Oakmont library patrons say meditation with a monk brings mindfulness, health benefits
Bhante Pemarantana’s mantra of “be well, be safe, be peaceful” echoed in a community room of the Oakmont Carnegie Library.
Dressed in a traditional orange robe, the chief abbot of Pittsburgh Buddhist Center in Natrona Heights led a meditation class at 700 Allegheny River Blvd.
“You pay attention to your own mind,” Pemarantana said. “You become an observer of yourself. That’s a skill we want to develop.”
Pemarantana begins each class with a short question-and-answer session. He talks about his background and the practice of meditation. After some light stretching, the lights are shut off and participants enter a state of mindfulness.
“Be in your body, here and now,” Pemarantana told the class while occasionally ringing a bell and instructing people to lose and then regain focus on the world around them.
Participants said they like the program because it gives them a sense of calm and improves their health.
“I just do it to start my day in a nice positive way, being grateful for the body I have and not thinking about my aches and pains” Oakmont resident Sue Goodwin said. “It helps me move from place to place. I’m still standing and doing most of the things I want to do, and I’m pretty old.”
Goodwin said she was introduced to meditation and the monks about 11 years ago while working on the first campaign of President Barack Obama.
Pemarantana, 42, moved to the Pittsburgh area in 2008. He began his journey to become a monk at age 10.
His monastic training was under the tutelage of the most Venerable Attangane Sasanaratana Maha Thero at Sripathi Pirivena Monastery in Kuliyapitiya, Sri Lanka.
“I like the peace of the temple,” he said. “I like robes, also. (Being a monk) is considered a blessing and honor in family.”
Pemarantana talked about how people live most of their lives unconsciously and react to situations through habitual patterns.
“We don’t really live a conscious life, a mindful life,” he said. “Everyone is in auto-pilot mode. What meditation is doing is actually bringing more choice to life. You develop this awareness. When anything happens, before you react, you become aware of the mental fluctuation you’re going through. Then you can make a choice. You can make an informed decision. That’s one of the benefits.”
Meditation with a Monk is offered every Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the library. Attendance is usually between 14 to 16 people.
“It’s a pretty unique offering to get something authentic,” said Robin Almendinger, the library’s adult services coordinator. “They’re genuine monks. This is an important component to our health and wellness program offerings.”
The class is free and no registration is required. Call 412-828-9532 or go to oakmontlibrary.org for more information on library programs.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .