What Katy Did - chanting on Corn Hill

After many unfortunate events, the Ipswich Buddhist Centre is fully up and running. Katy went along to the re-opening ceremony and got more than she bargained for.

Sometimes life is tough. Things happen over which you have no control. But what's important is not necessarily what happens but rather how you react and what you do as a response.

The Ipswich Buddhist Centre, just off from the Corn Hill above the Evolution shop, has been beset with bad fortune over the past few months. First it was flooding, which caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to the floors, then they were burgled on more than one occasion, losing precious funds (around a grand, which may not sound much but when you consider the centre has no regular income other than from the people who attend the classes, it's actually a huge sum).

But having been hit with a triple whammy, the order members and volunteers carried on as best they could, even with the shrine room out of action, no carpet on the stairs and few pennies in the piggy bank.

It was a true test of spirit but the community carried on and now, many months later, the centre is back to its former glory with a new floor in the shrine room, new carpets up the stairs, and new locking systems for the front door.

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Buddhist consider it good practise to hold space clearing rituals to help bring positive energy back to a room or building following any negativity, and so as to mark the restoration of the centre, a re-opening ceremony was held a few weeks ago, at which I was present.

It had been a long time since I'd been to the Buddhist Centre. The last time was at a Tuesday lunchtime meditation session and before that, the occasional drop-in class. I first went there in the summer of 2005 when I felt that learning to meditate would help calm my often manic mind. What I didn't expect was to end up going on women's weekend retreats or taking part in Puja ceremonies, an act of devotion to and respect to the Buddha, including chanting and making offerings. I still find chanting slightly strange, but this night was to be one long Puja session so I just had to go with it.

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Around 20 people attended the re-opening ceremony, which also consisted of poetry readings. What I hadn't expected was for the ceremony to be taken outside!

Amogavajra, the new chairman, led the proceedings and thought it would be nice if half way through, we all went outside.

I must confess I did feel somewhat conspicuous standing on the thoroughfare dressed in office attire, listening to poetry and then chanting, with others clanging small cymbals and singing bowls, even though there were very few passers by on the Corn Hill. Although this was bordering on making a fool of myself in public, I then thought 'what do I care?' Yes, we were drawing attention to ourselves, but the noise we were making was a million times more positive and uplifting than the drunken, uncouth louts that shout their way past the centre of a Tuesday evening while people inside are quietly trying to meditate.

But after I got over my embarrassment (I could imagine my friends and parents looking on thinking 'what on earth is she doing') I found it enjoyable and went with the flow, so to speak. So, round and round we went, up the stairs, into all the rooms, sending out positive vibes.

When everyone congregated back in the shrine room, another poem was read was about the life of the Buddha, which was particularly inspiring. Then there was a feast laid on with home-made dishes brought by most members of the group and before I knew it, it was 10pm and time to leave.

Whether this sort of ceremony really does clear negative energy, I'm still not too sure but if nothing else, it brings people together and sets a positive intent for the future, which can't be a bad thing. The centre had gone through tough times but rather than giving up, closing up shop and calling it a day, they rallied round and came out other end in tact, not letting the negative events get the better of them.

For a timetable of meditation classes at the Ipswich Buddhist Centre, visit www.ipswichbuddhistcentre.co.uk. For yoga, chanting, Tai Chi, Reiki and Shiatsu, visit www.higher-evolution.co.uk (it's above the Buddhist centre). There is also a centre in Colchester - visit www.colchesterbuddhistcentre.com.

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