Every other week, Connie Berry will report on the news, events, and people at Martha’s Vineyard’s various places of worship.
When I met Sharon Gamsby at a recent Island clergy luncheon, I thought, What a great way to get an introduction to Buddhism. Sharon is a coordinator of the Bodhi Path Buddhist Center, along with Barbara Dacey. I called Sharon, and we met for coffee later that same afternoon. I wanted to know why she had embraced Tibetan Buddhism, and I wanted a few tips on how to quiet my mind. Between watching too much election coverage on CNN and my three grown children, it’s tough for me to find time for peaceful contemplation.
Sharon said she’s been involved at Bodhi Path since its inception in 1999. Her own pain and suffering led her on a journey through self-help books, various spiritual practices, and eventually, after she read a book about Buddhism, to meditation.
“It said something about being your genuine self. I was making choices that just didn’t fit, and this book talked about being authentic and genuine. I knew I had to make changes,” Sharon said.
She talked to me about quieting the mind and how we don’t have to believe everything our minds tell us.
“Your mind is unsettled; maybe your shower was cold, your coffee was late. If you aren’t that familiar with your mind, you’re going to let your emotions and mind go, and you might feel angry,” Sharon explained. “We all relate to this, but you don’t need to fuel it … Your thoughts do matter. Why not get close to those thoughts, try to understand them?”
In other words, maybe all that CNN coverage and worry over grown children might be manageable if I could get a grip on all the millions of thoughts that seem to take on a life of their own.
So last Sunday I went to the Bodhi Path Buddhist Center, which is off Waldron’s Bottom Road in West Tisbury. I was a little apprehensive, but excited to try this calming meditation that Sharon embraced.
As I walked into the center, I noticed that the woman in front of me had a scarf wrapped around her head and shoulders. Was I supposed to wear a scarf? She took it off, and I realized that she was only protecting herself from the wind. And how could I ever sit on my haunches, with my arthritic hips? I might make it down, but there was no way I’d get back up without some serious help. Thankfully, there were chairs with cushions in the back of the center. No awkward clambering to my feet when the meditation was over. That was a relief.
After a warm greeting, I was given a brief introduction to what was about to happen: There would be three 15-minute sessions of quiet meditation with a few minutes to stretch in between. Sharon had already told me that all I needed to do was to focus on breathing in and out; how hard could it be?
Plenty hard. As soon as we began the first session, my mind wandered. Wasn’t that a beautiful wood floor? The color of honey really. I just love that painted striped pattern on the walls. I wonder what they use those little stools for at the front of the room? After a few minutes of this, I decided to close my eyes. This helped. A little.
After the second session, a man who sat behind me came over and kindly put three pillows under my feet. What a difference sitting comfortably made! My third session was more successful. Every time those crazy monkeys started jumping around in my head, I brought myself back to breathing in and breathing out. They still swung from synapse to synapse, but I knew they were there. I had a glimpse of what understanding my mind might be capable of, even if it was for a nanosecond. I liked it.
If you’re curious, make a visit. The center is open for meditation Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 pm, and for meditation or teaching at 10 am on Sundays. Visit bodhipath.org to learn more about the center and about Buddhism.
The young people involved in the Island’s ecumenical youth group, the Net, are on the road this weekend. They’re heading to Boston to take part in the CityReach program, helping with the homeless ministry there. It will be great to hear about their experience when they return.
The Reverends Armen and Vicky Hanjian are still holding down the fort at the Chilmark Community Church. They will share the duties there until the end of June, when it’s planned that a new pastor will be named.
“We’re loving the congregation up here,” Vicky said last week. “It truly is a community church.”
She reminds everyone that the 5:30 pm Tuesday soup supper switches over to 6 pm pizza nights on March 8. “All are welcome to stop in,” she said. “Someone usually pulls out board games. It’s a lot of fun.”
The next gathering of the Neighborhood Convention is at 11 am on April 5 at the Federated Church in Edgartown. Leah Palmer will present “English Language Learners in Martha’s Vineyard Schools.” Bring a bag lunch; the hosting church serves beverages and desserts. Founded in 1894, the Neighborhood Convention is the oldest nondenominational group on the Island.
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