Monday, October 21, 2013

A different look at America for an international student.

Mauricio Gutiérrez
Wartburg West Experience

It has been already two months since we got here but to me this experience seems timeless.  It is good to see a completely different city, to get a sense of the diverse places that this country has. In my experience, we have had many opportunities to get involved in different activities that demonstrate the wide diversity in the city. With class and extracurricular activities, the experiences at Denver have included festivals, concerts, climbing, hiking and many other activities. Sometimes it could get overwhelming for people that are not used to have a busy schedule with a lot of activities, but to me, the amount of activities has been satisfying and we always have enough time to rest and “reflect”.
In my internship at Colorado Progressive Coalition, I have been working in campaigns designing some images for social media, and learning a lot on how to manage the communication of a member-driven organization that works with social justice issues. At the same organization I have also done some work in community organizing, helping people in different issues that sometimes are not addressed. These issues affect mainly minorities, therefore for others it is not relevant because they think it does not affect them but at the end those are issues that concern to everyone as they would determine the new direction that the city would take in different areas. Some of the work that I have done is related to Health Care, some people do not consider it important but according to the new reforms it is necessary. Through these and other volunteer actions I have seen a different façade of the city, a part that helps me to get connected to the community and understand more current political and anthropological issues.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Buddhism as a Way of Life by Simon Sager

I have grown up with strong religious roots. I have always gone to church and Sunday school and I have always loved to learn about God. My parents worked hard to raise me with a religious base firmly rooted in Christianity. I have never had the opportunity to explore the beliefs of a faith unrelated to Christianity. The way that other people believe is always something that has fascinated me, but I have nonetheless never gotten up the guts to visit the site of a different kind of worship.

I am very glad that I had the opportunity to visit Compassionate Dharma Cloud Monastery, a Buddhist Monastery, with my religion class. I found the experience to be nothing but positive and, in fact, quite relaxing. After the visit, I felt closer to my classmates and closer to my God as well.

Much of our visit was spent meditating. The Buddhist teacher, Thay Tinh Man, who we had the opportunity to visit with, explained that meditation is not a religious practice. I found this to be absolutely true. Meditation is often equated with a spiritual realm where you communicate with some god and fly, but in reality meditation is simply an opportunity to quiet your mind and to be thankful for what you have. It was very refreshing to take a second to live in the now and appreciate everything – from each part of the body to the very fact that we are breathing today.

The Buddhist teacher was very gentle and caring. He took extra care to make eye contact with each of us. He shared the Buddhist belief in a very clear way. He explained to us that Buddhists don’t believe in the existence of a god; that his belief in Buddhism is not so much a religion as it is a way of life. Many of the principles, such as thankfulness and compassion, are easily applied to my personal faith. According the teacher, Buddhism is a very individual belief, but at the same time, it is believed by Buddhists that we are all connected – what we do as an individual affects the whole picture. I also learned that Buddhists believe that Nirvana, their sort of mental Heaven (they don’t actually believe in Heaven as a physical place) is attainable during everyday life. Nirvana is not something that happens in the afterlife. Buddhism is a way of life that is focused on living in the present. It does no good to worry about the future or to regret the past. Happiness is now, in the present. This message of living in the now is what stuck with me the most during our visit.

There are differences between Buddhism and Christianity – the major one being the belief in the existence of God – but, as was explained to me, many Buddhists do not see Buddhism as a religion but as a way of life. With that in mind, many Buddhists are members of different religious communities. Personally, I can see many ways the practices of Buddhists apply to my own faith.

Overall, I found Buddhism to be a very generous and thankful way of life that is deeply rooted in compassion. I find it fascinating and quite sad that both Christianity and Buddhism could be rooted in compassion and yet still be seen, by many, as enemies. I found many more similarities between Christianity and Buddhism than I would have guessed. In the end, I think the Buddhist way of life is very similar to the Christian way of life. Both believe in helping others and both are rooted in the deep understanding that we need to love one another. My visit to this community is just another example of how understanding and respect for one another breaks down barriers and brings us closer together.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dharma Cloud Monastery by Jerica George

Going into the Dharma Cloud Monastery I was a little skeptical. I haven’t heard much on Buddhism before and the only image I had was of the ones society shares with us. My real questions were, what was the place going to look like, and how were they going to embrace us?

