NORMAN — Individuals of any age and religion can escape the stress of the daily grind at a weekly meditation class from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays at St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church.
The class, led by three or four Buddhist monks who make the trek each week from the Oklahoma Buddhist Center in Oklahoma City, is free and open to the public and doesn’t require any sign-up or commitment.
The meditation is led by Sri Lankan monk Hingulwala Piyaratana, who goes by his Buddhist title Bhante Ratana.
For him, meditation has been an integral part of everyday life since boyhood.
Ratana was ordained as a novice at age 11. He obtained a master’s degree in Pali, a dead language that was used in many of the earliest Buddhist scriptures, from the University of Kelaniya in Sri Lanka. In 2007, he came to Oklahoma to serve as president of the Oklahoma Buddhist Center.
Ratana said he knew he was moving into the “Bible belt” when he came to Oklahoma, but he has been very pleased so far with the interest and openness in Buddhism and meditation he’s met since he’s been here.
“People here are very interested in meditating,” he said. “We like to share our knowledge and our practice with the people.”
Ratana believes everyone can benefit from meditating, even if they practice different religions, because it increases self confidence and decreases stress.
“Meditation is very important to develop our self confidence and our human qualities — otherwise in this country, it’s all just stress,” he said.
About 20 people attended the first and second classes.
For now, Ratana plans to continue the classes as long as people keep attending.