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Weekly Practice for the Soul: Yoga and Meditation
5/14/2010 | 1:58 AM

Yoga is a meditative practice for mental and physical disciplines. Meditation is a practice that attempts to reach beyond the mind that thinks and into the state of better awareness and relaxation. Both these practices help the body to become more relaxed and better attuned to the stressful surroundings of the hectic lifestyles that we live.

Yoga and meditation classes are offered around the country; however, in the small town of Wakefield, Massachusetts, something different happens.

During every Saturday afternoon from 2 PM to 5PM, students from the Wakefield community gather in the Munsusa Buddhist Temple in Wakefield to practice yoga and meditation. This class is taught by the monk (or snim in Korean) who takes care of the temple, Jinwoo Snim.

Every Saturday the students gather to practice their yoga and meditation. Jinwoo Snim instructs the students in Korean while I translate to English.

He always uses anecdotes in order to explain certain situations. For example, he asked the students a question: There once was a man who owned a small, rare exotic baby bird. He treasured it very much and made a very expensive gem-engraved vase that was one of a kind for the bird. The bird lived in the vase; however, as the bird grew older, the man could not get the bird out of the vase.

If he can only save one thing, break the vase and get the bird or save the vase and let the bird die, what would he do?

It is important to acknowledge that the bird represents a person's mind and the vase represents a person's body. Keeping that in mind, what should the man do? This question puzzled all the students and the snim told them that this is the goal of meditation: To find these answers.

Yoga is a bit different than meditation.

Where as meditation is completely trying to exercise the brain, yoga is a workout that requires both mental concentration as well as physical concentration. The students follow the monk's yoga demonstrations and everyone participates. He tells the students almost every day that you do not compare yourself with someone else during yoga.

This is because yoga is about pushing yourself to your own limit, not to someone else's. After the session of yoga and meditation, the monk and the students gather inside the tea room to drink tea and discuss their thoughts about the meditation session.

A couple students had comments about the class. "I think that meditation is such a great way to relax.

It really makes you feel better in general. Also, it's a really welcoming environment. For instance, when Kristen, Jackie, and I came for the first time everyone was very nice and the monk was awesome to us too! No one criticizes what level of experience you have with doing yoga and it's completely stress free" Breanne Dowdie, a senior at Wakefield High School said.

"Meditation is awesome. Plus, I agree with Breanne.

It is extremely welcoming, and everyone is very friendly. Also, the pomegranate chocolate that we have with the exotic tea is my new addiction. I like to thank the monk very much", Jackie commented.

Michael Winsor, a sophomore of WHS, added "I look forward to going to temple every Saturday. Everyone there is very friendly and welcoming.

You don't have to worry about anyone being rude to you when you are there. We also do yoga while we are there, which I enjoy very much. We work on a variety of poses each week to help improve our flexibility.

After yoga, we meditate for about 10 or 15 minutes, but sometimes longer. It is very relaxing. There is music playing softly in the background while we meditate to help you relax. As soon as you walk into the room where we meditate, the smell of incense instantly relieves all of your stress; I love the smell of the incense and often can't wait to go to this room.

After yoga and meditation, but sometimes before, we all gather to drink magnificent tea. The tea here is wonderful. It is the best tea I have ever tasted.

Everyone sits to drink their tea while engaged in conversations with people next to them or sometimes in one large group discussion with everyone there, even though we do not know everyone else there.

It is a great opportunity to meet new people and relax at the same time." "I try to go to the temple every week. It is a great chance to hang out with my friends as well as to better myself. We do yoga, which I know has made me more flexible, and meditate ,which helps to sharpen and quiet my mind" said Paul Maschhoff, another sophomore from WHS.

Andrew Bruno, another member of the senior class of WHS, said, "I'll try to summarize what happens during the class. We meet on Saturday afternoons to meditate with the coolest monk ever. Also we practice yoga. Sometimes we get to play basketball and ping pong. Oh, and we drink tea and eat chocolate-pomegranates! Its a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon."

All of the students that attended the class saw meditation and yoga as a way of relaxing and releasing their stress after a full week of school and other activities. Overall outcome of the program was positive and majority of the students return every week to practice and evolve their patience and tolerance.

by Ryan Suh

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