Kutztown meditation sangha provides peace, tranquility, connection

Photo by Steven Stolley Tamu Ngina, Buddhist minister, hosts meditation sanghas at St. Barnabas Church, Kutztown.

A Kutztown mother of four sons achieves her dream to start a meditation sangha and brings meditators peace, tranquility and connection with others.

Tamu Ngina is a Buddhist minister. She trained with the Reverend Koyo Kubose at the Bright Dawn Center of Oneness Buddhism in Coarsegold, CA.

Now located in Kutztown, she hosts meditation sanghas at St. Barnabas Church on E. Main Street every Saturday at 8:30 a.m.

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According to the literature for her organization, the Sanctuary Center Within Sangha, these sessions of group meditation can build self-confidence, improve memory, help with pain management and relieve stress, among other benefits. The sessions also include dhamma/dharma sharing, which simply involves the sharing of ones insights and experience respecting the practice of meditation and Buddhism.

Five people pile into the back room of the one-story church to meditate on this particular Saturday, Aug. 2. Sitting in a circle on pillows set on the floor, they introduce themselves. Each person takes a card with a topic relating to meditation or enlightenment and shares.

They then inaugurate the weekend with 30 minutes of silent meditation as incense smoke drifts through the room.

After the bell on Nginas tablet chimes to signal 30 minutes have passed, each member of the group shares their meditation experience. Ngina guides the session, but each person gets the chance to air their thoughts. After an hour, the session is over and the meditators slowly rise from pillows and bags of rice set on the floor.

Matt Owen, 33, of West Reading is one of the meditators.

This is my second time at this particular sangha, he said after the session. I sort of connected with Tamu through the timer shes using, theres a group setting on there. I use the timer myself. I teach meditation at a drug and alcohol rehab, and we have a sangha at the Unitarian church in Reading, as well.

So thats how we connected, he continued. My schedule hasnt permitted me to be here a lot, because I work often on Saturday mornings, but its a great way for me, on Saturday, to wind down my week. I practice Buddhism outside of here, this isnt my only spot, so its important for me to find other people and sit with them, because sitting by yourself only gets you so far sometimes. It brings me a lot of peace and tranquility and connection with everyone.

The other practitioners voiced similar sentiments when asked how meditation affects their lives and can yield practical results.

Cindy Mummert, 46, a teacher from Sinking Spring, just finished a full-year educational sabbatical. During that time, I attended a lot of workshops and I did a mindfulness-based stress reduction program through the University of Penn which taught meditation, but totally stripped out the spiritual aspect. So Ive gone to other retreats this year and was kind of missing that spirituality aspect.

Im planning to start my classes this year with a minute of silence and stillness. I did it two years ago with one of my classes and the kids really liked it. I didnt tell them why we were doing it and later they could verbalize that they knew exactly what it was about. So I think kids are really receptive and I dont think we give students, or even ourselves, much permission during the day to be still. I think we crave it and even if we dont know that were looking for it, it usually hits home.

Other attendees included John Good, a vegetable farmer from Fogelsville, and Patrick Donmoyer, who is the Building Conservator and Exhibit Specialist for the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University.

It puts you in this great frame of mind to begin your weekend when youve just begun with total relaxation, said Good, who has two young children. To have this time where you can come sit with a group of people who are all dedicated to the same thing and you dont have to worry about attending to somebody elses needs is tremendously freeing, and it gives you a real chance to concentrate.

Donmoyer has been going to St. Barnabas for about four years, but said that he did not know that the meditation sangha was being held there until a week prior to the session.

Part of my interest in explorations with meditation is blending eastern ideas with the local ideas that Ive been studying as pertains to Pennsylvania Dutch folk medicine and especially the rounds of prayers, meditations and contemplations that are a part of that process. So, for me, that blends both my cultural religious orientation and also my interest in exploring other areas, he explained.

Besides her role as a Buddhist minister, Ngina is a licensed massage therapist and an ordained spiritual minister. Shes lived in Kutztown for 20 years and has four sons.

It was my dream to start a meditation sangha, she said. She had to pay for the first meeting venue she found. I figured, since Im not doing this as a business but as a ministerial service, I wanted to find a place where I didnt necessarily have to pay a fee, but could take donations.

She got turned on to St. Barnabas, which Donmoyer describes as a very progressive, small congregation, and the rest is history.

As a participant in the meditation sangha, I have to concur with Ngina and her co-practitioners about the benefits of such practice. I had difficulty simply focusing on my breathing for a few minutes as the meditation began, but once I let go of the things weighing on my mind (work, bills and scholastic demands) I found myself in a state of sublime relaxation. There is something quite cathartic about letting go of the future and past to simply be in the moment.

When the bell chimed and the meditation was over, it was as though I had just awoken from a deep slumber. I was groggy, but I also felt refreshed, revived and rejuvenated. I was able to focus on the task at hand for the rest of the day and set aside needless distractions and worries. I think that it is safe to say that there is at least some benefit, whether psychosomatic or physically real, to this type of therapy.

Meditation sangha will be held every Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. and every other Thursday evening starting September at 7 p.m. For more, visit www.SCWSangha.org.