Robert Landau, the instructor of meditation at the Kingwood Community Center, was dressed like a soothing sunset on a beach.
The light of the setting sun coming through the windows lit up his bright-yellow collared shirt, coral-orange pants, striped socks that began with red at the top but ended in blue around the ankle, and sand-colored oxfords. He and the 18 other meditators sat in a circle in the center of the room and kept completely still for just a few moments. They focused on their breathing and let every other thought slip away as the light faded from the sky.
Landau has been teaching others about the practice of mindfulness at the Kingwood Community Center once a month for three years, but first began teaching it in general about nine years ago. He is one of several volunteers who rotate in hosting the meditation sessions at the center, which are every Thursday at 7 p.m. Admission is always free, and newcomers of all ages are welcome.
Landau said that through practicing mindfulness, a person can rediscover and draw from their innate inner strength. Allowing participants to uncover that part of themselves is Landau’s intended goal in the meditation sessions.
“It’s reconnecting everybody with the part of them they forgot,” Landau said. “The part of power, the part of peacefulness, that shows that they can get through anything.”
The theme of the July 22 session was “Dealing with Difficult People.” Landau shared stories from his life about how he used concepts he learned through practicing meditation to deal with challenging situations. In one of the meditations, he asked participants to re-imagine instances in their life where they could have approached arguments or upsetting situations with calmness and inner strength, rather than anger, and several afterward agreed that they felt better about the situation.
As participants trickled out of the room after the hour was up, many came to Landau with a goodbye hug or a kiss on the cheek. A frequent participant gifted him with a pair of socks.
Landau volunteers his time at the community center, like the other instructors who lead the meditation sessions. Each instructor has their own method to help participants unwind and center themselves.
The director of the community center, Justin Hagendorf, said that the meditators have done activities such as listening to calming sounds such as ocean waves, or writing something that is worrying them on a slip of paper and then putting it in a basket in the center of the room, to help let go of their stress.
“Today it’s so busy. It’s like information is almost instant,” said Hagendorf, who is a meditation enthusiast himself. “As soon as something happens, someone tells you about it, and then you go onto the next thing. It’s always moving. It’s like meditation is the one time where you just shut off everything.”
The popularity of meditation in the west began to pick up in the 1990s and has continued to the present, which both Landau and Hagendorf attribute to the ever increasing pace of modern society. They see it as a way for people to return to a more present and comfortable state, leaving behind the bustle of the day.
“I think as things have become more intense in the world, almost on a daily basis, people are really looking for a way to sort of deal with things; to create balance in their lives,” Landau said.
More information about the meditation sessions, as well as the many other programs hosted at the community center, can be found at houstontx.gov/parks/communitycenters/cc-kingwood.html.