Zen meditation center opens on Lake Street

Couple's secular, inclusive model offers 'mindfulness classes'

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Oak Park has a new home for finding your bliss with the opening of the Zen Life & Meditation Center.

The center, located at 46 Lake St., was cofounded by June Tanoue and Robert Althouse and was originally run out of the couple's house on North Humphrey Avenue.

They moved to 38 Lake St. eight years ago, and when the space came available about a block away, the center and its members jumped at the opportunity.

The opening of the center comes at a time when that section of Lake Street has seen a number of new and prospective businesses – One Lake Brewing opened a few weeks ago at the corner of Lake and Austin Boulevard, and another investor is considering opening a high-end used car showroom at 7 Lake St.

The center purchased the new location in April for $600,000. That same property was last purchased in 2009 for $330,000.

The center is holding an "eye-opening" ceremony on Saturday, June 29, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. as a grand opening.

Althouse said he and Tanoue pioneered a curriculum for mindfulness classes in 2010 "to help people deal with everyday sufferings such as stress, anxiety, loss, depression and addiction."

"Our approach was secular and inclusive, drawing on Western disciplines of neuroscience, psychology and Zen Buddhist practices," Althouse said. "Over 3,000 people have taken and benefited from these classes over the years."

Althouse said in a telephone interview that the couple took the formality of out of their practice and much of the religious nature of the practice. 

"We don't use terms from Buddhism and meditation," Althouse said. "We use terms from neuroscience and psychology."

He said the use of secular terminology aimed to make the practice more accessible to people who do not practice Buddhism.

"We didn't want to be a small meditation group; we wanted to be a full spiritual community," he said.

He said the center's mission is to empower people to live a Zen-inspired life of openness, empathy and clarity.

Althouse said he believes that people are increasingly disembodied in the culture, in part due to the ever-growing rush of technology they are expected to use.

"It moves faster than we can adapt to it in terms of our evolutionary capacity," he said. "What mindfulness can help people learn to do is re-inhabit the body and retrieve the quality of attention that leads to more happiness and a sense of ease and being at home with one's self."

tim@oakpark.com

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