Meditation center offers peace to WNC

Here is an article featuring The Meditation Center in the Smoky Mountain News’ annual Living Well edition:

Smoky Mountain News:

Meditation center offers peace to WNC

September 25, 2019
Written by  Holly Kays

Mark Stein (pictured) and Randy Doster see themselves as facilitators and stewards of The Meditation Center.

It was close to Christmas 2015 when Mark Stein and Randy Doster opened The Meditation Center in Sylva, an oasis of calming music and inspirational décor in a small white house along N.C. 107. 

“They say, ‘When you build it they will come.’ I was just amazed — we were so blown away — that out here in the country there were so many people interested in those kinds of things,” said Stein.

photos: Holly Kays

He and Doster first got involved with meditation prior to their arrival in Western North Carolina, when they lived in Silver Spring, Maryland. They were both interested in spirituality and metaphysical concepts, said Stein, and began taking classes at a retreat center in Roanoke, Virginia. Eventually, they earned certification as metaphysical teachers from the United Metaphysical Churches. 

“Meditation is simply just going into a quiet place and connecting with your higher self or a higher form of a spirit,” said Stein. “We don’t tell people what to believe. We allow people to sort of find their own way. We give them the principles and the guidance, and they find their own way with whatever works best for them.”

For Stein, meditation provides a “safe space” to look inward, to put things in perspective. Many times, he said, the negative reactions people have to things going on in the world are as much a product of how they respond to events than they are of the events themselves. 

“We can learn to respond differently, which reduces stress, and by reducing stress there’s other health benefits,” he said. “It helps with blood pressure, it helps with the heart.”

Those are benefits Stein experienced firsthand when his newfound interest in meditation began to intersect with his longstanding career in a much different discipline. He retired last year after 19 years working in sales support for a software company. Doster, likewise, has a resume wildly divergent from his current involvement in meditation — he previously did electronic billing for Georgetown University and is retired from the U.S. Air Force. 

“I have a tendency to procrastinate, so I get stressed out about getting a project done,” said Stein. “Historically that was a very stressful thing for me, but the more I meditated the more I would be able to tell myself, ‘I can handle this.’”

That experience convinced him that meditation was something he wanted to share with the wider world, a desire that gave rise to opening the center in Sylva, which operates as a nonprofit. Most classes have a suggested donation attached to them, while others encourage participants to donate whatever they feel is fair. 

“We’re not making any money from this,” said Stein. “It’s something we do for the good of the community.”

The Meditation Center offers a variety of opportunities for people interested in learning more. Every Tuesday evening there’s a healing meditation session that focuses on healing for participants — mind and body — as well as for their loved ones and community. There’s a Saturday discussion group that features a topic or issue of interest, followed by a meditation on that topic, as well as a variety of special classes and a metaphysical lecture [lesson] on the third Sunday of each month, which focuses on finding deeper meaning in a passage of scripture. 

“It’s fascinating, because we do see people who come in here who seem to be generally stressed out all the time,” said Stein. 

They come to The Meditation Center, and they find that they feel better. 

“That’s probably the main point, is really just learning to be part of life rather than trying to control it all the time, trying to impose our personal will on our situations,” said Stein. “Sometimes what we want is not always what we need, and it helps you find the perspective to understand the difference.”

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