What I had in my head of what the monastery was going to look like was nothing like it actually was. I pictured a huge open temple that people can come and worship. What it actually looked like was just a normal house they converted into a place of worship. The landscape was beautiful with sculptures and gardens surrounding the house. I later learned that they use their grounds a lot whether it is for meditation or for retreats that they hold.

When we arrived we got right into our day. We sat in a circle with Tinh Man who is a monk and dharma teacher. The first thing we did was sing a short song to get us relaxed and in a peaceful state of mind. Then Tinh talked about meditation and how it worked. After his introduction we as a class meditated. I’m going to be honest I didn’t really know what to do while meditating.

Tinh talked about releasing your mind and thoughts and relax and be in the present moment. I had a hard time doing that because anyone who knows me knows that my mind does not stop. It is always thinking and making lists. After a while I did start to relax. After our meditation we got to ask Tinh questions about himself and Buddhism.

What I learned from the question and answer portion of our visit was that Buddhists are very peaceful people. They believe in living in the moment and not being in such a hurry. It was hard for me to understand that because how I grew up was you worried about your future. Where were you going to go to college? What were you going to do after? Our society has always been hit the ground running type. With always rushing to your next destination you miss out on what is happening around you. We were challenged to not always rush during the day. To take the time to look at what is happening around us. I am trying to complete that challenge.

Overall, my experience at Dharma Cloud Monastery was an insightful one. I learned that I need to relax more and take the time to enjoy my life. That our lives here are precious and to not take it for granted. Hopefully with time I will be able to use what Tinh taught us and apply it to my own life. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Once in a lifetime opportunity

 From Emily Preussner, Business/Sports Management major

            Wartburg West is a once in a lifetime opportunity that allows Wartburg students to get out of Iowa and experience urban living. I am very fortunate to be a part of this amazing program.  When I decided to apply for Wartburg West, I really wanted to get out of Iowa and experience living in a big city. With a major in business administration and a concentration in sport management, I want to work in the sport world and most of those jobs are in the cities. I thought this would help me realize and understand urban living.
            I have been in Denver a little over a month and a half now and the time has flown by. I am interning at Metropolitan State University of Denver in their athletic program. I have been crazy busy with going into work three days each week and also trying to attend as many soccer and volleyball games. Metro State is a great place to intern at because I have learned so much about college athletics through projects they have given me to work on. Everyone there is super nice and helpful. Wartburg students who are looking at getting a job in sports should look into coming out to Denver and interning with the Roadrunners.
            One feature that I love about Denver is there is always something to do. I feel like every weekend there is either a festival or event that the community can attend.  Many of these are free which is nice for a poor college student like myself.  One event that our group attended was the “Taste of Colorado.”  They offered a lot of food choices and items that we might not have gotten to see. With only three short months in this great town, it is hard to see everything that Denver has to offer.
            Another great feature about Wartburg West is the alumni events that students can attend. A couple other students and I had a great opportunity to visit Red Rocks with an alum and eat lunch there. Danny, Summer, and I drove with another alum to see Breckenridge, a very unique, cute town that is known for skiing and snowboarding.  Their main street is packed with ma and pa stores; it reminds me of Cedar Falls downtown but bigger.  The last event that I went to was an Avalanche hockey game. There are many Wartburg alumni that live in Denver and they are always willing to help Wartburg West students.
            After living here for a while, I am positive that I made the correct choice in applying to Wartburg West.  It offers student so many opportunities that they might not get in Iowa.  From attending Rockies games with other Wartburg students to attempting to climb a 14'er in Leadville, it never gets dull in Denver!