Over the past 15 years, the Durango Dharma Center has grown from a handful of people meeting in living rooms to weekly meditation sessions averaging more than 100.
On Monday, more than 250 people attended the first meditation held in the group’s new building on East Third Avenue.
Leaders of the center see the growth as evidence of people seeking out a deeper way of living and a growing awareness of mindfulness practices.
“Apparently, this community is just starved for the kind of insights that are available through the Buddha’s teaching,” said Mary Nowotny, a board member for the center.
The center welcomes anyone interested in meditation and it is not specifically for Buddhists, but the guided mindfulness always include Buddhist teachings, said Erin Treat, a member of the Dharma Leader Council and a retreat leader.
“Everything we do is rooted in practice, rather than doctrine,” she said.
In the dim meditation hall, practitioners sit on cushions and chairs in silence. The room is so quiet, the sound of footsteps disturbs the peace.
Every class starts with meditation because it helps nurture mindfulness, which Treat describes as moment-to-moment observation and nonjudgmental awareness.
“It’s a deeper path that gradually dissolves the barriers to deeper wisdom and compassion,” she said.
Mindfulness is becoming more mainstream and now the center has enough space to serve the growing interest in a permanent home, she said.
The center received $1 million from anonymous donors to purchase and remodel the building, a former medical office. None of the sterile qualities remain – a year of remodeling transformed the building into a restful space decorated in earth tones.
“We wanted to create a space that offered a sense of welcome, a sense of peace,” Treat said.
The center has been in rental spaces and has moved twice in the last three years. Owning a building should give the center stability, leaders say.
“Having a dedicated space we own gives us a certain grounding in the community,” Treat said.
And space to grow as the new center can accommodate about 250 people. The 6,000-square-foot building has a larger meditation hall as well as a library, room for child care and yoga, and a kitchen.
In addition to large-group meditation, the center has small meetings, including a spiritual growth class for families and a 12-step program for those with addiction and co-dependent relationships. The center expects these programs to grow as well.
“I know the new space will allow us to broaden and deepen our offerings,” Treat said.