Seeking Inner Peace

Seeking Inner Peace

Reston residents turn to Buddhist meditation to cope with stressful lives.

Before he started attending Buddhist meditation classes two months ago, Reston resident Guy Seebaluck found himself becoming unbearably stressed at his investment trading job.

But now, after learning mind-relaxing exercises at the Vajrayogini meditation classes held each Tuesday at Brown's Chapel, he said his life feels more balanced and manageable.

"If you don't do this sort of thing, it can be stressful," Seebaluck said last week before his class began. "Meditation gets you to focus. It gets you to relax. It clears my mind."

Seebaluck is one of a small group of Reston residents who are turning to Buddhist meditation to cope with the daily stresses of their jobs and social lives.

The Vajrayogini classes, run out of a Buddhist center in Washington, D.C., have been held in Reston for the past two years. Starting Sept. 14, the classes will be held at St. Anne's Episcopal Church on Tuesday nights.

Eugene Eccli, a salesman living in Reston, has taught the meditation classes over the summer. Initially, he said, people come to the classes out of curiosity, but those who stay tend to be seeking stress management or an alternative to more mainstream religions.

"Our society has problems that challenge people," he said. "They have difficulty in their daily lives, but this seems to help."

LAST TUESDAY, a Buddhist nun named Gen Kelsang Varahi, who is also a practicing physician in D.C., taught the class at Brown's Chapel. The class started with a 15-minute breathing exercise, with Varahi lulling the surrounding Reston residents into a meditative trance before urging them to exhale their negativity as imaginary black smoke.

After emerging from their meditation, Varahi talked to them about how Buddhists take refuge from the tumultuous events of the world and in their lives by meditating and remembering to focus on positive thoughts and life-balance.

"We basically use these teachings to emphasize personal, practical advice," Varahi said, encouraging the students to practice meditation every day.

USUALLY AT THE END of the teaching, the teacher guides the class through another meditative breathing exercise. But last week, the exercises were replaced with a ceremony in which a handful of the students took vows to devote themselves to Buddhism.

"We're looking to transform our minds," Varahi said. "We want to change the way we look at things and experience things, so we can experience peace."

Not all of the students taking the class consider themselves Buddhists. For some, their interest lies less in purely religious purposes and more in simply learning how to escape into meditation.

"It helps us to understand the important things in life and stay more focused than we might have otherwise," Eccli said.