The first thing that struck me was the quiet. Except for the sound of my breathing, everything was cloaked in silence. I soaked in the calm misty morning and focused on my breathing.
I was meditating in a Buddhist monastery high in the Himalayas with a group of about 19 people. We were there as part of a January Interterm study abroad program at the University of La Verne. We were focusing on Eastern religions. This was part of our research. Suddenly, I realized that something as simple as sitting, breathing and concentrating on the “here and now” was an incredibly unusual feeling for me. But there, with nothing to distract me, I was able to do just that. I had to travel half-way across the world—to India—to realize what it is like to focus on the present moments of life.
In a city like Los Angeles, traffic, billboards, airplanes and masses of people make it difficult to concentrate on the “here and now.” As one who lives in downtown Los Angeles, I did not realize how exhausted my senses were until I was meditating in the monastery and listening to the simple sounds of silence. In the stillness of that monastery, I realized how much of my life I had probably missed because I was not appreciating its individual moments.
City life can be exciting, but it can also be distracting and overwhelming. Going to India gave me a greater appreciation for smaller and quieter cities and towns like our very own La Verne. With its peaceful, tree-shaded neighborhoods, La Verne is a place that has captured the silence of a morning in the Himalayas right inside its borders. There are not many honking horns or giant billboards clamoring for my attention as I stroll down Third Street. Instead, I feel the breeze on my face, hear birds chirping in the trees and feel the warm sun against my skin. As a small town in the midst of Los Angeles County, La Verne has created a sense of escape for many of its residents and visiting students. It is in La Verne where I can get away from the distractions of the big city and again appreciate the quality of life’s small, individual moments.