Buddhist meditation is a very rich set of related practices. The Buddha is said to have given 84,000 different kinds of teachings to help different people in different situations and very many of these were meditation techniques. The range of different meditation classes can be a bit daunting at first, but if you read on you should find what you want.
We offer general meditation and relaxation with no specifically Buddhist content and, of course, we offer Buddhist meditation.
General meditation and relaxation
At its simplest meditation is a series of techniques to enhance mental well-being. In these classes there is little if any specifically Buddhist content to the meditation. The aim is to de-stress and relax and become happier in our everyday lives.
There has been sufficient scientific study of the effects of this type of mediation for the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to issue guidelines supporting specific courses to help battle depression. There is more about that in our section on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). We also run more informal classes which you can learn about in the section on general meditation.
Buddhist meditation aims to self the mediator free from problematic thinking patterns and behaviours that trap him/her in unenlightened existence. Buddhist meditation generally comes in two types: placement and analytic. Placement meditation trains the attention to stay undistracted on an object. Analytic meditation trains the awareness to look behind the superficial surface level of experience to see the underlying reality of our everyday experience.
If you wish to learn more about meditation then we run a foundation level structured programme on Monday evenings throughout the year. This covers all the basics and gives you a really good grounding in a series of techniques to calm and strengthen the mind, develop insight and increase positive emotions. There are also frequent classes on specific practices around insight meditation and calm abiding and a weekend Insight Meditation Practice Group (IMPG) meets every two weeks or so.
Buddhist tantra meditation
At the core of Tibetan Buddhism are the visualisation meditation practices of Buddhist Tantra. This is generally divided into two styles: the lower tantras focusing on the subtle wisdom energetic body of the deity and emphasising external worship, and the Highest tantras focusing on the very subtle wisdom energetic body of the deity.
Both styles have meditation practices invoking external deities to come before the meditator for ritual worship, known as 'front generation', and also meditation practices where the the practitioner models the appearance, identity and behaviour of a fully enlightened deity to speed up the process of enlightenment. This is known as 'self generation'. This last kind of practice can only be done once the practitioner has received an initiation.
We run weekend courses/retreats open to everyone that focus on specific Buddhist tantra deities engaged with as external ‘front generation’ deities. If events are restricted to initiates only the description will say so, but generally events are only restricted when the practice involves 'self generation'.