Finding Center: Meditation Community of Fredericksburg Offers a Balanced Perspective

Front Porch Magazine
September 2011

Eight years ago, John McLaughlin approached Todd Drake with an inspired plan.  Energized by a recent visit to Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village Monastery in France, McLaughlin proposed a meditation community, a sangha, in Fredericksburg.  The meditation group with which Drake had been involved had recently dissolved, and he was keen on starting fresh with the enthusiastic and explorative McLaughlin.  Ever the passionate intellectual, Drake organized a routine centered on the philosophy of Insight Meditation, a branch focusing on mindful thought, speech, and action.   With the addition of Bill Brooks, a disciplined and diligent meditation practitioner, and Leigh D’Lugos, who specializes in guided meditation, the equanimous group took on coherence.  Imbued with knowledge and experiences from numerous retreats and years of study, the facilitators complement each other in their personal devotion to the practice of meditation and its benefits.  They motivate participants to return week after week to connect within an open-minded community and to deepen their own practices.

Brooks ponders, “I think a lot of people are overwhelmed by the idea of meditation because they think it’s something they have to do for hours or many times a day.”

“Lotus position,” McLaughlin interjects with a grin.

“And they can’t think!” Drake laughs heartily. 

“Right, there are a lot of misconceptions about it.  In terms of accessibility, if you’ve got five minutes, sit and be silent for those five minutes and hold the awareness as best you can. Ten minutes in traffic? Use it to practice. Over time the benefits become apparent,” Brooks explains.

Drake nods, “For people who want to explore the benefits of meditation, this is a place where they can learn to do that.  They don’t have to worry about being something extraordinary; they can just relax and learn the practice.  Meditating within the sangha strengthens your own practice, deepening your concentration.”

“It’s one thing to sit on your cushion and meditate by yourself; the sangha provides support wherein we share the trials and tribulations of the practice. It is affirming in terms of personal progress,” shares Brooks.

With opportunities to practice sitting meditation each Thursday evening, Mindful Listening on alternating Thursdays, and Mindful Recovery for those managing addiction on Friday nights, Meditation Community of Fredericksburg offers a flexible and accessible schedule to the wider populous.   The group’s facilitators are devoted to developing a community of practitioners, and their vision for greater communication and connectedness extends far beyond the sangha. 

“I had begun to feel like I was moving through life with a machete,” explains the pragmatic D’Lugos, “knocking down goals in front of me and always reaching for the next thing.  I was missing the present and I was mentally exhausted.  I wanted to learn to live more in the moment, and others can too.”

“We have a personal practice that we find very beneficial, and we have shared that within this sangha for eight years; so the impetus for Meditation Community of Fredericksburg was to make it an organization with more of a public face,” expounds Brooks.

“It is important to all of us that our groups remain secular.  The practice should not be viewed as religious or philosophical, rather as a practical tool that is open to people of all faiths,” continues McLaughlin, “There’s so much suffering out there; I see it every day.  We know that this practice can relieve peoples’ suffering.  With Meditation Community of Fredericksburg, we are offering people a place to have significant conversations about trust, forgiveness, and loving kindness.”  

Ultimately, Drake finds the truth, “We live in a very chaotic world, one that needs more balance, and that balance has to come from within each one of us.”

Find more information about Mediation Community of Fredericksburg at www.meditatefred.com.