Moment of Zen at Forest Glen

The Forest Glen Metro station is, as I recently wrote, about one mile from the new location of the National Museum of Health and Medicine. It is a very special Metro station because it’s so deep underground that it only has elevators and an emergency 20-story stairwell (no escalators), and also because I was born in a hospital nearby. Also located in the vicinity is one of the two new locations of the Meditation Museum, whose old location in downtown Silver Spring was one of my Weekly Museum Visits.

When I visited the Meditation Museum in Forest Glen in 2017, I ended up accidentally attending a workshop on “A New Attitude.” It was a Saturday, and I had learned via a flier the previous evening that maintenance people would be in my apartment during the day, so I was trying to stay out all day and fill the hours with museum visits. I intended simply to visit the museum, as I had not seen the new location yet.

Meditation Museum near the Forest Glen Metro

Meditation Museum near the Forest Glen Metro

Upon entering the space (which, like the Silver Spring location, is a cultivation of tranquility inside a rather nondescript building), I was informed that the program was just getting started and I could join. With time to spare, I made my way over and sat down in a chair and began to listen to a talk from Sister Gita.

At some point in the talk, there were the participatory exercises. We were orally given what was described as a “psychological and spiritual test” in which we had to close our eyes and imagine the scenario described to us, which involved traveling along a road and coming upon obstacles like a bear and a river. Sister Gita told us to silently imagine what we did as we encountered each element in the story.

She had everyone share each part of our imaginings: what did the road look like, what did we do when we got to the river. I answered each question by truthfully stating what I had thought of during each part of the exercise. After the others talked about plunging into the river and swimming or walking, or taking a detour around the river, my smart-aleck honest response was that I got the bear to give me a ride across the river on his back.

So maybe I was the only one there who stumbled upon the workshop by accident; maybe I was the only one primarily there because of the word “Museum” rather than “Meditation” in the name of the venue. I felt a bit awkward and out of place (especially when they made us dance!); in this modern museum run by the Brahma Kumaris, I felt the same way I’ve sometimes felt when touring very old houses of worship, wanting a museum experience rather than a religious experience. To what extent can religious sites offer a museum experience? To what extent could my museum experience interfere with another visitor’s religious experience?

From the old location of the Meditation Museum, near the Silver Spring Metro

From the old location of the Meditation Museum, near the Silver Spring Metro

While I ended up in a participatory workshop at the Meditation Museum’s Forest Glen location in 2017, I had the Silver Spring site almost to myself when I visited in 2010. I recognized in Forest Glen some of the objects I’d seen in Silver Spring, including a small exhibit illuminating the symbolism of light in a variety of world religions. Both locations include a small meditation room. There is another current location, near the Greensboro Metro station in Virginia, that I have not yet visited.

Forest Glen is on the Red Line.

About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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