For anyone who finds themselves stressed by the current state of the world (who isn’t?) and wants to relax and refocus, meditation may offer a way to do just that. And if you’re looking to learn more about this practice, or if you already dabble in meditation, you might want to look into the Sangha Jewel Zen Center (SJZC) on Circle Boulevard in Corvallis.
As a group of Buddhist practitioners, the main emphasis of the SJZC community is meditation. While another focus of the group is living by the Buddhist code of ethics, you do not need to be practicing Buddhism to learn more, join in on group meditations, or visit the Center – when it is open.
The SJZC has been closed to members and the public due to COVID-19, but group leaders are eager to re-open and share their new meditation room.
“This was the two-car garage,” said Temple Manager Pam Muir as we walked into the new meditation space. Muir explained that the whole SJZC community was involved in the demolition and renovation of what had been a standard 1970’s ranch-style home and is now the Zen Center. “The whole Sangha deconstructed the garage completely – people were up on the rafters taking the roof apart. It was amazing to see,” Muir recalled, using the Buddhist term “sangha” for community.
The group finished construction on the new room in the fall, but just officially finished the space in February after installing carpet and curtains. Muir hopes that, as a larger space than anything the Center had before, they can welcome more of the greater Corvallis community to events and ceremonies in the future.
Built on the west-side of the main building where a garage once stood, the new meditation space is large and can fit almost 200 people. The room has a tranquil, calming effect, with tall windows framed by light wood set into both the walls and the ceiling, offering views of the sky and the garden in the back of the property.
The garden is also a community project, with Sangha members helping to plant and care for the variety of flowers, succulents, and shrubs that are growing there. The community recently came together to add new plants to the garden last weekend, but the inside spaces are still closed to its members.
“It’s almost ironic,” Muir said of the new meditation room, “just as we had approval to sit in here, it was closed.”
While the SJZC is starting to consider what re-opening may look like, they have not set a date yet.
From Tech to In-Person Again
When thinking about re-opening, SJZC Mushin (the Buddhist term for teacher) Abby Terris mentioned, “One thing that will be interesting is all the changes that come about in the practice.”
Terris explained that Sangha members have been meeting and meditating via Zoom all year due to the pandemic, and she feels that much of the community has settled into this new normal. But returning to in-person meditation after a year of remote meetings may have both pros and cons.
“Zen is a face-to-face tradition. We’re not trained for media, we’re not really media people,”Terris said, laughing. So, while transitioning back to in-person meditations may be difficult at first, Terris thinks this will give members a renewed appreciation for being together and practicing with others.
Considering those just beginning a meditation practice, Terris said “if someone comes to us for orientation, they’ll be working with someone who has really traveled the road. We offer useful guidance on how to navigate your life.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the Center or its remote, guided meditations, can visit the Center’s website. Visiting the Center in-person will hopefully be an option soon, and the Sangha is looking forward to welcoming newcomers.