Another way to support the development of daily practice is to find a meditation group where you can sit with others once a week or so in a clear and disciplined format.
Many people who are just starting out find it possible to sit more still and be more silent, and to sit for longer periods of time, when they sit with a group of other people.
If you are associated with a specific faith tradition such as Catholic Centering Prayer, Vipassana Buddhism, Zen, Raja Yoga, or an Eckhart Tolle Group, there may be a local group near where you live.
One of the great strengths of Buddhist traditions such as Vipassana, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism is that affluent members will often finance a very attractive meditation center such as Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, or Boundless Way, or Shambhala. Such centers often have daily sittings which are available to the public at no charge. There are also week-end and week long retreats available for those who wish to join in.
Also, Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist Priest, co-founded Contemplative Outreach which has many small groups around the country. The Trappists, Carmelites, and Franciscans and other Catholic Monasteries have their Third Orders, which are associations that lay people can join and many of these groups have their own meditation and discussion groups.
The Bede Griffith Sangha in England has groups that support Bede Griffith’s unique blend of Catholic and Hindu practice and study.
If you share the specific views of any of these groups, then you may find they are close match for your needs and interests. However, even if you do share their specific views on most matters of belief, you may not really fit into what is happening at these places.
Regrettably, there are often cliques in such places. You may be allowed to join the in-circle or you may not. Also, the leaders or teachers of these facilities usually have their own special brand of dysfunction or insensitivity and it may be unwise to spend too much time around them.
And, if you are really not quite in lock step with any official religion or form of meditation practice, the challenge of finding a local group can be even more formidable. This may be the case if you simply have more questions or doubts than the local sitting group or meditation teacher is willing to listen to or respond to.
In either case there is another option available.
You can see if you can form a small meditation group with those friends, family members, or neighbors you feel you can get along with and have civil discussions even if there are noticeable differences in beliefs.
Once a week, or twice a month, or once a month you can get together in someone’s living room or a quiet room at your local church or community center.
You can sit for 20 minutes or longer if you are able. Those who may be more experienced can lead a discussion afterwards or you can listen to tapes or watch a video by some teacher you respect. This is another way to stimulate intelligent discussion.
Finding or starting a small sitting group will help inspire the individual members of that group to sit more consistently on their own in the times in between gatherings.
Are you a member of a local meditation center, are you a member of a local sitting group in someone’s living room, or are you trying to start such a group? Please let me know the successes and challenges of your efforts.
My hope is there will be greater and greater numbers of small circles of people meeting in one another’s homes as they search to find or develop a spirituality that is meaningful and authentic for them. Some of these small circles may grow and bloom into new churches or retreat centers.
As society continues to fragment under the avalanche of technological advances, as religious fanatics continue to give spirituality a terrible name, as the loneliness and alienation continues to deepen in societies overwhelmed by advertisements, consumerism, rabidly juvenile sexuality, divorce, and nationalism, it will be more and more important for small groups of people to sit together in silence to clear their mind and open their heart.
Let me know what you are finding.
Let me know what you are seeking to build.
Will Raymond Author of “The Simple Path of Holiness” host of MeditationPractice.com