Why Meditate?

People start to meditate for many reasons. Some seek an antidote to the stress and pressure of life. Others are drawn to it for spiritual, moral or philosophical reasons, looking for an answer to a question they may only barely be able to put into words, or at least for some understanding that will help them make sense of their lives, make it clearer what life is for, what it is that should be considered important.

The Buddha recognised that there is a nagging, restless uneasiness (Dukkha in Sanskrit) inherent in our experience of life. We feel that our lives should be different, better, even if we can't quite put our finger on what's wrong. We strive to be happy, to make sense of our lives, to make 'good' use of our time, with varying degrees of success, not knowing how to get to the heart of the matter, or even sensing that such a thing may be possible.

The Buddha found an answer to this problem, and taught that we can all know this answer, within our own lives and experience. Meditation is a way of looking within ourselves for that realisation.

We meet weekly to practice a simple form of meditation called Serene Reflection (Zazen). We are associated with Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey, a monastery and retreat centre in Northumberland. This is what the Abbey says about meditation:

"Meditation is the foundation of our religious practice; through it we discover the truth directly for ourselves. It is to sit still with an open, alert, and bright mind, neither suppressing nor indulging in the thoughts that arise. In meditation, one learns how to accept oneself and the world as it is. Profound transformation becomes possible once we know things as they are."

Meditating with a Group

Regular meditation practice is the essential foundation of our practice, however it can seem that the demands and distractions of daily life can compete too strongly with the need to find time to sit quietly and meditate each day. For people meditating on their own at home this can be discouraging, and it can become difficult to appreciate the need to find time to meditate, and difficult to maintain the commitment required.

It helps greatly to meditate regularly with a group. Meditating with others can be much easier than meditating alone, and the chance to talk with others brings a wider perspective on what your own meditation practice means for you. In this way regular contact with a group can really help you to keep going.

Learning to Meditate

To benefit from meditating with us you don't need to know anything about Buddhism. We hope to make the Buddha's teaching available to all but never try to impose it. Buddhism is noted for its respect for other faiths. It does not claim an exclusive truth, or require you to accept a particular set of beliefs. Zen simply asks that you are willing to sit honestly in meditation and follow where that leads you.

To practice Zazen meditation posture is important, but it is not necessary to sit cross legged. Most people use either a chair or a special kneeling bench. The important thing is that the upper part of the body is well balanced and that you are comfortable enough to sit still.

Before you come for the first time, try to email us so we can arrange for you to be given meditation instruction from someone who has been meditating for several years and can help others learn the basics. This introduction usually lasts for about half an hour and covers posture and how to cultivate the mind of meditation. You will then join the rest of the group for the remaining meditation time, tea and discussion.

If you would like to come along and join us then please follow the links in the menu above to find contact details for the Newcastle or Teesside groups. If you do not live within easy travelling distance of any of our three groups there may be another OBC meditation group or Priory near you. Look in Net Links for a full list of OBC groups.