I went to an evening meditation class organized by the local Buddhist center, it was very mellow, instructive and quite nice.
I guess this is kind of long but maybe it will help some folks to google ‘(local area) meditation class’ like I did:
There were just 3 other people plus a helper from the Buddhist center and an actual monk (in robes, etc.). After initial greetings from the helper everyone sat down and the lady went through some of the courses and things the center is doing soon, then the monk came in. A young woman, probably 30 or younger, which was a little surprising since ‘every Buddhist monk is Tibetan, of course’. She said hello and we went almost right into a nice breathing meditation which I want to write down because it was very useful. Basically we sat in our chairs (which were kind of uncomfortable, I’d rather sit on the ground) and she talked us through focusing on the room, then seeing ourselves in the room, then seeing ourselves floating and relaxing all the muscles from the top of your head to your toes. Then breathing out our bad thoughts and worries as black smoke, which dissipates to nothing. Then breathing in white light, then maybe doing both (light/smoke) at the same time instead of concentrating on just one or the other.
After this there was a talk from the monk. I was still getting used to the idea of the whole thing so I didn’t absorb it all and just checked out her shaved head, hand-knit robes, etc., but she used a book called The New Meditation Handbook, written by a Tibetan monk who’d moved to the UK some 30+ years ago, and read some passages from it to us between just talking about the feeling and purpose of meditation.
There wasn’t any evangelical ‘join Buddha’ talk but there were many references, but it certainly wasn’t a sermon in any way (I was raised Roman Catholic). There were some concepts such as meditation can cure or fix anything, and stuff like that (I may be remembering it wrong, forgive me). There were points I was thinking ‘if this person were older I’d feel more confident in this advice’ but basically I felt that was skepticism and tried to ignore it.
After the talk we had a focused meditation, I forget what she called it but it was about feeling love for everyone: we were told to concentrate on the breath coming into our nostrils and the breath going out, and then concentrated on someone who’d given us love and affection. After we concentrated on them we also concentrated on someone else and then tried to spread that love to everyone. I guess this is a ‘basic’ meditation but I got the idea. It was nice.
Afterwards we had tea & coffee and shared what we were trying to get out of meditation. One woman was trying it for the very first time and has an autistic teen son. Another woman is a stressed IT pro who’s tried all sorts of things from Daoism (sp?) to who knows what. The last guy had been to several classes previously and works as a home carer for autistic and sick people and was the most ‘experienced’ of us there, other than the monk. We all agreed that CDs and books are good but a ‘formal’ meditation with an actual person was great, and this one in particular. I think the main reason was because you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get with a meditation CD, whereas I was pretty sure with a Buddhist monk leading the way I wasn’t going to get some strange crap thrown at me.
Anyway, I quite liked it, will be going again next week.
If you’re feeling stressed or want to focus on something or anything like that, I’d recommend giving meditation a try!