Bringing Inner Stillness to a Busy World
"Everybody needs to have some form of inner practice to develop an increasingly beautiful quality of life,” says Amona Buechler, co-founder of Inner Metamorphosis University (I.M.U.), located on Chicago’s north side, in Rogers Park. I.M.U. offers daily meditations, special events, classes, online offerings and retreats to inspire and support area residents to gain a deeper self-awareness and build local community.
Born in Germany, Buechler learned of meditation in her 20s. She spent her initial post-college years working as a carpenter, but also studied the Feldenkrais Method, a healing technique to refine self-awareness. Buechler then met her life partner, Jeffrey Tippman, who introduced her to the Universal and Multiversal Academy (U.M.A.), a spiritual communal family and meditation center in Germany, founded and led by author and mystic, Bhashkar Perinchery.
Buechler and Tippman moved to Chicago in 1998, initially with the intention to promote Bhashkar‘s publications at the Chicago Book Fair and beyond. They rented space and worked through local bookstores and libraries to offer meditations and events with Bhashkar. The couple soon found a core group of students that were eager to build friendships and practice on a daily basis, so they began I.M.U. to better structure classes and social gatherings. In 2005, they opened their own space in Rogers Park for I.M.U. and the accompanying Lake Side Café, in order to provide, “a space for people to be able to hang out, find friends and socialize before and after meditation,” Buechler says. “Friendships make a big difference in the effectiveness of meditation.”
Although the Café closed in 2009, Buechler maintains I.M.U.’s location for meditation, special events, speakers and social gatherings. Guest teachers offer raw food cooking classes, and impromptu monthly ayurvedic dinners take place at which, she says, everyone teaches, learns from and is inspired by one another. But I.M.U.’s main focus is a mixture of the core teachings of Bhashkar, who visits the center annually to present lectures, meditations and a retreat, as well as weekly classes such as yoga, Tai chi and Feldenkrais, offered by guest teachers. Buechler consciously designed the meditation space to be simple and quiet. “A clean, clear, open space for meditation is very supportive,” she says. “Our intention is to provide a place where you can walk in the door and leave your mind behind. Clutter catches your attention and takes your mind away from stillness.”
Buechler believes that for the Western person two kinds of meditation are important to incorporate into a daily practice: silent and active. Each morning, I.M.U. helps people to prepare for their day with a silent meditation, allowing time to become aware of the inner self, as well as what is going on around us, a moment just to be. Some evenings, as well as in workshops, they offer active meditations. “It is difficult for most people to sit and be quiet inside after a busy day,” she explains. “We start by actively using energy—dance, humming, becoming aware of our breath, using emotional expression and after this prep, we go into a 20-minute silent meditation.”
I.M.U. welcomes practitioners of all levels, encouraging newcomers to attend a Thursday evening introductory class. “In my experience, we always believe we have too many things to do, and we tend to postpone the inner work,” she explains, “but just come to a session to start and begin to clear your mind. Once you master the initially difficult transition from activity to silence, it’s a very beautiful experience. After you have made a clear commitment with yourself, other things will naturally disappear out of your life to make room for your practice. And the good news is, through regular meditation, your perception of time changes; you feel like you have more of it.”
Buechler sees I.M.U. as “a safe container” for those aspects in us that we typically try to hide from ourselves and others to get cleared. Her wish for the I.M.U.: “I want this to be one of the many places in the world where families and friends can attain greater clarity, a deeper understanding, care and love for themselves and others through self-inquiry.” She continues, “All of us are conditioned in many ways through our society and family. This needs to become visible to us and questioned for validity. Thereby, we attain an inner state of free choice and ease rather than repeat limiting, reactive patterns.”
Inner Metamorphosis University is located at 1418 W. Howard St. (at Sheridan Rd.) in Chicago. For more information or class and event listings, call 773-262-1468 or visit Lifesurfing.org.