The Beginner's Guide to Meditation
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So you want to try meditation but you’re not sure of the hows, wheres, whys, whos and whats of the thing. So far the closest you’ve come is calmly closing your eyes and waiting in silence for iPlayer to load on your smart TV.
Well, there happens to be a host of drop-in classes, largely at altruistically-minded Buddhist centres, where you can dip your toes in the gently lapping water and see if it's for you without having to shell out £15k for a course. They say you can't put a price on peace of mind, but we've found that's not true.
Since 1978, a time when the mind had no idea how full it could really get, London Buddhist Centre has been aligning the practice of Buddhism with the general rough and tumble of city living. At their Bethnal Green temple, in a disused fire station, they’ve built up a thriving Buddhist community with drop in meditation classes, yoga and a veggie cafe.
Their drop-in classes happen every lunchtime between 1pm-2pm and on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings between 7.45pm-9.30pm. They're donation led, and plz do shell out a few bucks if you can to keep this nourishing venue going strong.
We didn't think anything in Covent Garden could be described as "London’s oasis of calm and insight", but Inner Space is a welcome surprise. As a meditation and personal development centre, it welcomes people who are feeling a bit burned out or who want to learn new techniques in relaxation and head clearing.
They put on guided classes on improving self-esteem, thinking more positively and managing time. But for meditation, it's half hour slots on Wednesday & Friday lunchtimes at 1pm; and Friday evening at 6.30pm. It's all free, but donations are welcome.
Back in 1961, when meditation was still viewed with all kinds of scepticism and mistrust, the School of Meditation was set up in an airy, comfortable and fairly grandiose West London town house. Oh, they were ahead of the curve alright, and they've been offering meditation classes ever since, devoting the space to the learning, enjoying and sharing of meditation. There are four-week introductory courses here, one-on-one tutoring and £5 taster classes that happen on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
This beautiful Tibetan Buddhist centre in Bermondsey offers heaps of classes and courses for scurrying rat racers, ranging from the importance of ethics, to an introduction to meditation, and training in lucid dreaming. They believe that commuting, media harassment and advertising for hair loss serums on the tube is making us all silly in the brain and yeah, they might be onto something.
Their free intro to meditation involves a three week beginner course taking place one evening per week.
This is, unofficially, West London's meditation Mecca - a place where city dwellers from all walks of life can be found seeking some solace from the hectic hustle. It's a Buddhist centre and meditation resource and is quite the looker - an architectural blend of traditional dharma with Western aesthetics.
In terms of meditation drop ins - yes. Yes indeed. That happens at 1pm-2pm every weekday, on Thursdays at 6.30pm-7.30pm and Saturday mornings from 10am-12pm. Donations encouraged, you might have guessed.
This is a place of serenely good vibrations. First and foremost a Buddhism centre, it's open to all comers whether you wish to take a meditation class, do some yoga, learn about Buddhism or simply pass some time at their vegetarian cafe and garden. There are classes covering everything from compassion meditation to the sayings of the Buddha and their doors are always open (unless you come when it's closed).
Thursday at 1pm is when to come for the regular lunchtime class, though others happen at various times throughout the week.
As Jeremy Corbyn once noted, there isn't much you can't get on Holloway Road - and that extends to some peace of mind thanks to the North London Buddhist Centre. This is a simple, warm and welcoming place for meditation, yoga and learning about Buddhism.
There's a host of meditation, yoga and mindfulness drop-in classes throughout the week but you're here for meditation, just to remind you. Jeez it's hard to get you to focus. The lunchtime drop in class is between 1pm-2pm; Tuesday evening between 7pm-9.30pm; and Saturday morning between 10.15am-12.45pm.
This is the UK's original Thai Buddhist temple - a tranquil retreat from any outside noise and a welcome dose of calm. Once those shoes have been slipped off, the temple itself is a colourful wonder, with bright, dreamlike imagery depicting the life of Buddha from his birth to death, along with murals of myths and famous figures from the Buddhist way of life.
But if you want to actually get involved in this tranquility, Saturday is the day to come when they run meditation classes from 4pm-6pm and you can attend, regardless of faith. They also do a full day's retreat on the last Saturday of the month, though that's more for the pros.
This discreet place, on a residential street in Turnham Green, is the UK's leading centre for Theravada Buddhism. Its legacy stretches back all the way to 1926 and, though it might have moved buildings a couple of times, it claims to be the first Buddhist monastery established outside Asia. We're not ones to doubt (or spend too long fact-checking).
Inside is a very simple operation where classes on Buddhism and meditation often happen. They have drop-in classes on Wednesdays at 7pm and the second Saturday of every month between 5pm-8pm if you fancy a change of pace.