With Bill Hamaker of Denver Zen Center sounding a gong and about 250 people getting settled in the ballroom of the Denver Downtown Aquarium, the opening ceremony of Meditate 08 came to stillness last Saturday at 5:30 pm. The mainline media neglected this event probably because a huge media party was well underway at nearby Six Flags Elitch Gardens. Slipping in through a side door without any fanfare and sitting in the back was Jeannie Ritter, wife of Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.
Meditate 08 began with Dr. David Nichol, an MD and author of the "One Minute Meditator", applying to the City of Denver for use of Fishback Landing Park at 700 Water Street, a small green area on the west side of the South Platte River. Fishback Landing has a clear view of both the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field at Mile High, both sites for main events of the Democratic National Convention. Having asked for one evening, he was awarded access to the park from August 23 through August 28. He turned to the Insight Meditation Community of Colorado, to help organize a convention-long contemplation event.
Don Morreale, Chair of the Meditate 08 Steering Committee, teamed with Dr. Toni Cook, a Christian Contemplative with the St. Paul Lutheran Church in Denver, to organize Meditate 08, an ecumenical group set up for the convention event. Founding sponsors were EarthNest Institute and Insight Meditation Community. Calling the site "A Place for Quiet Contemplation at the Democratic National Convention," the group has brought together Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, American Indian, Hindu, yoga and business organizations to sponsor 90 minute sessions from 10 am through 11:00 pm each day.
The opening ceremony included an opening prayer of loving kindness by Venerable Danan Henry, of the Denver Zen Center, a Buddhist chant led by the monks of Denver's Wat Buddhawararam, a Muslim call to prayer led by Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni of the Abrahamic Initiative, and a few comments and a Sanskrit chant from actor and yoga practitioner Giancarlo Esposito. Nawang Khedog, a Grammy nominee, played the Tibetan longhorn and flute. Cook and Morreale read a list of over 40 session leaders appearing over the next five days. More chanting was led by Opalanga Pugh, an African griot and Denver native, David Young, an Apache curandero, and Rabbi Nadya Gross. Rev. Cynthia Young of the Denver Mile Hi Religious Science Church performed "Lift Your Voice, and Yogacharya Srindhi Baba of Denver Kriya Yoga led a Sanskrit benediction.