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A satisfying lunch hour with the Cimarron Alliance meditation class

Liz Burleson / Red Dirt Report
Jim Busenbark and Mark Hoggard co-lead a meditation group at the Cimarron Alliance Equality Center each week.
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- With worries surrounding the government shutdown, shootings, and general global unrest - not to mention the more mundane yet nagging stresses of everyday life - its hard not to feel overwhelmed.  

We all are bound to give in to what Mike Hoggard, one of the instructors for the “Stress Less: Meditation for Beginners” class, at the Cimarron Alliance Equality Center, calls “monkey mind.”  This state of mind occurs when random thoughts seem to arise out of themselves.  Thoughts that invade our peace of mind -Did I turn off the curling iron or I wish I’d said something different in that company email - take over.  

Meditation, Hoggard advises, helps you realize you don’t have to follow those thoughts.  It helps you let them go.  He has spent over 30 years practicing meditation and explains that it doesn’t have to be religious, just beneficial.

Class begins and the guests sit in a circle.  There are no whimsical tunes or yoga pants to be found here, just people in their collared shirts and loafers who have come to find a quiet place to center themselves during their lunch breaks.  Natural lights fills the room and pumpkin spice candles scent the air.

Hoggard, with his associate Jim Busenbark who also leads classes on occasion, sit straight in their chairs and discuss the benefits of the class.  “Large groups have energy that is exponential,” Hoggards explains.  Today’s class is smaller, made up of five guests, but the energy is still palpable.

Once everyone is settled, Hoggard starts the group out with a deep breathing exercise.  All eyes are closed and everyone’s hands have settled into unintentional Buddha-like positions in their laps. Hoggard advises everyone to gain awareness and intention as the deep breathing in the room effortlessly synchronizes.  “Leave and set aside your “To Do’s” and focus on the sensation of breathing,” he quietly requests.

He guides the class into a sinking relaxation and a “gentle, slow scan of our entire body” wherein the guests slowly release tension starting at their heads and ending at their tips of their feet.

Not only are the worries of the workday long gone, but the class is blissfully unaffected - though aware - of the buzzing of a hedge trimmer that noisily makes its way along the side the building outside.  The idea is not to block out the noises and the problems.  It is simply to acknowledge them and put them aside while you find a peaceful place in your own mind, if only for 20 or 30 minutes.

The class is then guided through what is called “Gentle Breath Focus.”  Hoggard instructs them how to be “keenly aware” of the sensation of breathing.  The purpose of the exercise seems to be in the importance of recognizing random thoughts and sensations.

“Take some precious time for yourself,” Hoggard advises in an almost whisper.  “Take time to de-focus on the business of life.  This is a place to share and extend your relaxation and share and extend your piece of mind.”

The class is gently - this seems to be a key ingredient in the sessions - led out of their meditative states and back into the room.  A short and informal discussion begins on the experience as well as past experiences with meditation and what sparked an interest in learning it.

Robert Rogers, of Mr. Rogers’ Weborhood online marketing agency, has been coming to the classes and has studied meditation since the 1990’s.  After the loss of a close relative, he struggled with anxiety and panic attacks until he “stumbled in meditation” which he says changed his life.

“I’ve heard it said that prayer is asking and meditation is receiving,” he explains.  

The class ends with one last breathing exercise where students are instructed to breath in for three counts and out for five.  At first, Hoggard counts aloud, but then the inhaling and exhaling of all present aligns and Hoggard is silent as the class quietly focuses on the breath counts.

As the session comes to a close the class unanimously agrees to a feeling of relaxation and relief from the day’s woes.  They gather their things and stretch in satisfaction.   

Reaching for his untouched drink, Robert Rogers notes that when you’re stressed you seem to suffer from dry mouth.  He laughingly adds, “You know you’ve reached Nirvana when you start salivating.”

For Stress Less: Meditation for Beginners class times and dates or for more on the Cimarron Alliance go to:


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About the Author

Liz Burleson

Liz Burleson is from Oklahoma City and received a degree in English with a minor in Asian...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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