Have you tried to establish a regular meditation practice, but found it difficult to sustain over time?
Join the club!
Or better yet, join a group!
One thing that may be getting in your way is a lack of social support. Although you can read about all the great things meditation can do for your health, energy, and emotional equilibrium, and even experience benefit when you try it, if the people around you are totally uninterested in meditation, it’s easy to get discouraged and begin thinking it’s not worth the effort.
Most Buddhists belong to religious communities called sanghas. Like any other religious community, the sangha provides community support for common values, including the value of meditation.
But what if you’re not a Buddhist and would still like to receive community support for your meditation practice?
Fortunately, there are many opportunities to practice meditation outside of a specific religious context in a group setting. And with Zoom, you may not even have to leave your home!
No other individual has done more to bring secular meditation into mainstream medicine and public awareness than Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. He called it “mindfulness meditation.” As a Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Zinn first introduced his now world-renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic in 1979, and, in 1995, the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society. Here, he and other scientists have done extensive research on the use of mindfulness in dealing with stress, pain and illness.
What is “mindfulness?” The Free Mindfulness Project describes it as
. . . paying attention to what we are experiencing in this moment, and doing so with a particular attitude: One of curiosity, openness, acceptance and warmth. Simply observing what we are experiencing, right now, and bringing a warm curiosity to whatever arises. In formal mindfulness practices our intention is often to centre our awareness on one particular experience, such as the sensations involved in breathing or the sounds that we can hear, or to widen our awareness to incorporate a range of experiences simultaneously, or to watch where our attention goes without getting caught up in particular experiences. Mindfulness is also something that we can bring to any aspect of our day-to-day life, cultivating the same qualities of curiosity, acceptance and warmth.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness is a quality that every human being already possesses, it’s not something you have to conjure up, you just have to learn how to access it.
Just Google “free online mindfulness meditation” or “free online meditation” to find a mother lode of mindfulness and other “secular meditation” resources. Here are just some examples.
The Free Mindfulness Project - A project developed by a clinical psychologist who wanted to provide free mindfulness resources to the public. It offers a variety of live, online mindfulness sessions, all based in the U.K.
The Copper Beech Institute offers free 30-minute silent meditation sessions online Monday-Friday at 7:30 EST, 30-minute guided meditations at midday (12:30 PM EST), and a special monthly meditation group for people of color on the first Saturday of each month from 9:30-10:30. Donations are suggested. The Institute also offers three pre-recorded video courses: an Introduction to Meditation for $25, a 7-day meditation “challenge” for $50, and a Personal Home Retreat—one full day of guided practice by donation.
Telephone number (in Connecticut): 860-760-9750
If you just want to learn how to meditate, mindful.org provides detailed written instructions as well as a free email series of practices to get you started.
Mind Oasis focuses on building an interactive community. They offer free 30-minute meditation sessions with opportunities to chat with the group, and, if you need instructions on how to meditate, free instruction (as long as you commit to sitting in meditation 10 minutes a day for 5 days). Upgrade to a $108 per month membership (or an annual membership of $1,008) for additional classes, retreats, videos and advanced training. No phone number given, but you can click for email access with questions.
Saving the best find for last: If you want to take the full 8-week course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as developed and taught by Jon Kabat-Zinn, by a certified instructor, you can access it FREE at Palouse Mindfulness.com. Once enrolled, you can sign up for ZOOM Q&A sessions and participate in free meditation sessions with other students and graduates of the program.
- See here for books, tapes and apps by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
- The Free Mindfulness Project. What is mindfulness? Freemindfulness.org. Accessed April 17, 2022.
- Mindful Staff. What is mindfulness? Mindful.org. July 8, 2020.