Different strokes for different folks

I’ve often maintained that if one wants to initiate a meditation practice, or support an ongoing one, the best way is with a living person, someone who is trustworthy and competent and has the intention of teaching. The teacher’s affiliation matters less than whether we can connect with the person and the tradition. It may not feel like a perfect fit immediately, but we have to listen to our hearts from the beginning: does the teacher have a manner we find inviting? Do the students seem engaged and (at least somewhat) positive? Is there mutual respect?

A good place to start a search is at Buddhanet.net’s World Buddhist Directory. Some of the centers listed are not places where meditation is taught, but some are, and it’s fairly easy to see what’s available nearby. http://www.buddhanet.info/wbd/

In many or most places a standardized 8-week course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), taught by a living person, is available for a fee. Many people find this a very helpful program. It is sometimes difficult to find follow-on support for a regular practice, but it can provide anyone with the basic skills.

The Vipassana Meditation organization offers donation-based ten-day retreats, which are on-site and combine personal attention with video instruction from S.N. Goenka. Some people have life-long practices in this tradition, but it’s not for everyone. Mixing this technique with other methods is discouraged, and the retreats can be physically challenging, with many hours of sitting meditation and not much moving meditation.  https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index

If an in-person learning situation is not available, there are plenty of online guides. One could use any one of them to start a peer-led sitting group.

Gil Fronsdal of the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California, has some very useful offerings for getting started with meditation. Gil’s teaching is probably the closest one to the way I learned and continue to practice. http://www.insightmeditationcenter.org/programs/for-beginners/

For an easy and inviting (although electronic) introduction to meditation, spend some time with the NY Times “How to Meditate” guide. It is loaded with short encouragements and instructions. It could be problematic if you have a slow internet connection (lots of pictures), but a friendlier introduction is hard to imagine. http://www.nytimes.com/well/guides/how-to-meditate 

Lastly, Thanissaro Bhikkhu has offered many talks and writings on-line for free. One group local to me uses his audio talks as a basis for weekly group sittings, to good effect. http://www.dhammatalks.org (look under talks/guided meditations)

Those of us who have been practicing meditation for many years tend to become myopic about methods. We mainly know what has worked for us, even if it took many attempts and failures to establish a regular practice, picking up and discarding one technique after the other. Different practices suit different people, and our needs may change over the years. Most important is that we each take responsibility for pursuing the teachings and practices that will support our movement toward freedom from suffering, and away from the causes of suffering.

If you have other resources to recommend, please send a comment.

 

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Filed under Causes and results, General, Mindfulness

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