Newsletter... 6-12-02

Residents get in touch with their inner Zen     By JONATHAN ROOS Register Staff Writer 06/09/2002 ------------------------------------------------------------------------
Many people spent Saturday working in the yard or playing in the sun.     But one group seated in the grass by the Des Moines River took a chance to do something out of the ordinary: meditate and learn about Buddhist practices.   "This isn't the Olympics of pain. You don't sit still forever no matter what your body wants you to do," said Juiko Redding, a Zen Buddhist priest from Cedar Rapids, as she instructed two dozen or so people in the proper sitting position for meditation.   "Put aside your ideas, and be in touch with reality," she told them.   The educational event, sponsored by the Des Moines Zen Center, was replicated in more than 40 other cities throughout the nation during "Change Your Mind Day."   This was the first year that a Des Moines group took part the event, first held in New York City nine years ago.   Other Zen centers are located in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Decorah and Omaha. Zen is an important branch of Buddhism.   Sept. 11 provided some of the impetus for the Des Moines event.   "Buddhism has a strong tradition of conflict resolution," said Bret McFarlin, a Des Moines doctor who helped organize the gathering. "And meditative practice in general is viewed as a tendency to lead someone to be a bit calmer and a bit more comfortable with their situation in life."   The Saturday morning session in downtown Des Moines included the chanting of sutras, which are like scripture.   One segment from the Heart Sutra went like this: "That which is form is emptiness; That which is emptiness, form. The same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness."   Pat Melkus, a homemaker from Van Meter, called the event an educational experience.   "I was wondering exactly what Zen was, so now I have a better understanding of that," Melkus said.   "I enjoyed hearing other people's views," said her daughter, Jessica, who will be a sophomore this fall at Waukee High School.