North Texas

Coping With a Stressful World Through Meditation

A small group sat quietly Wednesday evening inside the Kadampa Meditation Center Dallas, eyes closed, hands clasped, occasionally chanting in unison.

"Meditation is for everyone," said Gen Kelsang Menla, a teacher at the center.

Last Sunday, the center's usual 30-person attendance swelled to 50 people. It may be no coincidence that it comes amid a succession of natural disasters.

"It's just part of our makeup to want to know and understand things," Menla said. "Although things may be falling apart around us, we can still maintain some inner composure, which helps us to deal peacefully, more wisely, more compassionately."

It all seems to be happening at once. An earthquake in Mexico, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria — they are things over which we have no control.

"If there is anything we can learn to control, we can control our thoughts, and our emotions, our feelings," Menla said. "It's something anyone can do."

Menla said it doesn't require any particular faith or spiritual practice, but a good teacher in the practice of meditation is helpful.

A 2015 Harvard study suggested meditation can change our brains, shrinking the "fight-or-flight" part of the brain that deals with stress and anxiety, while increasing mass in the part of the brain that houses empathy and compassion.

While recent natural disasters have taken so much from so many, the voids they have left behind have been filled with many acts of compassion — people helping people.

"Because whether you're Baptist or a Buddhist, that is still the truth, isn't it?" Menla said. "We're all just human beings trying to find happiness."

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