About Meditation Classes
A popular tradition practice for over five millennia, meditation is based on deep concentration leading to awareness and development of the spiritual side of the individual. Meditation is a requirement of the leading faiths of the world and continues to grow in both religious and secular practice. As a result of the widespread and diverse nature of meditation for the student, meditation classes cover a very broad landscape of choice, from the full commitment of the religious temple to the online prerecorded audio guide.
The religious faith that involves meditation practice and takes meditation perhaps more seriously than any other is Buddhism. Since meditation is a central element of the Buddhist eightfold path of view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration, instruction can take a much more intensive form than other modes of meditation. In the US, for example, those wishing to learn Buddhist meditation without a clear commitment to the Buddhist faith can still have a choice of rich experiences at their disposal.
For a North American university-level experience, Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado is a “contemplative education” institution incorporating Buddhist meditative experience into a variety of degree programs. Naropa also offer a master’s program psychotherapy in which Buddhist meditative instruction plays a central role.
Some choices can be costly for the beginning student: the Shambhala Mountain Center, located high in the Colorado mountains, offers a full menu of meditation classes, including techniques of Shambhala and Tibetan Buddhism, regular meditation retreats, courses in contemplative theory, and many other programs. The mountain-air atmosphere is well chosen, but the student is well advised to look elsewhere for more affordable introductions to Buddhist meditation.
A popular form of meditation retreat in North America and Europe is the satsang, an all-inclusive retreat involving both community and solitary activity. Individuals taking part in a satsang are assisted in their meditation exercises towards overall goals of enlightenment. The teacher, or leader of the satsang, encourages a silent association with one’s “inner truth” but engages in dialogue with the student where necessary to seek out meditative techniques suitable for the individual.
Perhaps the most popular form of meditation in the western world is Transcendental Meditation (TM), derived from ancient Hindu tradition. The TM course is four days in length, after which the student is given a mantra, the keyword (usually Sanskrit) to act as the focal point for each meditation session. There is a $2500 charge for the introductory TM course, another cost consideration for the beginner. TM instructors teach the concentrative form of meditation, which is intended to free the mind to a point where the body is at rest but the mind is alert.
The exhaustively researched health benefits of meditation are by now well known and include stress reduction, decreased oxygen consumption, a sharp improvement in heart and respiratory rates, improved mood and heightened awareness. As a result, many hospitals in North America offer secular meditation courses for patients and the general public.