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A new Zen Buddhist meditation group open to all members of the University community had its first meeting on Thursday, Oct. 18.

Matt Teshin Sweger, a meditation instructor who started, and now leads, the group, explained that he thought of the idea about a year ago but that it was only brought to fruition about a month ago when he presented it to Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Denise Yarbrough who, he recalled, thought it was promising. Sweger believes that it is important for the University community to have an accessible place on campus where they are able to meditate, as opposed to going to a location off campus.

“I think Rochester in general is a good community for spiritual practice,” he said. “I’ve always felt that.” He went on to explain that this feeling stems from the cloudy, gray weather that so often frequents the Flower City which, he claimed, helps people look inward.

He also hopes that this new group will provide an outlet for students, or other members of the University community, who are often preoccupied with the “incredible busyness that school life is.”

“I think that everyone needs to stop once in a while and look up,” he said.

But what is Zen Buddhist meditation?

Sweger claims that “it’s more about actually experiencing it for yourself” and not as much about reading about or studying the practice. Ideally, “the goal of Zen meditation, if you can speak of a goal, is to awaken your true nature,” according to Sweger.

Zen meditation also helps with concentration and quieting the mind, but, according to Sweger, these are only side effects that come from the main goals of awakening and enlightenment.

The group, which will meet Thursday evenings, will provide instruction for beginners before the session, time for sitting (an informal name for meditation, which is formally referred to as zazen), walking meditation and informal discussion at the end of each meeting. Details are still being ironed out, depending on group member preference, Sweger said.

Freshman Becky Everson, who attended Thursday’s meeting, decided to join the group because she converted from Christianity to Buddhism this summer and hopes to learn more about her new faith.

“I am joining the new Zen Buddhist group because community is a key component in practicing Buddhism,” she said. “We support each other and acknowledge the hard work that goes into being committed to the religion.”

Sweger hopes that the group will “take hold” in the University community and encourages participation despite experience level.

Goldin is a member of the class of 2013.

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