What better way to start my weekend than feeling calm and collected? (I won’t mention the frustration of shelf building on Sunday…)
Me and Cam have been meaning to get properly into meditation for ages to help with our mental health, and we are taking moving as our sign to try something new! Luckily, we live super close to Colchester Buddhist Center, which also brings me to my next point: I am going to teach myself about Buddhism, and begin to practice the teachings, and what better place to do exactly that?
On Saturday 28th, Me and Cam went to the Saturday Dharma morning, where we spoke about Ethics and were warmly welcomed in as new comers among regulars.
We were greeted by Dharmacāri Amalaketu, who runs most of what the center does, and also the Saturday morning class. He welcomed us into their session so warmly, and taught us a lot in that small amount of time about meditation, awareness, a few teachings and so much more.
The center holds a Newcomers Night on a Wednesday, but unfortunately, we have missed the last three, so even though this week was a little more advanced, it was amazing to dive straight in and instantly start learning new experiences.
We sat chatting with Amalaketu and the others for a while before being taken upstairs for some mindfulness meditation, which was amazing. Upstairs sits a gorgeous golden statue in the main shrine room. Around him are flowers, candles and cloths. We took mats and chairs to sit on, and positioned ourselves in front of the shrine in rows. (We sat on chairs for our comfort, while the more experienced sat on cushions on their knees).
Amalaketu guided us through our meditation in four stages, which was wonderful- 45 minutes never flew past so fast!
We then went down for some tea and biscuits (vegan!) and discussed our general feelings about that meditation in three points- I described it as calming, cleansing and supported. The reason I chose these points was because I genuinely felt comforted, calm and cleansed by my meditation and the Buddhist Center.
For an example, I never feel comfortable in church, no matter the occasion that has bought me there: weddings, baptisms, funerals and even my Secondary school graduation. None of these occasions were by any means bad, it’s just the presence of the church. I always feel out of place, unwelcome and uncomfortable. But at the Buddhist center and in front of that Shrine, I felt welcomed, humble and comforted. As if someone were holding me up by my arms as I relaxed all of my muscles.
On the Sunday, the center was celebrating Dharma Day: A celebration of the Buddha and his teachings. A day to praise, respect and be thankful. The event ran from 10:30am – 4pm, and we really didn’t know what to expect. Upon arrival, there were about 15-20 people in this little center reception room. There, I met Dharmacāriṇī Atulyamati, who was absolutely wonderful. She ran the Dharma day session with the help of Dharmacāriṇī Bodhilehī, where we started the day off with a Dharma reading and about an hours meditation. We then had a brief tea break, and after, went back up to the main shrine room where we explored Dharma Treasures with some volunteer speakers from the Buddhist community for an hour.
This was followed by a wonderful lunch: the rule of Dharma day was to bring your own lunch to share with everyone, so Cam made vegan chili and I made a jar of dairy & nut free shortbread cookies, which I bought for the tea break. There was so much food, and it was so wonderful to see- homemade breads, pastas, salads and so much more!
During lunch, I found Amalaketu and his new wife, Georgie, who were kindly asking me how my day had been going. They then asked me if I knew what the next session was: The Pūjā. The Pūjā is a devotional and offering ceremony to Buddha, his teachings and Dharma. I was handed a book to read along with the ceremony, but the chanting and getting up to bow & worship I sat and observed, mainly because it was all in Sanskrit or Tibetan. But it was so powerful and beautiful to watch. In unorganized groups, people would get up and walk to the back of the room and face the shrine, where they would then bow and worship the Shrine, and make their way to the base of the statue. They would get down onto their knees and light a candle as an offering, and continue to bow three times before the Buddha shrine.
It was so amazing to see, and I cannot wait to learn more about Buddhist teachings!