teaches not how to get rid of the pain, but how to live with the pain.”
The experience, which has been developed within the Buddhist tradition over thousands of years, offers participants a path which is meant to ultimately culminate in enlightenment.
A common question is whether or not it is possible to fully learn how to meditate.
“I don’t know if you ever learn,” says Johnston. “When I meditate it is not like I am trying to achieve anything or earn anything.”
“It’s all about sitting down quiet and watching your thoughts,” said Galvin. “I am asking you to engage with everything. The joy, the sadness, the suffering, the generosity — all that appears.”
Being aware of your thoughts and trying to understand suffering is a key point for a successful practice.
“Suffering is part of life,” said Galvin. “Acknowledge the suffering.”
Galvin invites anyone willing to explore their own minds and change to join the meditation group.
“Don’t get stressed out about the stress,” he said.