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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.
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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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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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.
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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.
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725
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Ben wrote: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.
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zavk wrote: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.
My suggestion would be to focus on "simple" practices like mindfulness of breathing and walking meditation, and to allow time for discussion.
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I used to go to a non-denominational sitting group. It was one hour sit followed by 15 - 30 minutes of group discussion. The format was to just go around the group and everyone say a little something that's on thier mind. It could be anything from how the sit went to what's been going through your head the last few days, whatever...I really miss that group.
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well with my love of knowing things I do like looking at related courses to Buddhism and meditation, this may not be of any practical use to your starting a group and its format but it maybe of use in helping you in some way??? I did recently look at a course for meditation instuctor and here is the guts, which may help you review your knowledge/weak points, so you can improve any area and help/answer questions in a better manner.
but all the groups I have gone to started with a 45 silent meditation (sometimes a guided meditation was offered) and one group always ended in metta.
then a tea break and either a talk or group discussion (sometimes the group was paired off or small groups were formed depending on size).
hope it is at-least of some help if not expressly part of what you were asking.
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The Relaxation, Meditation and Mindfulness diploma teaches individuals and health professionals to become qualified instructors of relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness. It has been designed to give you the tools you'll need to be a competent instructor, helping both yourself and others down the path toward relaxation, enhanced well-being and effective meditation practice.
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Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Inductions to relaxation
Breathing exercises (4 techniques)
Imagery (two sequences)
Mindfulness (6 Practices)
How to teach techniques to a group
How to run meditation and relaxation workshops
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1.2 Proven Scientific benefits of Meditation
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1.6 Understanding the Importance of Posture
1.7 How to let go of disturbing thoughts and feelings
1.8 The difference between mindfulness and concentration
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2.1 Integrating Meditation Practice with Life's Daily Activities
2.2 What exactly is the power of "Now"
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2.6 Physical discomfort in practice
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My own two cents for starting a novice meditation group follows the KISS methodology.
One hour timed sits are too long for beginners. Too long even for some experienced meditators.
One idea: Take an hour, and break it into 20 minutes of sitting, 10 minutes plus or minus for walking and the remainder for discussion (?) . After an hour, break out the tea and biscuits and spend the next 15-30 minutes talking about whatever comes up. Or, integrate a video presentation by a good teacher, after a 20 minute calming sit.
The above are suggestions...I'd like to start a meditation group in my community as well, and am struggling with a formula that might work.
I was part of a Soto sangha many years ago, and long sits were the rule. I noticed that people would come for an introductory zazen course, and never come back. I feel as though they were burned out on day one, and just decided it wasn't right for them.
Akin to starting a running community, start with some stretching followed by short runs. Those who progress will want to run further, and the group will naturally evolve into longer runs. The same may be true for meditation.
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