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Meet Pranee Ruangmalai of The Meditation Center of Chicago in Jefferson Park and Norwood Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Pranee Ruangmalai.

Pranee, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
The Meditation Center of Chicago was established in 1997, 20 years ago by a small Thai community, located around North Chicago by two Buddhist monks from Thailand. They began with renting a house and after a year to accommodate the increasing members. Within two short years, they purchased a church located at 6224 W. Gunnison St. in Chicago. The center has remained in its location for over a decade. The Meditation Center of Chicago continues to grow and serve more and more people, not only within the Buddhist community, but among the local community interested in the center’s meditation teachings as well.

In 2010, our Meditation Center has new branch to accommodate the increasing number of its members. The center has chosen 5849 N. Nina Avenue in Chicago to be its new home.

Ever since our establishment as a Meditation Center, we have had a growing community of Chicago locals interested in nonreligious meditation practice with attendance at two weekly meditation class and meditation retreat on some special weekend.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
In the beginning, there was often troubles of overcoming language and cultural barriers, especially for our newly emigrated pioneer staff. We came with the mind set of sharing our meditation practice for the benefit of those willing to learn, which allowed us to appreciate differences, but more so our similarities with Chicago’s culture.
Now however, we have progressed generations from the first members who helped start the center back in 1997. Those members have had children, and some of those children who have greater advantages in their grasp of US language and culture. Thus, they are helpful in connecting to the locals who we hope to integrate in our meditation classes.

Funding was also a problem, as we are a non-profit organization, we rely on the generosity and contributions of our members to support the center. But money is needed to support the staff, monks, and utilities of our center, while aiding in the development of our classes. In the beginning, we had a small community to support us, leaving us with limited funding, but by living according to our values of frugality and moderation, we could overcome financial inadequacy. Later on, generous Asian Americans and local people who had gained benefits of practicing meditation give their hands in filling up the gap and help us stay strong, from the beginning to now.

The Meditation Center of Chicago – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
The Meditation Center of Chicago provides Buddhist service and Dharma practice for Buddhists and also offer free meditation classes for Non-Buddhists. We also provide Summer Youth Camps promote to mindfulness practice in a fun way for youth to boost their attention skills for learning. Throughout the program, children would be trained to cultivate self-discipline.

Our goal is forming a peaceful community through inner peace. Thus, our mission is to spread meditation to people of all cultures, backgrounds, ages, and personalities. Our methods are simple, but it is important to explain it a basic way that everyone can understand. So, we have Buddhist monks and experienced lay people to coach newbies.

Our specialty is providing a calm and peaceful space that is conducive to practicing meditation. We cultivate a community that shares generosity and kindness towards one another which encourage us to strengthen the consistency of our practice week by week.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I have been working at the Meditation Center of Chicago since 2010, and began my work as a coordinator of meditation classes two years after that. The proudest moment of my career was when I came across my imaginary problem about my languages skills. To share meditation to Americans was a big challenge. Even though I have been practicing meditation since I was young, I felt that my language skills were not good enough to guide people. After I tried hard to learn English and how to communicate with local people, I realized that mental practice needed less speech, but more sincerity and peace of mind for communication. After I had that mind set, I confidently and peacefully organized meditation classes and meditation retreats. It doesn’t mean I can speak English fluently now, but it means I am free from worry and go through the moments of working mindfully. My reward of this work is when I hear that meditators can access their true source of happiness, which always is within their mind. Then, they can carry out their peaceful state of the mind to live their lives happier.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
MCC Staff

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