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Starting Local Meditation Group

Starting Local Meditation Group
3/20/14 8:25 PM
If you're into Dharma in my town you've got two choices: Shambhala and Korean Zen. I've tried both and, while they each have merit, neither one is my thing. Vipassana is what has always produced the most tangible benefits for me. Since there aren't any vipassana or Theravada groups here, I've decided to just go ahead and start one. My vipassana practice originated with Bhante G's Mindfulness In Plain English. That style of gentle samatha and polite attention to whatever arises was my main focus for years. Recently my practice has become much more informed by the Mahasi Sayadaw style of noting, as well as the teachings of Daniel Ingram, Kenneth Folk, and Vincent Horn.

I'm not a teacher; my goal with this group is to provide a place for people interested in insight meditation practices to sit together. It will be 40 minutes of meditation followed by a discussion or listening to a downloaded dharma talk. I've been assisted by an extremely kind benefactor who owns a holistic studio that offers Zen, yoga, dance, MBSR, and various other practices. He's offered me the space for free, as well as use of all the cushions. The group will be advertised and promoted on his website, newsletter, and in the local paper so hopefully it will turn into a real community of practitioners.

I'm in Lexington, KY and have decided to call the group "Bluegrass Dharma". I was originally going to subtitle it "An Insight Meditation Community," but am rethinking it. "Insight Meditation" as a phrase generally makes people think of the Spirit Rock/IMS group of centers. I'm not affiliated with them in any way and I don't want to misrepresent the group or mislead anyone at all. Also, I'd like the name to be open enough to reflect my newer influences whose practices may not strictly lie within the insight traditions.

What do you think? I'm considering substituting "practical" for insight, as in Bluegrass Dharma: A Practical Meditation Community. Ideas? Suggestions?

Thanks, all.


RE: Starting Local Meditation Group
3/21/14 8:49 AM as a reply to Brent Purple Oliver.
Sounds great!. We have a very successful mindfulness group in our town (New Haven, CT) which was started by a neuroscience / clinical psychology researcher. It's great for the community aspect. We get around 30 people showing up every Monday evening.

Our group has a similar format to what you're proposing. We have a 30 minute guided meditation (usually a breath meditation, but sometimes metta or a body scan) followed by some guided discussion on a particular topic. Usually the group leader has thought about the topic, maybe brought in some quotations from the internet and reads them, and gives a 15-20 minute talk. During and after the talk he/she asks for comments from people. People share their experiences & thoughts, and we always allow people to share whats on their minds without trying to correct them or contradict them.

We also have guest speakers who come and lead the group occasionally. For a while we had a lot of "high-profile" speakers because our group leader would bring them in to do scientific tests on them. So Daniel Ingram has come, as have Kenneth Folk, Leigh Brasington, and a bunch of other people.

There are now a few people in the group who collect donations for various local charitable organizations too. I think that really helps.

I'm not sure if having the word "Dharma" in the name of your group is a good idea. It could carry too many religious connotations for people, or otherwise just be weird and off-putting. Maybe the word "mindfulness" would be better, as this is a highly popularized, non-religious term that people may be curious about.

Good luck with this! If you have any questions about how our group is run, ask away and I will try to answer.


RE: Starting Local Meditation Group
3/21/14 9:44 AM as a reply to Chris G.
Thanks for all the info. It helps.

I thought pretty long about putting "Dharma" in the name of the group. I definitely understand what you're saying about it having a religious connotation and maybe putting some people off. But ultimately I decided to go with it because it most accurately represents what I'm interested in bringing to the community. Mindfulness is a great non-offensive word but it doesn't fully capture everything I'd like to present. I think ethics and wisdom are just as important as mindfulness and I want to be able to emphasize that. I do make it clear in all descriptions of the group that this is a secular organization. Even though the practices and teachings are firmly rooted in the historical Buddha, no one needs to give up their current beliefs or adopt any new ones to benefit from vipassana and metta meditation. There are no rituals, chanting, bowing, or waving of incense.

I think it's the right decision especially considering there will be an MBSR group joining the center shortly. That will give us the Zen group, MBSR, and my vipassana group which will give participants a decent range of options. We all plan to work together to foster overlap and friendly cooperation.

Thanks so much for letting me know about your group. I really appreciate it.