Finding an Inner Space

inner spacePhoto by Emily Hopkins

Located at 1110 Mass. Ave., Inner Space Meditation Center & Gallery is not situated in what one would call a peaceful place. The traffic level is steady outside their glass storefront, and it’s a little hard to believe that anything relaxing can go on in a place that borders the urban essence so closely. But all it takes is a few steps inside for anxiety and tension to start melting away.

“What we’re really hoping to do,” says Rita Cleary, a facilitator at Inner Space, “is to have people come in and experience their own true nature, the nature of their mind and of their consciousness.” The volunteer-operated mediation center has had a home near Harvard Square since 2012. The center is sponsored by the Brahma Kumaris, an international organization focused on spreading spiritual awakening across the globe. But regardless of your beliefs, this is a place where you can take some time to get in touch with yourself.

The magic of Inner Space happens in a small and soothing meditation room, where a painting of a point of light helps meditators steady their gaze during the open-eyed practice. In guided meditation—what they call Raja yoga—the facilitators lead groups of two to ten people through the several stages: becoming quiet, relaxing the body, going deeper into the self and ultimately experiencing the peace that lies within. Rather than trying to empty the mind—which can backfire—visitors keep an active mind and learn to redirect negative thoughts. “It’s like training,” says Hener. “You use your mind to create the connection to yourself and to bring up feelings of peace, love and happiness. As you practice for a period of time, you’ll find your thought patterns naturally start to shift.”

“We wanted to open Inner Space as an initiative to help bring meditation to the general public in an informal, practical, readily-available way,” says coordinator Merrillyn Hener. Facilitators like her and Cleary staff the center purely on their faith in the benefits of meditation. Cleary, a coordinator of the Brahma Kumaris Boston chapter, has practiced this type of mediation for 27 years, and Hener, a physical therapist, came to it from the more physical Hatha yoga in 2007. Through individual and group guided meditations, courses and speaker programs (all offered free of charge), the facilitators at Inner Space share their experiences and serve as resources for visitors. For the advanced meditators or the tentatively curious, the center acts as a city oasis for those searching for a way to unwind.

“People are so stressed out,” Hener says, “and they don’t teach you tools to manage that anywhere else. How can people have peace of mind? How can they deal with day-to-day challenges?”

The benefits of the practice range from relaxation and stress relief to a deeper spiritual understanding and connection to a divine source. At Inner Space, course offerings cater to all levels, with everything from a three-part beginner class on the basics to intermediate and advanced teachings on the philosophy behind the practice. Because Raja yoga meditation is both a seated practice and an in-the-world practice, the introductory class sets goals for time spent alone, both at home and while out-and-about. Besides finding time and space within the home to meditate, students are encouraged to work Raja yoga check-ins into their day: a few minutes to reconnect and keep the mind stable.

As a third goal, Raja yoga teaches meditators how to observe themselves in larger situations, a ripple effect that brings the benefits of the practice to a wider community. Cleary distinguishes Raja yoga from other meditations in that “it really invites you into a state of getting to know the deepest part of yourself. Bringing that forward in your daily life then enables you to experience lightness in the face of challenges.”

By engaging with Raja yoga, meditators can learn to step back from stressful situations and thoughtfully respond rather than react. Inner Space visitor Maria Shabanova agrees: “It helps me re-center and gain valuable perspective on what matters and what doesn’t. Just a moment of awareness can help avoid unnecessary conflicts.” Shabanova, who drops in for midday meditations, adds, “it really helps me to get centered before heading back to the workday.”

“I personally feel that some kind of meditation practice is essential at this time,” says Hener, “because life is so chaotic. We really need a way of taking care of ourselves.” She cites Raja yoga meditation as a way to reconnect with oneself in a state of peace and, by tapping into inner reserves, to maintain an integrity, love and respect for oneself, “regardless of what’s going on with outside influences.” Inner Space’s program of talks, which feature a range of international and local speakers, the courses, and the facilitators present a unique opportunity to find quiet in the bustling hubbub of the Hub. Within the welcoming atmosphere of the meditation room, visitors can find the quiet within their minds and connect to an inner power, an inner peace, an inner space.