I refer to myself as a spiritual nomad and an eclectic when it comes to religion and faith. There are however, certain tenets that I hold to be true: that spirituality is an intrinsic thing not an extrinsic and in that same vein, I wholly believe that the individual spirit and mind has more power than one has been taught to think.
Having said that, I am a member of various local spiritual meetup groups here in El Paso and was looking for a meditation class to whet my never ending appetite for spiritual knowledge. In one Google search, I came across the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Center of El Paso. Their web site is very simple and to the point. Admittedly, what won me over is their addition of a Google Calendar to the site which allowed me to add it to my own calendar and in turn sync it to my BlackBerry.
I went to the center on a Monday not too long ago. The building was not unlike any of the other mid-century homes lined across Yandell with one exception: across the porch hung several lines of Tibetan Prayer Flags and outside next to the front door stood a shoe shelf so that visitors could leave their shoes outside. Once inside the lavishly decorated center, we started with four prayers including the inner and outer mantras. We meditated for 10 minutes. Meditation was difficult for me at first; little thoughts kept creeping into my mind such as the song I had listened to on the way to the center, the impending visit of my ex-boyfriend, how hungry I happened to be and how I was supposed to meet a friend at the center. The teacher reminded me to be mindful of my breathing.
After meditating, our teacher decided to discuss a brief introduction into Buddhism. He read aloud a passage from ‘Ancient Teachings in Modern Times’ by Losang Samten, who happens to be the Spiritual Director for the center in El Paso. One of the many goals of Buddhism is to attain enlightenment. Our teacher delved further into the concept of enlightenment. We all tried defining enlightenment with various degrees of astuteness. Our teacher listened patiently and once we had finished and looked toward him for a final say, he said:
Enlightenment is to be a perfect being in respect to the mind. This is the ‘top of the mountain’ and there are different ways to attain this goal but eventually all paths lead to enlightenment. In order to truly be enlightened, one must free their mind from the Three Poisons which are Anger, Ignorance and Greed. One way to forgo the poisons is to invert them and instead be Compassionate, Wise and Generous.
After our lengthy discussion, we replaced our mats and prayer books, prostrated and left in a state of bliss. As I was leaving, the teacher told me that I may want to watch ‘Life of Buddha’ to gain a better understanding of the origins of Buddha. When I returned home, I searched Netflix and found ‘The Buddha’ which is actually a recently released documentary by David Grubin. Very interesting stuff, perhaps for another post.
All in all, if you’re looking for an alternative way of thinking that focuses on inward reflection or are looking to learn how to meditate, you will certainly find a warm and welcoming fellowship in El Paso at the Chenrezig Center.
- Buddhist Symbols: The Dharma Wheel (brighthub.com)
- This Is Your Brain On Meditation: Mingyur Rinpoche Describes The Science Of Happiness (huffingtonpost.com)