Clear minds, open hearts: Participants find mindfulness and understanding through meditationFARGO - Meditation means different things to different people. It helps Sarah Gebeke of Fargo relax and gain mental clarity. James Walsh of Fargo uses it to help him communicate more effectively. Meditation changes Minnesota State University Moorhead student Romit Devkota’s outlook on life.
By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM
FARGO - Meditation means different things to different people.
It helps Sarah Gebeke of Fargo relax and gain mental clarity.
James Walsh of Fargo uses it to help him communicate more effectively.
Meditation changes Minnesota State University Moorhead student Romit Devkota’s outlook on life.
And for certified meditation instructor Terry Lausch, meditation helped him overcome a heroin addiction.
“Meditation helps unlock your own relative truth,” said Lausch, who is the meditation coordinator for the Spirit Room in downtown Fargo, leads daylong meditation retreats, and teaches weekly meditation classes at Five Element Yoga in Fargo.
During the decade between his 20s and 30s, Lausch struggled heavily with his addiction, he said.
“Meditation didn’t resolve the fact that I had an addiction problem, but meditation took the scales from my eyes and brought me face to face with the reality of my life and gave me the courage to deal with the situation,” he said. “It opened my heart in the sense that I began to actually have my feet on the earth and I began to very openly communicate with people about what I was going through.”
He no longer felt afraid of whom he was and gained the courage to ask for help, Lausch said.
“Because my heart was so open because of the meditation practice, I was able to deal with the problem of heroin addiction in a very straightforward way and got the help that I needed,” he said.
Lausch studied Tantra meditation while in college in Colorado and currently meditates for about two hours every day.
He said the best way to learn meditation is by working with another person who has been through it.
“The reason is because meditation isn’t about getting into some kind of particular state of mind. Meditation is about unlocking the deepest secrets of our own life,” he said. “If you don’t work with somebody personally who knows you and knows what’s going on in your relative life, you can’t be given instructions that are going to awaken your heart.”
In working with others, Lausch said his goal is to help them find whatever they’re seeking.
“Often people think meditation is a way to escape, to get into some kind of state of mind that’s free from pain,” he said. “Meditation is actually a way of opening up the deepest possibilities of your own life.”
Walsh helps lead a regular Shambhala Meditaion session at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays in the Spirit Room, a nonprofit arts and humanities organization.
He and Dawn Morgan, the Spirit Room’s executive director, lead sessions that are opportunities for people to practice as a group, more than they are classes, he said. There is some guidance, but they aren’t teaching anything, he said.
“What mediation is about is bringing opposites together, starting with the most simple, the mind and body,” said Morgan, who has studied meditation for years. “Pretty much you just follow the breath and you let thoughts go as they arise and you just come to rest in the present.”
Meditation is good for the mind, body, emotions and relationships with others because it leads to greater mindfulness and understanding, she said.
“The idea is not to be spaced out or go to any other state, but basically it’s just to arrive in the place that you are,” Morgan said. “After a while, you don’t even have to follow the breath because this space just opens up to you where you’re just resting in the present, and you don’t have a lot of thoughts arising.”
The next step is to take that meditation practice out into the world, creating space for yourself so your mind doesn’t have to be so busy all the time, Morgan said.
“It just creates general peacefulness in the rest of your life,” she said.
A lot of the teachings that go along with the meditation involve changing strong emotions into positive qualities, she said.
“Rather than stewing about the way you’re feeling, you can actually use that energy to do something better with it,” she said.
Walsh said he was introduced to meditation in 2008 as a way to reduce stress.
“I spend so much time doing things, and I think taking the time to slow down my mind helps me stay in touch with what’s going on around me more directly,” he said.
Gebeke has been meditating for three years and started regularly taking classes about three months ago. She typically meditates once or twice a week, she said.
“At first it seems weird and you get distracted a lot. It seems difficult,” she said. “If you really want to and really try to, it comes more naturally. After I went to the first guided meditation, it was a lot easier.”
Gebeke said if she’s really stressed out and her mind is racing, just five minutes of meditation helps her relax and it’s easier to find the answer to whatever is troubling her.
Nathan Hanson of Fargo has been practicing meditation for a little under a year, including taking part in a month-long meditation intensive.
“Understanding meditation can be tricky. There are so many preconceived notions about what it is to meditate,” he said. “Really, it’s more about just learning how to listen. It’s a growing process. It’s definitely a relationship that has its ups and downs just like any relationship would.”
Hanson said meditation helps him slow down and gives him an expanded awareness of his environment.
Devkota, an international student from Nepal, has been practicing meditation for two years and typically meditates for at least two or three hours a day, split into three sessions, he said.
While it can be challenging in the beginning, it’s worth it to continue, he said.
Meditation gives him a degree of peace and helps with his concentration, he said. It also gives him a sense of meaning and helps him realize there is more to life, he said.
“It basically changes your outlook toward your own life,” he said. “In a way, you can develop a stronger view of the world you live in.”
Mary Struck of Fargo leads a Prairie Sky Sangha meditation session at 7:15 p.m. every Tuesday in the Spirit Room.
There are two formats to the session.
One involves sitting in meditation for 30 minutes, then Struck reads a short chapter from a book and the group discusses the topic in relation to their own meditation practice and lives.
The other format involves sitting in meditation for 45 minutes, followed by 10 to 15 minutes of walking meditation, where the participants concentrate on the sensations in their feet and lower legs. After that, the group practices a guided meditation of loving kindness, where they send wishes of kindness to various groups of people, including themselves.
“It’s a practice about opening the heart,” Struck said. “It’s about breaking down some of those barriers that we build up around our hearts against others and against ourselves.”
On a personal level, Struck said meditation has been a lifesaver for her.
“I have tended to be a very emotional person, a lot of ups and downs in my life,” she said. “Meditation has been a way of really coming back to a place of stability.”
Meditation gives her the space to see what is happening instead of acting out of conditioned patterns, fear or ignorance, she said.
“The practice brings me out of my head where I am in the past or the future and into the present moment,” she said.
The aim is to learn how to pay attention in a way that’s very clear-minded and open-hearted, to come from place of clarity and openness rather than egocentricity, she said.
People can be discouraged about meditation if they think of it as a way to get away from their problems, she said.
“This is really about a practice of sitting in the midst and opening your heart in the midst of what’s happening,” Struck said.