CUYAHOGA FALLS: Richard Weiner imagines a day when there is no war, no violence in the streets and no unequal distribution of resources.
“We’re working for peace. We’re here to help people attain enlightenment,” said Weiner, a meditation instructor at the Akron-Canton Shambhala Meditation Center. “An enlightened society is a healthy society where war, violence and greed don’t exist. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
Weiner was among nine founding members who opened the meditation center in April 2009 in office space on Portage Trail. Last week, the nonprofit organization moved to a new location and will officially open to the public April 8 at 1707 Front St. The new 9,000-square-foot building, which is the former home of a medical supply store, provides nearly four times more space than the former location.
Although the center will be in full operation, renovation on the building — to make it more inviting — is expected to begin soon. Nick Kosa, who is in charge of the remodeling crew, said his plan is to transform the building into an oasis that cultivates a compassion-based community. Kosa, 34, of Brecksville, began meditating about eight years ago.
“When someone walks in, I want them to be able to feel the joy that people find here,” said Kosa, who formerly worked for a Cleveland-based company that developed warehouses into condominiums. “Meditation has given me a personal calmness and a sense of connectedness to the world and the people I come into contact with daily. I want this space to reflect that, so that people get a sense of dignity as they walk through, so we’ll have to do more than paint the walls and clean the ceilings.”
Kosa said the absence of “unlimited resources” will likely stretch the remodeling process into the next two to three years.
Before opening the center, the founders had been practicing meditation together for years as a branch of the Cleveland Shambhala Meditation Group. The local center has its own senior teaching staff and shares teaching and organizational resources with other groups, including those in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Columbus.
Since opening four years ago, the Akron-Canton group has expanded to include a satellite center in Stark County at 2401 Whipple Avenue, near Westfield Belden Village Mall. The local group is a member of Shambhala International, which includes more than 250 centers and groups around the world.
Shambhala is rooted in the teachings of Buddhism but is open to practitioners of any faith or nonfaith tradition. Its basis is that every human being has a fundamental nature of goodness, warmth and intelligence and that nature can be developed through meditation and further enriched in daily life.
Chris Conkle, director of the Akron-Canton center, said the larger building will allow room for more programming, a larger retail store and more space for groups to meet. Plans also include a new state-of-the-art yoga studio. Conkle, of Akron, started meditating at the center more than two years ago and became the center director in February.
“It’s going to be exciting to have other community events here and to develop a place where people of different faith groups can come together and get to know each other,” said Conkle, 50. “I really want to see people grow and gain a better understanding of each other.”
Space to meet, relax
The new location includes a 1,350-square-foot Shambhala meditation hall, a kitchen, a nondenominational meditation hall, several meeting spaces, four bathrooms, a child-care area, an area for mindfulness-based therapy and Shambhala art therapy, a library and a retail store. Local artists will be invited to hang their works in a designated area.
“The idea is to have a place where people who are interested in mindfulness and religion of any kind can come and meet,” said Weiner, a retired lawyer and freelance legal journalist who writes primarily for Akron Legal News. “Everyone is welcome to mix together informally. Ultimately, we want to create a community center.”
Weiner will lead an introductory session on Shambhala meditation at 7 p.m. Friday at the center. The talk will precede the weekend Shambhala training called “The Art of Being Human.” The training, which costs $125 and runs through Sunday, is designed to teach mindfulness and awareness meditation practices.
The center also offers meditation instruction at no cost at the Cuyahoga Falls location at 6 p.m. Wednesdays or 9:30 a.m. Fridays and at the Stark County location at 6 p.m. on Mondays or Wednesdays.
For more information, go to http://akron.shambhala.org or call 330-459-0320.
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or email@example.com.