A moment's peace

By Emily Aronson, SeaCoastOnline.com, Jan 3, 2004

Newmarket, NH (USA) -- While some start the new year hoping to lose 10 pounds or save more money, those at the Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center on Sunday had a loftier goal in mind - to spread peace.

<< A woman meditates in silence for one hour during the Aryaloka Buddhist Center's Meditation for Peace, a fund-raising event offering hourlong sessions from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Photo by Andrew Moore

The 20 people from the Seacoast and beyond sat from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the center?s first meditation marathon for peace. Not everyone stayed the entire 12 hours, but all those involved said they wanted to dedicate at least a few hours to working toward inner and outer peace.

"Things are much more harmonious when we meditate," said Amala, the center?s director. "When I meditate regularly, I?m able to be much more open, relaxed and effective."

Each hourlong meditation was held in the building?s shrine room. Sitting on blue mats placed on the floor, the group formed a circle around shrines of the Buddha and traditional offerings of incense, flowers and candles.
Sandy Bonin, who helped organize the    >>
Meditation for Peace marathon fund-raiser at the Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket on Sunday, precedes an hour of silent meditation with a reading from "Meditation Now: Inner Peace through Inner Wisdom," S.N. Goenka's interpretations of the Buddha's teachings. Bonin will gently ring the large bell by her side to signal the beginning of the silence.
Photo by Andrew Moore 

Amala and other Buddhists there said finding peace within creates a domino effect of sorts.

"If you act and think positively, then the result of your actions creates more positivity in the world," explained Sandy Bonin of Rollinsford, one of the marathon organizers.

Jean Corson Wolff, another organizer, agreed.

"At some level (the world is) all connected by this energy," Corson Wolff said. "The collective positive energy does have an influence."

Corson Wolff said it?s a shame that some people think those who talk about meditation and connected energy "think you?ve taken a weird left turn somewhere."

"It?s not about new-age silliness, it?s quantum physics," she said, noting that scientists also believe in connected energy theories.

While the war in Iraq was not specifically mentioned during any of the sessions, it was an issue on many people?s minds.

"I believe the world needs a little more peace in it than there is right now," said Dick Hicks of Nottingham.

In addition to those in Iraq, Betsy Sterling Benjamin of Kingston said her thoughts were also with the victims of last week?s tsunami.

"I know scientists say we have nothing to do with it, but I think we do," she said. "I felt very much the Earth was shaking us up, saying, ?Wake up and pay attention.?"

While many of the participants have been coming to the Buddhist Center for a few years, a handful said the marathon for peace was only their first or second meditation.

John Chandler, who came with his mother from Portland, Maine, said he liked Buddhist ideas of spirituality and peace, but wasn?t sure if he could become a follower.

"What appeals to me (in Buddhism), is that my life for the last few years has been about noise," he said. "I?m just looking now for more spirituality."

When asked if he thought his meditations could lead to peace in others, Chandler said he was not sure.

"I don?t know how much you can do for the outside world, if you?re not at peace with yourself," he said.