In the past, the stars often guided us. Now, small screens seem to be the constellations that people use to engage with their world.
Despite the rise of the internet, some people practice meditation to help them navigate the 21st century. Their breath has become their guide. And, if you speak to a few practitioners in the Harrisburg area, you begin to hear about ways they keep themselves grounded in awareness while so many distractions spin around them.
Meditation, whether done sitting, walking or otherwise, is consistently used by about 8 percent of Americans, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Mindfulness, according to physician and veritable guru Jon Kabat-Zinn, is “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding experience moment by moment.”
In the Harrisburg area, you can find several options to practice meditation and mindfulness.
Andrea Minick Rudolph’s path began when she was 16 years old with “Siddhartha,” Herman Hesse’s 1922 novel about self-discovery.
After reading it, she began to question organized religion and sought new ways of thinking. Ultimately, she adopted Buddhism because it did not require adherence to dogma and it supported the interconnectedness she saw in nature. By 2012, she founded Oryoki Zendo, which has two operating principles: the philosophy of non-dualism (everything is interconnected) and the practice of non-harming.
“We are all connected in ways that are not necessarily definable, but with mindfulness, we are able to practice compassion, loving kindness, joy and equanimity,” she said from her location above Cornerstone Coffeehouse in Camp Hill.
When we realize how much we relate to one another, the chance we might cause harm decreases, while our capacity for compassion increases, she said.
Across the river, Chuck Daley is the facilitator of the Mindfulness Meditation Group (MMG) at the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg. MMG offers Tuesday evening meditation gatherings to help build mindfulness among participants. Daley started meditating in his early 20s, seeking a way to ground himself for college as he transitioned from a more unstructured life.
Meditation, he said, helps him be realistic about life.
“Our heads are filled with ideas about how things should be, and things never are that way, and we’re very unhappy about it and we have to deal with that,” Daley said. “We have to deal with those expectations.”
And not only is mindfulness helpful with expectations, it can help navigate tough feelings, he said.
“I’m a lot happier with myself, and not just when I’m on the cushion [meditating],” he said. “I notice crappy feelings before I try to escape them.”
Research on meditation and mindfulness has confirmed these types of benefits. For example, mindfulness practice has been associated with supporting weight loss, stress reduction and recovery from addiction. In fact, the benefits of mindfulness and meditation for those with addictions have led to Refuge Recovery, a national organization that holds meetings in the Harrisburg, Lancaster and York areas.
Tony Stultz knows well the power of meditation. He is the director of the Blue Mountain Lotus Society (BMLS) and the Center for Mindful Living, founded in 1999. BMLS seeks to offer the benefits of mindfulness, such as self-awareness or solace, to anyone seeking them. His interest in Eastern philosophy started in grade school with Bruce Lee and kung fu movies, as well as the influence of a Japanese aunt. His meditation practice and affiliation with Buddhism grew when the discontents of adolescence required him to find a firmer footing in life.
Stultz’s practices boil down to a straightforward effort to live peacefully, for himself and others.
“The cornerstone [of practicing mindfulness] is that you’ve made an existential choice to move away from suffering by realizing we create experiences with our thoughts,” he said.
Stultz is directly referring to one of the Buddha’s most fundamental messages, but the majority of people attending BMLS aren’t Buddhist.
“Seventy percent of people who come here would not identify as Buddhist,” he said. “But they’re really drawn to the practices. Everything about Buddhism is in mindfulness, and integrating this with one’s existing faith is fine.”
On the Way
Would you like to begin your own journey to meditation and mindfulness? Here are a few resources in the Harrisburg area mentioned in this story.
6496 Jonestown Rd.
1208 Clover Lane
2133 Market St.
Community Center of Giant Food
3310 Trindle Rd.