Cover Story

Tracy McDonald

Tracy McDonald

Tracy McDonald
Tracy McDonald, along with Jeff Wilfong, leads Heart of the Lotus Meditation Group, which meets Tuesday evenings, 6:30-8:30, at the Unitarian Fellowship (893-3438). A professor in the College of Business at Chico State University, she has spearheaded the college’s Managing for Sustainability Program.

The bare birches are swaying in the wind outside my window at the Forest Refuge in Barre, Mass. I have just completed a 10-day silent retreat. I am at peace, my heart wide open.

Over a decade ago, I was paralyzed by existential angst, intuiting that there had to be more to life, so I embarked on a spiritual search. Given my scientific bent, I knew a faith-based path wouldn’t speak to my heart. “Do not take my word. Find out for yourself.” Buddha’s words, spoken more than 2500 years ago, rang true.

I wanted to experience the Great Mystery, the Eternal, the Unnamable deep in my bones. Luckily, Buddha left detailed instructions. I became a retreat junkie, sitting as many silent retreats as I could. On retreat, you alternate periods of sitting and walking meditation from early morning till late night. Difficult, but doable. After a few days, a vast silence opens up, and you “get a taste.” I found what I wanted and more.

You collide with your own suffering and develop compassion for yourself. Realizing that everyone is subject to suffering, compassion arises for all beings. Your most deeply-held values become clear. You discover the interdependence in the world and realize that any action by a person, a company, or a country can have far-reaching effects on the rest of the world.

Back in your own world, you discover empathy for people you previously disliked. You deliberate before acting, and it becomes more difficult to cause harm to others or the planet. You more fully inhabit your life. Instead of being lost in your thoughts, planning, mulling over past injustices, fantasizing, you begin to live in the “now,” appreciating the sacredness of each moment.

Five years ago, John Travis, a founding teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, asked me to start a meditation group in Chico. Heart of the Lotus Meditation Group has been meeting for more than four years. We have witnessed deep changes in each other and feel a strong sense of community. Our commitment to each other’s spiritual growth runs strong.

Why do I meditate? I meditate for my children, for the generations to come, for the planet, for all beings. I meditate for peace. In the words of Paul Hawken, the real goal of spirituality is “the transformation of each of us into a person who will help save the world through acts of kindness, compassion, and generosity.”