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JUNE 8, 2009   

Buddha in the 'burbs

Statue of Buddha next to brick column at parkThe Kiwanis Pavilion at Lakewood Park is a long way from Tibet in just about every way imaginable. Fortunately this statue appears amused by the strangeness of his current location.

The Buddha and I were at Lakewood Park for Change Your Mind Day, an annual event hosted by the Cleveland chapter of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. It's no doubt an indication of how little I know about Buddhism that I think it needs exotic surroundings. But I was there to learn, and I did.

A poster listed different activities starting about twenty minutes apart, so I jumped right in. A bit of Tai Chi brought back muscle memories of moves I learned twenty years ago. A little yoga had me standing on one leg and imagining my breath traveling through my body. After sampling what was left of the potluck lunch, I lost interest partway through a meditation session and went for a walk along the lake instead.

Buddhist teacher and groupBefore that I'd taken part in a session guided by a very American-looking Buddhist teacher. She had us practice compassion by focusing on someone we loved, someone we felt nothing towards, another whom we had problems with, and finally towards all sentient beings. A pretty tall order.

We were to visualize breathing in dark smoke and transforming it in our heart, exhaling it as brilliant white light. Not what I usually do on a Sunday in the park, but strangely moved by it, I was glad I did it on this sunny afternoon.

Maybe it's the sheer ordinariness of this Buddhist gathering that was the most important thing I learned. It's people who look a lot like you and me practicing a very old tradition in a modern way. Working to show compassion toward the world around us has got a lot to recommend it.

More about religion

Pump up the volume — February 13, 2009
Diversity & theology at Edgewater Park — August 3, 2008
Market; Jesus! — May 17, 2008

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