Scholars, Daoists, and JEDIs: Meditation in Corvallis

Recently, there has been a study making its way through the media on the dark side of meditation. This includes experiences that are “challenging, difficult, distressing, functionally impairing, and/or requiring additional support.” Beyond the headlines, the study and the articles acknowledge these experiences are well-known and dealt with within meditative traditions. 

Julie Graves of OSU’s Contemplative Studies Initiative commented that “meditation, just like any deeply introspective self-searching endeavor, might bring up challenging experiences for a person.” John Edwards, director of OSU’s School of Psychological Science, added that it can be a matter of fitting a person to the right practice as there are “many different forms of meditation, all of which have different goals and effects.” 

In the spirit of contemplation, I decided to check out some of the newer meditation groups popping up in Corvallis, joining the Corvallis Zen Circle, Live Well Studio, Five Stones Sangha, and many more.

OSU Contemplative Studies Initiative (CSI)
Both Graves and Edwards are part of CSI which focuses on education, research, and community outreach. This includes meetings each Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Westminster House. They also offer occasional workshops and retreats – a recent one covered Sufi dance. 

Graves explained that “CSI is building on decades now of recognition that the practices offer immense psychological and relational benefits regardless of one’s spiritual beliefs and without one needing to understand or adhere to any particular set of beliefs.” According to their website, “The goal of such practices is to promote the well-being of individuals and society through the development of both analytic and empathetic skills.”

The weekly group integrates a variety of practices, mostly drawing on the Buddhist tradition as it is the most researched. The practices include two sitting sessions centered on things like compassion or the breath. These are broken up by a walking meditation, which moves attention away from the head towards how the feet interact with the ground. After a little break, everyone is welcome to share how their practice has affected their everyday life, something that isn’t always obvious until you begin talking about it.

More info can be found at liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/sps/contemplative-studies. 

DAoist Guarding the One (Shouyi)
A rarity for a mediation group is
the weekly Daoist sitting, “Guarding the One,” held at the north Coop at 9 a.m. on Sundays. Jeffrey Kelly, who learned Qigong and Tai Qi while living in China in 1980s, leads the group. “Guarding the One” involves focusing on a single point, three inches below the navel and three inches inside the body – this is the lower Dantian or the One. 

The lower Dantian is the seat of the Dao in the body, that which is unchanging in the midst of change. Kelly said it “is the core of energy and the place where excess energy is stored.” Thus bringing awareness to it brings awareness to the source of longevity in the body. Kelly is trained in Chinese medicine and so introduced the meditation as a way to promote health, mentioning Daoist monks in their 90s and older who were still as flexible as a baby.

Kelly also teaches Tai Qi Fridays at the south Coop at 5:30 p.m. He will be teaching two courses this fall at LBCC on Qigong and meditation from a Daoist perspective.

Corvallis JEDI
If you really want to battle the dark side of meditation while also doing some martial arts, there’s Corvallis Journey of Epic Dimensions and Intensities, or JEDI for short, led by Benjamin Caughman. Like CSI, the JEDI society, as Caughman described it, is open to all faiths. Of course, the connecting thread is an interest in Star Wars and its philosophy.

Caughman explained that everything is connected by the force. It flows through us and everything else. This can bring a twist to the mindfulness meditation of becoming aware of one’s thoughts and letting them go by, recognizing the quick judgments we might make about someone, like “Oh that guy’s too tall.” Through the force, that thought will affect that guy, so letting it go not only conserves our own mental energy, but may also have positive consequences for unsuspecting strangers.

You can find Corvallis JEDI at http://www.meetup.com/Corvallis-J-E-D-I-Journey-of-Epic-Dimensions-intensities/

By Andy Hahn

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