Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

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Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby zavk » Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:13 am

Dear friends

I'm seeking your advice, comments, and suggestions.

I'm thinking of starting a weekly group meditation session at work. I have recently been feeling quite emotionally worn out at work. I suspect this is is just something that many people working in a big institution experience from time to time. It occurred to me that instead of complaining or harbouring resentment about my work situation, I may as well do something to improve my own wellbeing. I work in a university which doesn't have a student association for Buddhism or anything like that. So I'm thinking of starting a weekly group meditation.

I'm not seeking to establish a Buddhist group or to promote Buddhism per se. I do not have the expertise to do something like that. I'm merely hoping to have a weekly open session where students or staff can drop in to sit together for 30-40min. I'm planning to ask a colleague teaching a unit on World Religions who is also a Zen practitioner to collaborate with me. It seems to me that we could position it as a general exercise in mindfulness: mindfulness of breath and body.

I'm still thinking about it, nothing is concrete yet; it will also depend on the availability of rooms. Do you have any suggestions? Based on your experience of the group sits you've attended or organised, what are some things to look out for? Any suggestions for guided meditation audio clips (preferably something that is not lineage-specific but with general instructions)? Or suggestions for websites that participants can look up for further information?

If I do go ahead with this, I do not know how the response will be. In any event, it will at least be an opportunity for me to get together with a small group of friends/colleagues who are exploring the Dhamma or who may be interested in learning the basic principles of mindfulness. If no one turns up, well, then I'll sit by myself. Like I say, I see this as an opportunity to act on my intentions and to cultivate the paramis more than an attempt to 'promote' Buddhism as such.

Your comments and advice are most appreciated!

:anjali: :smile: :group:
Last edited by zavk on Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
With metta,
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:22 am

Hi, zavk,
A simialr question came up a while ago - see http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=5043&start=0 for a few ideas.
Good luck!
:namaste:
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby zavk » Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:28 am

Thanks Kim, I vaguely recall that but was too lazy to search. :embarassed:

In any case, I'm also curious about 'on the ground' contingencies that may occur. This is slightly out of my depth, so to speak. While I've handled groups, this has mostly occurred in a pedagogical setting where I'm clearly in the position of authority. But this is a more open setting, and I certainly do not want to position myself as a figure of authority as such, because I am not and this is not what the session is meant to be anyway.

Any stories/feedback most welcome!
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:36 am

zavk wrote:Thanks Kim, I vaguely recall that but was too lazy to search. :embarassed:

Looks like a discussion of sloth and topor will be the priority for the first meeting... :tongue:

I'm sorry, I don't have anything particularly useful to add to previous discussions except to remind you not to plan to do much at each session...

:anjali:
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby Monkey Mind » Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:41 am

I work in a community mental health setting. We used to have a weekly group sit for providers only, and a weekly sit that was open to the public. I thought this was an invaluable experience.

My question is- Why not just go with silent meditation? Let each person meditate within whatever style they are accustomed? Otherwise I like to use the meditations at http://www.buddhanet.net/audio-meditation.htm and zencast.org

Funny story... While at one of these meditation hours at my workplace, a coworker asked if she could do Shamanic drumming during that time because that is how she meditates. The rest of us said, "okay". So I am sitting there meditating, and this woman is wandering around the room banging on her shamanic drum. Okay, weird, but I can practice equanimity with it.... But then she starts pounding the drum right above my head! She does this for several minutes... Later I ask about this, she says she was driving away the negative spirits. Not sure how I am supposed to take that! :rofl:
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby Euclid » Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:46 am

I don't have any experience with this kind of thing, and hence no advice, but I think it's a great idea and I hopeit works out well for you!
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby zavk » Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:46 am

Thanks Mike, I think at the end of the day.. I'll just have to go with the flow..... But still, I'm curious about whatever stories others have to share.

