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January 10-17, 2007

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Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs

Life After Zen

Vipassana Santa Cruz has finally found a home of its own. Ever the seeker, Nūz sat down with guiding teacher Mary Grace Orr to discuss the growth of the meditation group, or sangha, and the open house this Saturday that will celebrate their new West Side location.

Orr joined the group when it was renting space from the Santa Cruz Zen Center, which reaches capacity at about 35 people. The group was committed to practicing in the 2,500-year-old Theravadin tradition, which traces its roots back to the Buddha himself, but they initially had trouble attracting new members.

"It was a very hot night when we had six people," Orr jokes.

As Western interest in Buddhism has continued to grow, the sangha outgrew the physical constraints of the Zen center and relocated to the United Methodist Church. Last August they moved again, this time to a new warehouse location on Fair Street that will allow for continued growth. Now a 501c nonprofit organization with a board of directors and tax-deductible status, the group's original once-a-week class has expanded into four different sessions per week. Orr doesn't charge money for classes and stresses that people of all or no religious faiths are welcomed to the new center.

"People do it and they find out that its helpful," she says. "They're more present in their lives and their lives work better, so they get kind of hooked."

As Orr reminded her students after a meditation last week, "This isn't my center or any of our teachers' center, it's your center. I think that sense of ownership is very powerful."

Not convinced? Orr informs us, 'The Buddha says that there's nothing you have to believe, that you should check it out for yourself."

Vipassana Santa Cruz ( will be having its open house Saturday 1:30-5pm. To find the Vipassana meditation center, go to 1010 Fair Ave. (at the intersection with Ingalls) and then go through the gates of the warehouse to a set of doors in the back of the parking lot.

Nūz just loves juicy tips about Santa Cruz County politics.

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