Luther College Ministries Hosts Silent Meditation for Students to Unwind

Sōtō Zen, the largest of the three sects of Zen in traditional Japanese Buddhism, originated in the 13th century when it was imported by Dōgen Zenji, who was studying abroad in China. Now, the practice is being offered at Luther through Luther College Ministries silent meditation.   

Hosted by Reverend Shoken Winecoff from the Ryumonji Zen Monastery, Professor of Religion Gereon Kopf, Associate Professor in Paideia Scott Hurley, and Pastor Mike Foss, silent meditation is open to all of any faith or religion. Hurley described his experience with silent meditation. 

“Personally, I see this as a place for people who engage in any kind of meditative practice could come and join and enjoy one another’s company,” Hurley said. “I see [silent meditation] as a place for people who engage in silent meditation practice, [in] one form or another, to come together and sit together.”

In the past, Luther College’s weekly silent meditation has been held in person at the Center for Faith and Life, but since February 2021, silent meditation has been virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is held on Zoom on Tuesdays from 5:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. 

The hour-long event consists of a 20 minute meditation, followed by a short discussion on Zen Meditation and its benefits. The event is rooted in the Sōtō Zen tradition, but it is welcome to all types of meditation. Zen meditation, in particular, is meant to allow someone to be with the moment. Winecoff, who has been practicing meditation for 45 years, shared his experience with mediation. 

“The thing that brought me to Zen and meditation was that there were some abrupt changes in my life … and I stumbled upon Zen sitting,” Winecoff said. “So, I just sat with a friend who invited me [to a Zen sitting in Minnesota], and in the course of that 40 minutes, it was like I really settled down. But in the last part of that sitting, it’s like I really came to grips with where things were. […] That is kind of the teaching of Zen or meditation is to be with what is.”

This meditation is not only for Luther faculty and students, but for anyone who is looking for a group meditation to attend. Julia Wolfe, who has done work with various campus ministries, heard about the event from Luther’s website and decided to try it out. She explained why Luther’s silent meditation interested her. 

“What appealed to me was silence,” Wolfe said. “I personally feel that, at a certain level of spiritual development, ideas of religion and ideas of who God is, get in the way of the experience of God.”

Meditation is meant to be a practice that helps with mindfulness, awareness, clearing the mind, and being in the moment. This can be beneficial to many people, including students. With the stress of homework, current events, and COVID-19, meditation can be a way for people to take time to clear their minds. 

“In the midst of this crazy world we’re dealing with; not just the pandemic, but issues of racial justice — including [recent acts of] violence against Asian Americans — and mass shootings, my prayer would be that there would be a sense of serenity,” Foss said. “In the midst of all the chaos, on top of classes and studies, in the midst of all of that, to be able to find this holy place where you can just be at peace, I think would be a wonderful gift.” 

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