Crash Course on Meditation

I found 3 meditation centers in my area that offer free instruction and open meditation. My prefered method of learning is in the classroom so I thought these classes would be a great foundation for my meditation practice. I have reviewed each class in this post and listed them in order of personal preference.

Dharma FieldDharma Field – Meditation (Zazen) Instruction

  • Twice monthly class on poses and etiquette
  • Formal class
  • Recommended for beginners
  • Donations welcome, but no suggested amount listed for this class
  • Open meditation offered Wednesday evenings

Paul was my instructor and he taught me proper etiquette for entering and exiting the Zendo; standing, sitting, and kneeling postures; and different meditation techniques like swaying, controlled breathing, and walking meditation. I was the only student to attend this class so I got a lot of personalized instruction. For example, Paul noticed that I am fairly inflexible and showed me modified techniques for the equipment so I would be comfortable for extended periods of kneeling.

Dharma Field is a Zen Buddhism center, but they have pared it down to the bare bones of the teachings. There is also a large library in the lobby filled with books on meditation and Buddhism which is a win for me! I will definitely be attending their open meditation on Wednesday nights to meditate in a shared space full of like minded people.

I would recommend this class to anyone looking for formal meditation instruction because they take so much time to focus on the forms as well as different tips to keep your awareness and focus during your sit (period of meditation). We did a short breathing exercise where you count to 1 on your inhale and 1 on your exhale, then 1 on your inhale and 2 on your exhale, continuing the pattern to 10. This is exactly the type of instruction I was looking for.

Bhakti Wellness Center open meditation.

Bhakti Wellness CenterOpen Mediation at the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community Center

  • Tuesday evenings
  • Informal group meeting
  • Recommended for beginners
  • Suggested donation: $5

Their website indicated that the session would be led by a meditation instructor but the responsibility is shared among a group of regular attendees, and each week a different person will lead the open meditation discussion. They break the hour into 4 parts:

  1. 10 minute discussion on meditation
  2. 1st 20 minute sit
  3. 10 minute rest and reflection
  4. 2nd 20 minute sit

There were 3 other participants, who were very welcoming, and I was the only new person. In the first 10 minutes we discussed our motivations for incorporating meditation into our daily lives, various tips, and general guidelines. We did not discuss any specific forms or alternate meditative techniques. They just recommended sitting in a comfortable position, focusing on your breath, and noticing your thoughts but not getting carried away by them. Glenna, the leader for the evening, also showed me the meditation app, Insight Timer, that she used to time our sits. The paid version has a variety of bells you can set at intervals during your sit to help keep your focus. It is infinitely better than the stopwatch on my clock app.

I thought my second sit went much better than the first, even though I was concerned about staying focused for 40 minutes. The break seemed to really help because it made the first sit seem like a warm up. I will start incorporating breaks in my daily meditation as I work up to meditating for longer periods of time.

I would recommend this group meeting to anyone new to meditation who is looking for some general tips given in a very laid back atmosphere. You will not get much in the way of specific instruction, but it is a pleasant space with well intended people.

Minnesota Zen CenterMinnesota Zen Meditation CenterZen Forms & Etiquette

    • Monthly class on poses and etiquette
    • Formal class
      • Recommended for beginners
    • Suggested donation: $10
    • Open meditation offered Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings

This class is designed to help prepare people for the retreats offered by the center. Bussho, a priest at the center, was our instructor and there were 12 people in attendance. The vibe was a little off-putting as I tried unsuccessfully to engage others in conversation and found this center to be much more focused on the sacred.

We learned various standing and kneeling poses; etiquette for entering and exiting the Zendo and Buddha Hall; and etiquette for interacting non-verbally with others in the center. There were a lot of rules to try to absorb, but the focus of the class was to try and make people feel as comfortable as possible when attending their meditation sessions. I did not gain a lot of insight on how to improve my meditation practice, but more on how to flourish as a member of this center.

I would recommend this class to anyone looking to join a community with a focus on tradition and Buddhist philosophy. Learning more about Buddhism is not one of my goals in developing this habit, so I will not be attending their open meditation.

Attending these classes provided excellent insights into how other people in my area practice meditation. I came away with 6 interesting new acquaintances, 1 cool new tool, and a plethora of advice to continue to cultivate my daily habit.

Follow my 66 day meditation photo journal on Instagram and please share your own meditative photos!

2 thoughts on “Crash Course on Meditation

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