Beliefnet
For one day every year, a green swath of New York's Central Park goes silent: It begins with the clear, bright sound of a meditation bell, rung 108 times. As the sound spreads out into the park, hundreds of people who have trickled onto the lawn arrange meditation cushions and blankets and ready themselves for a day of free-flowing meditation instruction and Buddhist teachings.

The event, known as "Change Your Mind Day" (CYMD) is sponsored by Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, a New York-based quarterly magazine exploring Buddhism's growing presence in the West. The event will be held in nine cities around the country this year--Anchorage, Austin, Kansas City, New York City, Pasadena, San Francisco, Montoursville, Pa., and Vancouver, B.C.--on Saturday, June 3, from 12:30 p.m. to 5:50 p.m. And each city's CYMD--the phrase evokes the Buddhist notion that transformation of self and society begins with a clear perception of mind--will feature teachers offering a wide range of meditation techniques, chants, and Buddhist teaching styles from Zen to Theravada, from Tibetan to Pure Land, and many sects in between.

Pat Enkyo O'Hara, a Zen teacher and leader of the Village Zendo in New York City, is a fixture at CYMD in Central Park. Each year, she leads the crowd in a short session of beginning Zen meditation. "The main thing is it's not a show," says O'Hara. "It's a real opportunity to experience practice. And as a teacher, it's revitalizing to see hear such a range of Buddhist teachings."

Non-Buddhists and curious seekers who may be hesitant about taking on the structure and perceived insularity of Buddhist groups, temples, or monasteries like CYMD's open and relaxed atmosphere. At past Change Your Mind Days, bicyclists, runners, and dog walkers have stopped and sat down to listen, and sometimes found themselves meditating for the rest of the afternoon. Rande Brown, Tricycle's director of special events, has seen the gathering grow from 300 participants at its inception in 1993 to over 3,000 at last year's event in Central Park--Change Your Mind Day's birthplace. "It's a great way of bringing the dharma to those who don't usually have access, and for local Buddhists to meet one another."

Helen Tworkov, Tricycle's founder and editor in chief and a longtime Buddhist practitioner, conceived of CYMD as a traditional way of imparting Buddhist teachings in the modern world. "One of the nicest things about [CYMD] is the total absence of anything commercial," says Tworkov. "The teachers all donate their time, the staff volunteer their help, we don't plug subscriptions. The dharma is presented as an offering, free, open to everyone, outside, with trees and grass, and kids and dogs running around. Sort of like, as I imagine it, how it was at the time of the Buddha."

Composer and musician Philip Glass, who practices Tibetan Buddhism and has appeared at every CYMD, calls himself "a regular playing to the home crowd." He performs pieces, he says, that "allow a meditative state. People come expecting a spiritual, and therefore more private, experience." Not an image that usually comes to mind when you think of Central Park.

A very partial list of this year's coast-to-coast participants includes: in New York, Zen teacher Bernard Glassman Roshi, Shambhala Tibetan teacher Judith Lief, Tibetologist Robert A.F. Thurman, and Theravada master Ven. Kurunegoda Piyatissa; in San Francisco, Zen teacher Norman Fisher, Tibetan Lama Palden, and vipassana teacher Wes Nisker. In Anchorage, Lama Chodak Gyatso, members of Sokka Gakkai International's Youth Group, and Zen master Tozen Akiyama; in Seattle, vipassana teacher Rodney Smith, and Tibetan teacher Gen-la Kelsang Jangsem. And many more.

For information, including a full list of teachers, performers, and locations check out Tricycle's website . Or call Tricycle at 1-800-950-7008.

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