Monkey Mind wrote:Shamanic drumming :rofl:


Nothing against this per se, but certainly not what I would expect in a meditation session! :shock:
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby Ben » Fri Mar 04, 2011 1:54 am

Hi Ed

Some years ago I started the group sitting in Ballarat for practitioners within my tradition. While I was living there and organising the group sit, my co-practitioners and I held a one-day course. Some people came from Melbourne and Melb Uni. A regular at the group sit is an old friend of mine who works at Trinity College and has toyed with the idea of starting a group sit at Melb Uni. He told me that there are a few meditators at the University.
If you're still practicing vipassana in the 'Goenka' tradition, you might like to give Dhamma Aloka a phone call or send an email with your desire to start a group sit. I can also give you Mike's email details. Feel free to contact me via pm.
kind regards

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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby Dan74 » Fri Mar 04, 2011 2:03 am

If you manage to attract enough people who practice in a similar way to you, this is probably ideal.

Otherwise try to still keep it under a "Buddhist banner". If it's just a "meditation" group, you may find people bringing Enya, swaying and humming or indeed banging a shamanic drum...

The main thing is to have the space and the cushions. It's good to do a little ritual at the start - taking refuge for example, to keep it "together", otherwise the group will feel very loose which doesn't help with the energy in the sit.

You can advertise it around the Uni and decide on the specifics - what time, how long, etc.

It depends what you want to do with it. if you want to make it a real group, you can do a little study together, so that people do some research on meditation (perhaps a sutta, a talk from a good teacher, etc) and present a little bit every time. Alternate in getting the keys and setting up the room, etc.

Needs a little bit of organising but very worthwhile.
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby zavk » Fri Mar 04, 2011 3:37 am

Thanks all for the responses so far.

Ben: I've never stopped following Goenkaji's method. I just take a less 'systematic' and more relaxed approach to it now. :) (Though I should clarify for general readers that there's nothing inherently wrong with a 'systematic' approach as such.)

Dan: Thanks for your suggestions. It is a good idea to give it a focus.

I'll have a chat with my Zen colleague, would be good if she could publicise it to her students. I imagine that it will be pitched along the lines of 'mindfulness meditation based on Buddhist principles' or something like that. At this stage, I want to keep it fairly open and see how the response is. I like how the visiting Forest monk at the nearby dhamma centre offers guidance. He doesn't give specific doctrinal instructions but just gives general guidance like 'Relax your shoulders/arms/legs/etc.... bring your attention to the breath... if your mind has wandered gently bring your attention back to the breath/body....' This is should be agreeable to a general public to begin with and also keep it within the general framework of Dhammic principles.

Thanks... any other comments most welcome!
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby cooran » Fri Mar 04, 2011 8:31 am

Hello Ed,

Sometimes groups peter out, but the organiser is left having to attend each week ‘in case’ anyone else comes. It may be worth considering having the group meet weekly over a set period .... 'by the semester' perhaps. People are more likely to commit themselves for a fixed time. As well, people are often looking for friendships as well, so maybe consider staying and having a cuppa and biscuit afterwards with a social chat.

with metta
Chris
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby zavk » Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:39 am

Thanks Chris... yes, I imagine that if people do turn up, the attendance would eventually drop off towards the end of the term, what with exams and assessments and all....
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby salmon » Thu Mar 10, 2011 11:12 am

Hi Zavk,

A few years ago, together with a few friends, we set up a monthly group meditation. We had much to consider prior to doing this. Questions like did we have what it takes to manage situations that would disrupt normal meditation? Were we, ourselves, committed enough to dedicate this time? Are we opening ourselves to intermediate practitioners or to beginners, etc etc. The problem with being the organizer of group sittings is having to induct people into a group is such that you will end up with no time for your own sitting, as you will be taking care of everyone else's needs. (People will be asking questions, or have the "first time anxiety", etc.) Currently, these group sitting days are one of the few days in a month that I don't do meditation myself - granted, our sessions are whole day sittings and we have more things to take care of (like lunch).

But nonetheless, it is a wonderful thing to be able to do. My advise to you is, don't have any expectations. It might even be worthwhile just starting with your other practising friend, and let others come if and when they want to.

