Spiritual Exploration: First Experience with Buddhist Meditation by Aliyah Collins

A few weeks ago, I attended my first Buddhist Meditation class led by Bhante Pannasiri. Going into the class, my expectations were nebulous but very curious. Before Divinity School, I had not known any practitioners of the Buddhist tradition and shied away from learning due to the subtle intimidation of exploring different religions. Therefore, I believed that the Open Spirit community would allow me the opportunity to explore my curiosity and desire to learn about different spiritual and faith traditions. So, I hopped on Zoom on Tuesday night and prepared myself to participate in Buddhist meditation.


The experience was nothing short of amazing! Bhante led us into the meditation with the meditation bell that helped transition our minds and bodies into stillness. We were asked to focus our minds on the present moments and invite pleasant thoughts. We remained in this quiet stillness for a long moment of time before the next activity. During the centering meditation moment, Bhante noted that the mind is always wandering, and we must continue to focus and center the mind. This is absolutely true! I never knew how challenging it is to focus your mind. Constantly we are thinking about what happened during the day, a task we must complete tomorrow, worries about specific problems, or fantasizing about the food we want; the mind is always on the go. I have learned that we must be intentional and engage in this mind-centered practice on developing and gaining more control over our thoughts which are realized in our behavior. The words of Metta meditation, “Be well, happy, and peaceful,” echoed in my mind and further relaxed my body. At that moment, I was overcome by strong feelings of gratitude for the moment of peace we were holding and all of the benevolence surrounding my life, family, and health.


For me, Buddhist meditation was rooted in change and adapting to change as the world evolves and transforms before our very eyes. We experience these changes consciously and unconsciously. It helps me understand that spiritual perspectives outside of our own can teach us and offer a profound perspective on our lives and how we experience life. As a person interested in Multifaith work, I often ask, how can you learn about someone’s religion as you stand outside the bounds? How can I show my interest in learning about a religion that I may not necessarily desire to become a devout practitioner? What does it mean to share our spiritual practices with others, and what power does that deploy? These are questions that I will continually hold as I navigate and engage multifaith community building. It is important that we keep a curious and centered mind as we share our faiths and invite others to share with us.