Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Relax and Take Control

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Relax and Take Control

Article excerpt

Byline: By Joanna Peart

When we think of Buddhism it tends to conjure up images of shaven-headed monks in saffron and red robes. But it has become a far more modern and practical belief system than many people realise.

Newcastle's Diamond Way Buddhist centre is an example of the growing trend to make the teachings more relevant to our everyday lives.

I went down to the centre in Heaton - which doubles as a family home.

Run by partners Andy Young and Ana Flynn, teaching sessions here are based on meditation. This involves sitting in a cross-legged, yoga-style position while keeping your back as straight as possible.

"The meditation is a tool for training your mind," Ana said. "The whole idea is to get your mind in control, to give you space and distance to be able to make better judgments. You can handle difficult situations better and you won't get stressed."

The 39-year-old added: "I used to be really shy, before I started practising Buddhism at about 23. I had all sorts of weird ideas about it.

"I had heard about it before, but it was always about images of monks and nuns, pictured with the Dalai Lama. It is not always like that."

Four first-timers, including me, turned up for the group session with absolutely no idea how to meditate.

Paula Jorgenson, of Wallsend, said: "I have come here to learn how to relax because I get stressed easily."

And so it started. We all sat round in a circle, and listened to Ana's words which began: "We feel the formless stream of air at the tips of our noses ..."

I tried, and failed, to imagine a golden Buddha with a black crown when prompted. But that was OK, because his "essence" was there.

Seconds later and we were told to "experience the inner vibration of the syllable OM".

That meant we had to say "ommmm" in unison. This was followed by a chorus of "ah" and "hung" - all three phases aimed at awakening the mind.

Chants of "karmapa chenno" filled the room in the final stage, which meant we were asking all Buddhas to "work through us".

And then Ana brought our meditation to a close, telling us: "Before, we were our body and thus vulnerable to old age, sickness, death and loss. Now we have our body."

I wasn't sure about that, but I did feel a little more relaxed.

First-timer Paula Jorgenson said she'd definitely come back again and 22-year-old Joanna Main, of Kenton, said: "It was certainly an experience, but something I wouldn't go to again unless I knew more background about it first."

Buddhism originated in northern India more than 2,500 years ago and spread to China, Tibet and Japan.

The religion got its name from Buddha Shakyamuni, said to have reached enlightenment through meditation.

He taught the religion for 45 years in northern India, and set out three types of Buddhism for different people. …

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