Meditating for All at the Zen Center

By Tara Lanigan SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — 

“Zen is who you are,” explained Bonnie Shoultz, Buddhist Center Chaplin at Syracuse University.  Shoultz, who has been practicing Zen ever since she had the same reoccurring dream 21 years, said it has allowed her to find more meaning to life and a new focus.

Zen, which is achieved through meditation, allows you to focus on breathing, the sounds around you, and an escape from the voices inside your head that are constantly reminding you of your daily activities.  Catherine Landis, a PhD student at ESF, has been attending Zen meditations at Hendricks Chapel since 2000.

“I was ill. Just a long term illness and I was working with a woman who suggested I go to the Zen Center and my physician also suggested the Zen Center to help with the mental, emotional part of the illness,” said Landis on what first brought her to the Zen Center.  And it wasn’t long after that Landis started feeling better. But with strength came the distractions of everyday life and Landis found herself too busy for the Zen Center.

“As soon as I stopped going I started feeling ill again and I knew this would be something I would incorporate into my life.”

And that is just what Landis has done.  Every Monday, Landis leads the noon sitting as part of the Healthy Monday initiative.  “I think its important to start the week with meditation, being aware of yourself and your feelings, and just slowing down,” Landis said.

Landis stresses that it doesn’t take an hour to achieve Zen, she starts with 15 minutes of instruction and discussion followed by 30 minutes of meditation. “It’s for everyone.  People sometimes think its for ‘professional Zen people’ but that’s not the case everyone can and should meditate,” Landis said.

Her noon sitting brought in a professor, a local Syracuse resident, and a freshman at the university studying Food Nutrition.  “This is my second time and every time I leave I always feel so much better,” said freshman Julie Orloff.  It has helped her transition into college life.  “It’s just a half hour out of my day to think about what’s going on.”

Shoultz thinks the Zen Center is the perfect place for students who are dealing with the stresses of academics and working.  “If they just took 10 minutes out of their day to meditate, focus on their breathing they would notice a huge difference,” Shoultz said.

The Zen Center, located in the bottom level of Hendricks Chapel, has sittings everyday Monday-Friday and they are open for everyone from students to professors to local residents.