Meditative moments: Monthly event aims to inspire ‘Peace in the Garden’

Monthly event aims to inspire ‘Peace in the Garden’

BECKY LOCK/Sun-Gazette Ann House, of Williamsport, who has taken classes in meditation for about 25 years, enjoys the seated portion of Peace in the Garden.

What’s an hour of peace and quiet worth to you? For Carolyn Balliet, of Loyalsock Township, it’s priceless.

That’s why she is spearheading a free meditation event at 9 a.m. every fourth Saturday through October.

“I think the world is very stressful,” Balliet said. “This is an escape from the world, a time of peace and mindfulness.”

The meditation, called “Peace in the Garden,” will be held rain or shine at the demonstration gardens cared for by the Lycoming County Master Gardeners at the Lysock Complex, 642 County Farm Road in Loyalsock Township.

“It’s just so pretty here,” Balliet said. “I’d come here anyway to meditate, but the water feature really adds to the ambiance.”

The first event was May 27, and a handful of women attended. Balliet identified herself as the facilitator — not an instructor or a teacher — and said the event is open to men and women.

“This is not therapy. It’s an opportunity to be in the now,” she said. “I really think people need to have some moments of peace.”

As she explained the format at the May meeting, Balliet laid out a few guidelines: No talking about personal issues, world events or emotions. Don’t intrude on anyone else. And remember, there’s no “right” way to meditate.

First, the women stood in a circle and briefly introduced themselves, then did a few exercises to “rid the body and psyche of pent-up negative energy,” Balliet said.

“Shake it off and laugh it off,” she urged. “Laughter has been proven to help decrease anxiety, stress and depression, while increasing quality of life. Shaking is an effective way to release stress from your muscles, lubricate your joints and get your circulation going.

“My goal is that when people come to meditate, they can leave the stressors behind, at least for the period of time that the session runs, and start off on a positive note,” she added.

Next, each person chose a place to sit — in one of the chairs spread throughout the gardens, on the sidewalk or in the grass.

“We’ll sit for 15 minutes, then walk for 15 minutes,” Balliet said. “This is walking meditation. You can meditate doing anything. I recommend you walk slowly and purposefully. You can focus on thoughts, or empty your mind.”

If sitting for that long causes cramping or numbness, no worries. “If you’re not comfortable, get up. Find out what’s best for you,” she added.

Some of the women focused on their environment for that timeframe. The sun shone on their faces, a slight breeze drifted by, water gurgled and a red-winged blackbird sang from a nearby pasture.

“There’s something about the silence and the birds and the air. It’s very peaceful,” said Nancy Lindoerfer, of South Williamsport.

Balliet rang a chime to gather the group and indicated they should begin walking. No path or routine was followed.

“This was a beautiful way to start the day,” said Ann House, of Williamsport.

Some of the attendees on that first day have practiced yoga, meditation or other forms of mindful living. No experience is necessary, though. Donations will be accepted, and waterproof shoes and bug spray are recommended, as is a blanket or towel if attendees plan to sit in the dewy grass.

“This is a time for me to regroup,” Balliet said of the meditation. “I want to create more opportunities where people can do that.”

Though the group will meet at the Master Gardeners’ gardens and Balliet is a member of the organization, the event is not sponsored by it.

“These gardens are wonderful,” said Linda Schramm, a Master Gardener who attended the first meditation session. “Meditation slows everything down and you get more aware of what’s going on around you.”

Four of the remaining five sessions will feature tai chi instructor Pauline Noviello, who will lead a brief session to help the attendees connect with their bodies.

For more information, send an email to peace inthegardenmedita