Meditation brings calm and relaxation as well as an increased ability to deal with stress and anxiety. Over time, this settles the mind, providing a base for developing knowledge of one's deeper self and a greater capacity to enjoy life. Intensive meditation can help the meditator see how the mind works on a minute level, increasing wisdom. Although many people usually feel benefits soon after they start meditation, the results build up slowly after a period of regular practice—rather like physical exercise. The results depend upon how much effort you put into the practice.
Why Buddhist Meditation?
Buddhist groups can offer the experience that comes from a long, evolved tradition—originating with the Buddha over 2,500 years ago. With specific and time-proven methods of meditation, the differing traditions each present slightly different techniques, while holding to common ethical frameworks You don't have to be a Buddhist, or even particularly interested in Buddhism to attend a Buddhist meditation class and most groups are not interested in converting those who wish to learn meditation. (In some traditions, monks are only allowed to teach when asked to do so).
Choosing a group
There are many kinds of meditation and just as many different groups for you to sample. Don't be shy about experimenting with the different groups until one seems right for you. Follow your common sense about the groups and what they offer. Are you comfortable with the teacher (if there is one), the group, and the tradition? Trust your own instincts about whether this is the best method for you. Is there openness, honesty, respect for other groups and traditions?
If you're looking at trying meditation for the first time, or if you would just like some advice on choosing a meditation group in Cambridge, don't hesitate to get in touch with us.
CU Samatha teaches a meditation on the breath for developing calm, clarity (samatha and vipassana) and mindfulness. The tradition is Theravadin (southern) Buddhist, but the University classes teach meditation, not Buddhism. There are two types of courses: an ongoing weekly structured meditation course, which explores many aspects of practice, and short introductory courses. The short courses function either as an introduction to basic meditation and mindfulness, after which you can join the ongoing course, or as stand-alone courses for helping with stress and anxiety. The classes are free. For details, see CU Samatha Society. There is also a group in the town.
The Triratna Buddhist Community (formerly the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order) have a centre in Cambridge at 36-38 Newmarket Road where they hold a number of meditation classes. On Tuesdays and Thursdays 1.05-1.55pm they hold drop-in classes where beginners can learn meditation, and those with more experience can meet and meditate together. These sessions are free and cushions are provided. The centre runs regular courses on Meditation and Buddhism. There is also a weekly students' group which is advertised in Varsity. Other activities at the centre include a Puja on Fridays.
The Cambridge Serene Reflection (Zen) Meditation Group.We are a group practising in the Soto Zen tradition, affiliated to the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives. We welcome people from other Buddhist or non-Buddhist traditions, or people who have no religious affiliation, who are comfortable following these forms and practices.
We meet on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month, in the evening, at the Friends Meeting House in Hartington Grove. Beginners are welcome, just let us (email) or (email) know so we can run through things before you start. We get together to meditate, share readings and experience: to practice. Sometimes we have a visit and talk from a Monk, to listen and talk to him or her about their teaching and advice.
The Community of Interbeing meditation group meets on Wednesday evenings, and also holds a day of mindfulness once a month (the 3rd Sunday). Following the teachings of the Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, the group practises sitting and walking meditation (20 minutes each sitting, walking, sitting) usually followed by a reading. Twice a month there are discussions on the Buddha's teaching and people share with each other how their practice is going. There is no formal teaching in the group, but beginners are welcome and can find teaching in Thich Nhat Hanh's books, or by going on retreat with him in Plum Village in France.
Wake Up Cambridge is part of an active national and international network of young people practising the living art of mindfulness. The Wake Up network has grown out of Plum Village meditation centre in France, under the guidance of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. We meet weekly to practice mindfulness and meditation together, and you would be very welcome to join us. Please join our Facebook group or see our website.
The Diamond Way meditation group meets weekly for a guided meditation on the 16th Karmapa. These meditation classes are suitable for all who wish to learn to meditate. For newcomers there is always a short introduction to Buddhism and brief instructions on how to meditate.
The Nezang Group is led by the Tibetan Lama Ato Rinpoche. It meets on the third Saturday of each month 2 - 4pm at Trumpington Village Hall. Meetings start with a talk by Ato Rinpoche, followed by chanting and a short period of silent meditation.
The Cambridge Amaravati Group (email) grew from a few local Buddhists, who were interested in the teachings from Amaravati Buddhist monastery near Hemel Hempstead, and the other monasteries of the Forest Sangha tradition. They meet fortnightly on Sunday evenings in the members homes to meditate together for about 45 minutes, with a brief Buddhist ceremony beforehand and tea and a chat afterwards. The type of meditation practiced is vipassana or insight meditation. The group functions as a way for meditators to come together, rather than as a taught class, and is open and sociable. Over the years people have joined who are interested in different forms of vipassana meditation, or in different Buddhist traditions altogether. The group also acts as a contact point for people interested in visiting Amaravati, to find out more directly about this sort of meditation and Buddhist way of life.
The Cambridge Gaia House Meditation Groups (email) are three groups for people who wish to practise meditation and mindful living in everyday life. They practise meditation techniques derived from the Buddhist tradition, but do not necessarily consider themselves Buddhists. Most practise insight meditation, although the groups aim to provide an environment in which a variety of practices, beliefs and approaches can be aired and shared. Group members need to be self reliant enough in their practice to meditate for 45 minutes without guidance. The groups also host a number of open day retreats each year - see the website for details.
Buddha Metta Cambridge is a project to set up a Thai Buddhist temple in Cambridge, and there is usually a monk resident at 135 High Street, Harston, CB22 7QD. For more information contact Rachael Harris.