Zen Buddhist practitioner to offer insights in Grand Island

By Pete Letheby, Grand Island Independent, Oct 15, 2007

Grand Island, Nebraska (USA) -- Doug Dittman admits that his fondness for Zen Buddhism is "alien" and "hard to understand" for some people.

But since it works for him, none of that other stuff matters.

"It seems like it's what some people need to do," Dittman said. "I think I was one of those people.

"It's a process of being aware and allowing thoughts to come and go," he added. "I have become more at ease and accepting."

Dittman, who is a dairy farmer near Raymond, will be presenting a breakout session on Zen Buddhist meditation at the Grand Island Multicultural Coalition's Fall Conference on Oct. 23.

A growing number of Americans are becoming Zen meditation adherents and Buddhism is one of the fastest-growing religions in Western countries.

Many people who identify themselves as Christians are incorporating Buddhist-style meditation into their daily lives. Dittman said Catholic monasteries in Lincoln and Schuyler have integrated meditation into their contemporary prayer sessions.

Dittman is a member of the Nebraska Zen Center/Heartland Temple in Omaha and is a senior student of the Rev. Nonin Chowaney, an American Zen master. He leads a meditation group each Thursday evening at Lincoln's Unitarian Church.

But most of his meditation is done in his home, in a nook off his bedroom.

"I get up earlier and sit for about 40 minutes," he said. "Then I go out and milk the cows."

Buddha means "awake," Dittman said, and the meditation process helps him stay in the present moment.

"Things have become more manageable," he said. "I'm not getting caught up with everything now."

Dittman's session during the Multicultural Coalition conference will offer participants the chance to take part in a basic, simple Zen Buddhist meditation. If conference-goers choose to do so, they should wear comfortable clothes.

Buddhism has its roots with Siddhartha Gautama (the "Buddha") in present-day Buddha in the sixth century B.C. Dittman is a lay Soto Zen Buddhist practitioner in the tradition of Zen Master Eiuhei Dogen, who established the tradition in Japan in the 13th century.

Dittman and his wife, Krista, operate Branched Oak Farm, on which they have 10 dairy cows. They produce their own cheese, wrapping and labeling it on the farm and then selling it at Lincoln and Omaha farmers' markets and through the new Nebraska Farm Cooperative.


Grand Island Multicultural Coalition's Fall Conference
When: Tuesday, Oct. 23
Where: Midtown Holiday Inn

Contact: Odalys Perez, Multicultural Coalition director, (308) 385-5242, or go online at www.grandislandmulticulturalcoalition.com