Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Greater Happiness through Insight Meditation: What, Why and Where to Learn

Mediation and yoga have went hand in hand for thousands of years as they were developed as a part of the same yogic philosophy and lifestyle in India.  Over that time they have each taken on their own lives and taken a wide variety of forms, which is why meditation has about as many misconceptions as yoga.  I am addressing mindfulness and insight meditation in particular vs. other types out there. 

First, what meditation is not.  It is not about blissing out in a higher state or merely sitting quietly.  It is not done with a purpose of just feeling better (although sometimes you do), nor is it easy or self-absorbed.  Mindfulness meditation is about developing an inner peace, an ability to concentrate, developing virtues and getting a better understanding of just how our minds work and often deceive us. Meditation is training of the mind to slow its constant wandering so that we can begin to experience the insights of the lessons taught along with it.  By sitting still with a point of concentration, such as your breath, a mantra or sound, etc. we are able to more clearly see the chaotic, emotional workings of our mind and deal with what is currently there.  When participating in meditation you feel at ease with yourself and more consciously decide how you want to live your life going forward.  Meditating drops the external pressures of friends, society, etc. and provides the peace and freedom to be yourself and generate more internal trust in your good-hearted nature.

Insight meditation is a way of discovering your own potential and how to transform even your greatest sorrows into greater happiness.  When you stop racing about and look at yourself, your thoughts, words and actions, it ain’t always pretty which is the point at which growth can begin if you choose to stay with yourself versus running for the next pleasurable distraction.  The magical paradox of mediation practice is that over time it allows you to be easier on yourself while still doing the challenging work of tackling your poor habits that hold you back from more happiness.  I see it as training your mind, much like you train your body in exercise, to be more positive, flexible and powerful but just like transformational exercise/diet, it takes effort, patience with the process and courage to face your weaknesses.

Practicing meditation is not a strictly for the Buddhist religion or Yogis. It can be used in every culture and religion and in today’s world it’s becoming a very popular practice.  The most commonly known form of meditation is praying. Praying is directing your thought in one positive direction with stability. There are many physical, mental and emotional benefits received by adding meditation into your life’s routine; some that have been proven by studies. Meditation is known to lower your blood pressure, increase longevity, higher self esteem, and enhance your memory.  Meditation doesn’t have to be spiritual, maybe just a way of relieve stress and make decisions, but if you are ready for more happiness in your life, take the next step to seek out the deeper lessons.

Here is a list of local places in the Philadelphia area that offer Meditation classes/groups followed by my recommended audio teachings.  Open your mind and try one!

 Amitayus & Menlha Buddhist Centers
Offers guided meditation and teaching on how to make your life more calm and manageable as well as sessions on Buddhism as a religion.  Various types of sessions are held in Center City Philadelphia, Chestnut Hill, Bethlehem and Lambertville (NJ)

Shambhala Center Philadelphia
2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 568-6070 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting
The center offers open meditation times, free classes on meditation on many evenings, as well as, more in depth paid weekend retreats. 

Philadelphia Insight
 1906 Rittenhouse Square,
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 735-3456
Philadelphia Insight holds a class every Sunday night at 7:00 PM this class begins with a meditation, followed by a dharma talk and discussion.

The Philadelphia Meditation Center
8 East Eagle Road
Havertown, PA 19083-1424
(610) 853-8200 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 
Regular sittings are held most evenings and consist of a half-hour sitting, followed by 15 minutes of walking, followed by a second half hour of sitting. Dharma discussions and meditation instructions are held on weekends.

The Meditation Center  
910 Riverton Rd (Main Street)
Cinnaminson, NJ 08077
(856) 786- 2800
The Meditation Center cuts across boundaries and is open to all faiths. Courses and programs focus on developing each person’s own spiritual journey by emphasizing a process of self discovery of one’s own inner qualities. Students are helped to achieve peace of mind by learning a practical form of meditation.

There are still more groups and organizations by which to learn meditation in various traditions in the tristate area.  This link provides many more options.

And finally if you are not quite ready to venture out to work with a group or teacher, but are interested in learning more I recommend books and audio teachings on .  I have personally found the audio versions of actual meditation retreats to be the best way to learn as well as get a feel for what the vibe of the group teachings are like.  They are cheap, great for commutes and hold the power to improve your life.  These are the audio teachings I personally recommend from two American masters, Jack Kornfield and Pema Chodron, who keep their teachings accessible to beginners:


Pema Chodron Audio Collection                         

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