Good luck!! :smile:
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby zavk » Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:50 am

salmon wrote:My advise to you is, don't have any expectations. It might even be worthwhile just starting with your other practising friend, and let others come if and when they want to.


Yup. Have discussed this with my colleagues and this is pretty much how we are approaching it. Will publicise it...but not fussed if no one turns up. Thanks.
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby mirco » Wed Jan 18, 2012 2:30 am

Dan74 wrote:The main thing is to have the space and the cushions.

Don't forget the chairs !
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby wizi » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:47 pm

cooran wrote:Hello Ed,

Sometimes groups peter out, but the organiser is left having to attend each week ‘in case’ anyone else comes. It may be worth considering having the group meet weekly over a set period .... 'by the semester' perhaps. People are more likely to commit themselves for a fixed time. As well, people are often looking for friendships as well, so maybe consider staying and having a cuppa and biscuit afterwards with a social chat.

with metta
Chris


I am one of the organisers for a weekly one hour group sitting in Goenka style vipassana, and these weekly sits are poorly attended. We have been discussing how to encourage old students to recognise these weekly one hour group sits as a cornerstone of their personal practice.

One of the suggestions I have put forward is that whilst making sure that these weekly one hour sits do not turn into social events, we could screen 20 min documentaries on vipassana meditation after the one hour weekly sits. Sometimes, we could even run the hour long documentaries like Dhamma Brothers or Doing Time Doing Vipassana if meditators so wish.

That said, it's a nagging feeling that the biggest reason for the flagging attendance of these weekly group sits is that we do not have Assistant Teachers who are resident and can be present to answer questions meditators may have in their practice. And since we do not encourage meditators to linger and shop-talk about their meditation progress, most meditators especially newbies may just disappear off when they do not see any possibility of social engagement.
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby daverupa » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:31 pm

wizi wrote:...encourage old students to recognise these weekly one hour group sits as a cornerstone of their personal practice... we do not encourage meditators to linger and shop-talk about their meditation progress, most meditators... do not see any possibility of social engagement.


Why is a group setting employed at all, in this case?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 11:22 pm

It certainly seem a little odd to have a group meeting and not share experiences and ideas about Dhamma. That's exactly what the "Insight" group I occasionally attend does. Which is very helpful. In that case there is no "teacher" though of course there are more experienced people to tend to take the role of answering questions.

:anjali:
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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby Ben » Thu Jan 19, 2012 4:22 am

Dear Wizi,
Having "been there - done that" with coordinating a weekly group sit I can assure you that a fundamental problem that you have is right here:
wizi wrote: And since we do not encourage meditators to linger and shop-talk about their meditation progress, most meditators especially newbies may just disappear off when they do not see any possibility of social engagement.

That's actually quite demeaning and it indicates to me the failure to understand the profound impact of mutual support.

In my experience, the social "tea and biscuits" is every bit as valuable as the group sit itself - for some its more efficacious than the group meditation. Practitioners come for a number of reasons and a fundamental need for some is a sense of belonging and a need to talk with other co-practitioners. And you will find that a number of people who attend group sits are those that feel isolated. And if you don't connect with those people then they're potentially at risk of stopping their practice altogether. Rather than focusing on increasing your numbers I recommend that you focus on supporting those that are already attending.
Even if you have a very small group if you break for tea following the sit then you'll find it will have a very beneficial effect on the group and everyone's practice.

Remember wizi it was a wise man who once said:

Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.
SN 45.2

kind regards,

Ben
"Only those who take to meditation with good intentions can be assured of success. With the development of the purity and the power of the mind backed by the insight into the ultimate truth of nature, one might be able to do a lot of things in the right direction for the benefit of mankind."

Sayagyi U Ba Khin


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global Relief
UNHCR Syria Emergency Relief AppealTyphoon Haiyan Relief AppealKiva: (person to person micro-finance)

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Re: Suggestions/advice about starting a group meditation session

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jan 19, 2012 4:27 am

:goodpost:

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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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