The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 21, 2013

Group seeks sangha through meditation

By Ian Faulkner, Staff Writer

Monday, January 21, 2013 — Sessions on meditation and dharma are taking place at the Stanly County Public Library.

Guided by Mike Flaherty and David Heckle, the group meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays for about an hour in the community room of the library.

“We’ve had an exceptional turnout,” Flaherty said.

They began having the sessions in December.

“Eight people showed up for the Jan. 10 meeting,” Flaherty said.

“We’re looking forward to meeting more regularly.”

The sessions began with one a month, but they moved the meeting time up to once a week after meeting with enthusiasm from the community.

Flaherty described his purpose in forming this meditation group as “To establish a community of people who share a desire to meditate, to form a sangha.”

“Sangha” is a Sanskrit word that literally means “community” or “assemblage.” The term finds its roots within Buddhism.

“Eventually, we want to go into deeper discussions of dharma and teachings essential to meditation, or at least helpful to understanding meditation,” Flaherty said.

“There is much to be derived from meditation, as far as living a better life and enriching the lives of those around you.

“Meditation gives you the ability to realize where emotions are coming from and to keep them in check, a cushion between emotion and reaction.

“Pause and think, breath and relax,” Flaherty said.

He elaborated on some of the practices involved in meditation.

“The first part is observing the mind, breath and body, the idea of trying to let your mind relax,” he said.

Flaherty talked about yoga “monkey mind,” where the mind is wandering all over the place, unable to settle.

“You want to get away from this. Observe these things and bring yourself back to start,” he said.

There are a number of reasons for one to practice meditation and Flaherty related the importance of meditating.

“People spend a lot of time working on their bodies and the mind is just as important, and I think it can be more important, because I believe the mind continues and the body doesn’t,” he said.

Flaherty spoke about his interest and history in meditation.

“It goes back over 40 years, when I studied under Alan Watts,” Flaherty said.

“The Doors of Perception” by Aldous Huxley is another source Flaherty credits for gaining his interest in meditation and dharma.

Flaherty said that The Beatles involvement with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was what initially interested him.

“I was 14 or 15 and that’s where my interest started. My interest sparked in college with Intro to Eastern Thought. My studies evolved to going on retreats and gathering knowledge over the years,” he said.

Flaherty has practiced meditation on and off for years and has paired it with yoga, as well.

“I’ve been involved with yoga practice for years. I hadn’t practiced yoga until my wife and daughter got serious at it,” he said.

His daughter is an instructor at Albemarle Pilates and Yoga.

“It’s a wonderful thing what Cindy Brewer does with that studio and I’m grateful for what she does in the community,” he said.

He discussed his plans for the meditation group.

“I would like to get to a different space and create  an actual sangha for the community and have a scholarship, as well.

“We really appreciate the library for their purpose, as well,” he said.

“If people are going to be consistently interested, this is something we want to get organized.

“We’ll see where it grows from here or see how it continues with people who are interested.

“David and I are very pleased and optimistic about it and the potential for this to continue and flourish.

“This is good for physical and spiritual health, getting an understanding of the mind and de-stressing,”

The next meeting will be  at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 24 at the library.

For more information contact Mike Flaherty at (704) 322-6585.