"When I'm meditating, I'm focused on the present moment. My mind becomes clear, and I enjoy being alive," explained Hai-Dee Lee, a data coordinator at Brookhaven Lab's Clinical Research Center. Lee leads a weekly Zen meditation group for Stony Brook University's (SBU) students' club, the Buddhist Studies and Practice Group, in her spare time.
Lee's two-hour Thursday evening meditation practice at SBU's Charles B. Wang Center is free and open to anyone who is interested. The participants - usually from eight to 16 people - perform moving, walking and sitting meditation together. In addition, Lee occasionally arranges for meditation teachers to speak to her group, and plans field trips to a meditation retreat center and to the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan, which features art of the Himalayas and surrounding regions.
"In Zen meditation, the focus is on breath," Lee said. "When you truly concentrate on your breathing, you can focus on the present moment - a practice that is called 'mindfulness.' This focus helps to banish stress and promote a calm mind."
Lee has studied meditation at the Dharma Drum Retreat Center in Pine Brush, New York, and the Chan Meditation Center in Elmhurst, New York, since 1998. She attends meditation retreats twice a year, and she meditates every morning, as soon as she arises, for 15 to 20 minutes. "It helps me to have a clear mind so that I can prioritize my goals for the day," she said. "I feel more relaxed after meditation and therefore can be more productive and positive about my work."
In 2001, inspired by a Buddhist nun, the late Madeline Ko-I Bastis, Lee also became a volunteer for "Building Bridges Panel Discussion," a nonprofit group sponsored by the Long Island Multi-Faith Forum founded in 1996, in partnership with the Auburn Theological Seminary and the Long Island Council of Churches. The organization offers educational talks and panel discussions about religious diversity with the goal of encouraging friendship, understanding and respect among all religious groups.
"As a representative for the Buddhist community, I have given talks for 'Building Bridges' at high schools and for other groups all over Long Island," Lee said. "We have volunteers of twelve different faiths who give presentations about the beliefs and customs of their religions."
In 2002, Lee, along with former BNL employee Achyut Tope, founded BERA's Asian Pacific American Association (APAA), which she says is another way to "build bridges" by giving voice to the concerns of Asian Pacific Americans and promoting diversity in the workplace. Lee is currently an APAA trustee and helps organize the group's annual heritage celebration at Brookhaven Lab each May.
"I came to the U.S. from Taiwan in 1974, and I understand how difficult it can be to get used to a new culture," Lee said. "I thought the APAA could help those arriving at BNL who are in a similar situation.
"Before I got involved with my volunteer activities, my world consisted of my home and my office, but now I am involved with the community," Lee said. "My fellow volunteers have touched my heart, and now I see the world from a different perspective. I realize that I can help others. That gives me a strong sense of mission and a new meaning to my life."
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