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A place to meditate

By Margaret Slaby
McClatchy Newspapers

FRESNO, Calif. — Patricia Lewis likes to start her mornings with meditation. The 20 to 30 minutes that it takes, she says, sets the tone for the entire day.

“It's just sitting and quieting yourself and going within,” says Lewis, 66, who uses a spare room she and her husband, Eldon, designated for reiki and meditation when they built their Clovis, Calif., home six years ago. Lewis has practiced reiki, a Japanese technique said to facilitate healing and relaxation by placing the hands on or near another person, for more than a decade. She's been meditating for 10 years.

“I find that if you meditate every day before you do anything, your life goes so well,” Lewis says. “It puts you in the now.”

“This is my spiritual niche,” Lewis says.

Lewis is among people discovering the benefits of having spaces in their homes set aside for meditation. And it's not that difficult to do. It can be as simple as a corner of a room with a place to sit and a few personal touches such as a photograph, candle or vase of flowers.

Diane Dimon, who's been meditating for 40 years and teaching it for 24 (the past 10 through her Fresno, Calif., business, Matters of the Mind), describes a meditation space as “a nourishing place that beckons you to come and be rather than do.” She says meditation can help improve concentration, energy and mood; increase creativity and inner peace; reduce stress and anger; and strengthen the immune system and the ability to cope with grief and loss.

Lewis' room includes a futon to sit on while meditating. A Buddha statue, assorted stones and an incense holder sit on a small corner table. Books, candles and seashells fill a curio cabinet. There also is a CD player so she can listen to soothing music and chants, and Eldon installed rope lighting behind crown molding along the ceiling.

But what if you can't devote an entire room to meditation? Don't stress, Dimon says. A walk-in closet, a chair in the backyard under a tree or the bathroom will do. “If it's the only place you can get a calm space, it works wonderfully,” Dimon says.

Jeannie Patrick, 58, uses part of the living room of her 1,000-square-foot Fresno home for meditation. A library table sits against a section of wall; statues of Buddha and Mary, a photo of her guru and a picture of Jesus are among the items on the table. A 16th- century hand-carved oak chair with an Asian tapestry seat faces the table; this is where Patrick sits while meditating. She meditates twice a day, 10-60 minutes at a time, ideally around sunrise and sunset. Sometimes she listens to music. She also repeats mantras; one of her favorites is, “I am.”

Patrick has meditated for nine years. She says it “brings a broader perspective of being understanding of the way people are. It makes you much more compassionate and loving of your fellow man.”

She says her small space works just fine.

Dick and Pat Wolk of Fresno, however, have much more than a small space. Two years ago, they erected a 10-by-12-foot meditation house in the backyard of their home, which sits on 1- 1 / 4 acres. All the pieces, including pitched shingle roof, carved wooden posts with lotus blossoms near the entry and a 6-by-12-foot deck, were handmade in Indonesia from 60-to-100-year-old recycled teak, then shipped to the United States.

The Wolks use the house for many things. “We have concerts out there. It's a guesthouse. It's a meditation house. It's a silent space. It's just warm and fuzzy,” Pat Wolk says.

Pat Wolk spends time in it several times a week. “I go out there and meditate by being by myself and sitting quietly or reading. It's a very peaceful space,” she says.

Lewis says it's important to find an area free from distractions and interruptions for meditation. She says it's also essential to “carve out that time for yourself.”

“It's all about focusing and letting go and breathing,” she says. “It's about living in the moment — being aware of the moment because you can't control what's going to happen in the next five minutes, and you can't control other people's dramas. You are born, you live and then you die, so you might as well live right now and enjoy the moment.”

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