Audio transcript:

Hey it’s Meg Johnson reporting from Urban Plains on Meds on Mats – we’re talking about the physical, mental, and social mediation treatments available around Des Moines. Today we’re talking about Mahayana Buddhism, which is most popular in Chinese, Japanese, and Tibetan cultures.

The creators of the Des Moines variation of Yoga in the Park, Kelly and company built the Meditation Around Town community. This meditation group program is well-attended throughout Des Moines, with over a thousand members connecting on MeetUp.com, which creates a great platform to find updates about meditation locations.

Kelly says, “When I went to Chicago I was looking around trying to find things to do and discovered Yoga in the Park. I thought, why can’t we do that here?”

After speaking with Kelly, I learned a lot about what meditation can do for people, including using it as a form of introspection, a source of reflection, or even a type of mental medication.

Kelly says, “There is a type of medical meditation that happens when you surrender to your mind… it hits the reset button. There’s an accumulation of stress that gets caught up with us and if we never press that reset button we can’t be fully present.”

Meditation around Town is taught by several different meditation leaders that each have their own style and interpretation they utilize during each session including but not limited to Mahayana Buddhism meditation practices. The group never meets in the same location twice and will be at the Hindu temple this fall. They meet once a month year-round on the third Thursday and continually look for new places to host the venue.

Jie Shao, a teacher at Pure Land of Iowa based in Ames, Iowa, discusses the different ways Buddhism utilizes meditation as an additional form of mental and personal self-treatment and reflection.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Shao and walk through what Mahayana Buddhism calls  Shamata, or the nine stages of meditation. Each of these stages are broken down into sub-sections of reflection. The first few are understood as focus, clarity, and vigilance.

Shao says, “We have what we call, a monkey mind. Our thoughts go everywhere and we can’t look at one thing for very long. This beginning process is hugely important to develop before moving on to the next more intensive stages.

“It’s like a sport,” Shao says. “You have to train and work your mind to build up the skills in order to go deeper and deeper until you reach your goal in Buddhism.” He says all of this practice is for ridding ourselves of distractions and illusions in order to see reality as it’s meant to be seen. Most interesting to me in that conversation was when he was talking about how Buddhism studies perspectives and how each person will look at something a different way but can find their own truth through meditation.

Shao says, “It comes in two forms. First the teachings, then the practice.” So not only are Buddhists expected to learn the teachings of the Buddha, known as Dharma, but then it’s just as important to put these teachings into practice by meditating.

The next stages deal with further reflection and meditation on specific things, but that might be something to discuss in another podcast (haha). If anyone wants to find out more, they can contact Pure Land of Iowa to get in touch with Buddhist teachers and see how meditation plays an important role in our lives. To find out more about Mahayana Buddhism, Shao suggests checking out the Mind Body Conference where Tibetan monks sit down and discuss their teachings with the community.

And if you want to get involved in this first stage Shao mentions, Meditation around Town is a great way to get started! They meet the third Thursday of each month lasting about an hour. They have a lot of different ways you can explore meditation through a variety of practices, so grab your mat, ready your mind, and treat your stress with some holistic, all natural mind meditation!

This has been Meds on Mats with Meg Johnson from Urban Plains signing off!