“Breathe – let your mind and body relax.” These are words that start mediation sessions at St. George’s Episcopal Church in La Cañada, and probably the most difficult instructions to follow.
Relax, according to Merriam-Webster, is a verb meaning to “become or to cause (something) to become less tense, tight or stiff.” Unfortunately in America, the word relax has become more of a pipedream than an action.
Dr. Steve Gomberg is a licensed acupuncturist and Tibetan Buddhist monk who leads meditation at St. George’s on Sundays at 5 p.m.
Meditation can help not only with health issues but with spirituality as well, regardless of one’s beliefs.
“Meditation has the ability to calm your mind so you have the ability to get in touch with the spiritual [side],” Gomberg. said.
Gomberg stresses he is not teaching Buddhism through the mediation classes but focuses on healing the body and the mind.
“Meditation is common to many religions,” he said. “It is a way to turn inward.”
Gomberg became interested in meditation as a teenager. He was first trained in the Vietnamese tradition, but then in 1999 began studying the Tibetan form of mediation. In 2005, he took his vows as a Buddhist monk.
“I am trying to make the [classes] an [entire] body experience,” he said.
Oftentimes people do not understand mediation and therefore are concerned about how to practice it and what it may involve. Films and writings depict an isolated teacher sitting on a mountaintop waiting to share this ancient art.
Gomberg understands that perception but wants people to know that, although that level of dedication does exist, it is not required.
“The techniques I [teach] are geared towards that reason people leave their [hectic world] to climb the mountain tops, but we can create solitude in our life even for a short period of the day,” he said.
Gomberg starts his sessions with those attending sitting in chairs and letting their minds drift to each part of their body. He guides them to move from their feet to the neck, relaxing each area along the way.
At first, he said, people often fall asleep but that is okay.
“We have to first learn to relax,” he said.
He added that as people learn the art they are able to separate mediation with sleep.
“With meditation, we strive for complete relaxation and complete activeness,” he said.
“Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health. And these benefits don’t end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and can even improve certain medical conditions,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
On its website, the Mayo Clinic states meditation has been known to help conditions including allergies, anxiety disorders, asthma, cancer, pain and high blood pressure.
Gomberg has personally experienced the healing practices of meditation in his own life and in friends’ lives.
“I had a friend, a young man who got involved in drugs and alcohol. I started teaching him meditation everyday for 20 minutes,” he said. Through meditation, the young man was able to control and overcome his addictions. He is now attending college and plans on studying the effects of meditation on those addicted to controlled substances.
Gomberg teaches meditation at St. George’s on Sundays beginning at 5 p.m. It is open to all. It is advised to wear comfortable clothes and bring a mat to sit/lay on, although it is not required. Those in meditation can sit on the floor or in a chair. There is no charge, but there is a recommended donation of $10 per session.
St. George’s is located at 808 Foothill Blvd. La Cañada Flintridge. In addition, Gomberg teaches at the Tara Ling Center, 625 E. Valley Blvd. #E, San Gabriel.