A date for enlightenment

by Mark I. Pinsky, Orlando Sentinel, May 29, 2006

Central Florida Buddhists are taking part in a worldwide event to help open busy minds to new, more peaceful, journeys.
Orlando, FL (USA)
-- Evangelism isn't a word usually associated with Buddhism, but the international outreach known as "Change Your Mind Day" sounds a lot like it.

On Saturday, Central Florida Buddhists will sponsor a version of the worldwide gathering that began in 1993. The occasion is aimed at teaching people how to manage anxiety through meditation, sponsors say.

The afternoon meeting at First Unitarian Church of Orlando, which is free and open to the public, will feature talks on yoga and Zen, as well as cooking and dance demonstrations, and refreshments.

"It's more for people who are not Buddhists," says an organizer, Suzi K. Edwards of Maitland. "We're trying to teach people how to meditate, to have people become more peaceful on the inside so they'll be more peaceful on the outside."

Winter Park psychotherapist Peter Carlson will lead a session on "Letting Go of Suffering."

"Some people report after the first guided meditation a significant feeling of calmness, which is remarkable to them," he says.

On the other hand, he acknowledges, "that may just be beginner's luck."

Unlike the Central Florida gathering -- a first for this area -- many other Change Your Mind Day observations take place outdoors.

"The idea is to reach out to people who don't know about Buddhism -- in a public space," says Larry Ransom-Wiley, the event's worldwide coordinator. "From our perspective, we think people can be intimidated by going into a Buddhist temple, so we try to encourage organizers to arrange their events in public parks."

Although Change Your Mind Day sounds a lot like the festival model of evangelical Christian crusades, such as the one sponsored by Luis Palau at the Citrus Bowl recently, Ransom-Wiley says it's not proselytizing.

"It's more of an invitation," says Ransom-Wiley, who works for the New York-based Tricycle Foundation and magazine, dedicated to advancing Buddhism. "There aren't missionaries. It's always, like, a come-and-see thing."

The Orlando event runs from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday. The church is at 1901 E. Robinson St.