There's a misconception with meditation that the mind has to be a blank void. That couldn't be further from what meditation is.
For Gary Enns, it's about the thoughts you have that make meditation important.
"The only time we have a blank mind is when we're dead," said Enns, director of the Zen Fellowship of Bakersfield. "People say, 'My mind was racing. I'm not good at this.' I tell them they are just fine. It's about simply noticing the thoughts. It's not about jumping the tracks but noticing the trains passing by."
Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, the fellowship hosts morning meditations through Zoom. The Zen meditations, or zazen, take about 25 minutes and usually focus on posturing and breathing. No membership is required and the practice is open to all religious denominations.
For those new to zazen, it's a sitting meditation. An individual will sit on a pillow with their head raised and spine straight. There is an emphasis on breathing.
A common question with mediation is: "What are the benefits?"
While it can help with migraines or moderate pains throughout the body, the desire to meditate shouldn't be goal-oriented, Enns said. Without a desire to succeed or gain something, that's when true peace is found in zazen.
"It's best to come to the practice with no goals," Enns said. "Just come with a full-hearted desire to surrender. The benefit is that it doesn't matter."
Paul Boatman, a longtime mediation practitioner, found Zen while studying Buddhism. He's been a member of the Zen Fellowship since its creation in 2011. Everything from posture to breathing has been a constant work in progress.
The cancer survivor also guides meditations at Adventist Health Bakersfield's AIS Cancer Center. Usually, it consists of a small but devoted group of patients who seek even just a momentary escape, he said.
"People are under a lot of stress there," Boatman said. "I try to remind people that you can drop that stress off and come to the cushion. There's this relief after the session."
Meditation isn't for everyone but those that can take a moment to take everything in will find it worth their while, said Lindsay Sharp. The yoga and meditation enthusiast said it has helped her deal with stress and anxiety in daily life.
"At the end of my life, I want to know I was here," Sharp said. "It enhances the flavors of life. I want to take a moment to smell the flowers."