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Meditation in Silicon Valley
Meditation in Silicon Valley
30 Jul 2008

Many people in the West are drawn to meditation for its therapeutic benefits in stress reduction and for increasing happiness. For example, the famous book The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubormisrki (384 pages, 2007) lists various activities for increasing happiness: Activity No 12 on pages 240--243 is meditation. In Eastern traditions, meditation is a milestone in one's spiritual journey, a much larger goal than stress reduction.

8-Week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course

Jon Kabat-Zinn has pioneered the incorporation of Eastern meditation techniques into Western medicine. He is Professor Emeritus and former Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. List of books by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The 8-week course was developed after 10 years of experience in treating patients at U Mass Medical School. Brief outline of the course.

Use this link to locate a mindfulness-based stress reduction course in your area. For example, Renee Burgard teaches a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course at PAMF (Palo Alto Medical Foundation). Her website makes Free audio files available for guided meditation. An MBSR course at Stanford University. An organization called Awareness and Relaxation Training (ART) conducts MBSR programs at hospitals and educational institutions. List of faculty at ART.

Buddhist Meditation

The Buddhist system for attaining 'nibbana' is in 3 steps: sila (moral behaviour characterized by no-killing, no-stealing, continence, no-lying, no-intoxication), samadhi (tranquility meditation) and vipassana (insight meditation). There are multiple techniques for tranquility meditation itself. Insight meditation can begin only after a practitioner has sufficient practice of tranquility meditation. The Visuddhimagga (a challenging book to read) is a core Buddhist text that outlines various meditation techniques and the descriptions of various landmarks (states of mind) encountered along the way. The entire spiritual journey is structured and "algorithmic". The techniques are best learnt from qualified teachers. Bay area residents have a few choices:

  1. 10-day Vipassana Meditation camp are organized by Shri S N Goenka at many centers worldwide. Bay area residents may attend the course at North Fork, CA, which is roughly 40 miles south of Yosemite National Park. After learning the meditation technique at the 10-day course, daily practice at home is critical. Volunteers in the bay area have rented the South Bay Vipassana Hall in San Jose for weekly group sittings. There are no talks or seminars held here.
  2. Tathagata Meditation Center in San Jose was founded in 1987 by Venerable Sayadaw Silananda, a direct disciple of Mahasi Sayadaw from Burma. The center offers weekend retreats, and long-term retreats. There are no group sittings or invited speakers. The technique taught by Mahasi Sayadaw and his students seems to be a little different from the technique taught at Shri S N Goenka's 10-day camp: Instructions for Insight Meditation by Mahasi Sayadaw.
  3. San Jose Insight Meditation Sangha provides meditation instruction, group sittings and talks. List of Teachers
  4. Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City was started in 1986 as an informal group of people interested in learning, supporting and deepening their meditation practice. The center now offers weekly meditation sessions, talks on Buddhist teaching and practice, classes, group discussions, yoga practice and meditation retreats. List of teachers. One of the teachers is Terry Lesser who conducts Yoga classes. She is an Iyengar Yoga teacher who also practices Vipassana meditation.
  5. Insight Meditation South Bay in Mountain View was started in 2006 by Shaila Catherine whose recent book Focused and Fearless (275 pages, 2008 ) has received good reviews. The center provides weekly meditation instructions to beginners, group sittings, day long retreats, guest speakers and special events.
  6. Spirit Rock Meditation Center at Woodacre is 25 miles north of San Franciso with 20+ years of history. The organization is well managed by 20+ employees, with back to back events on an almost daily basis: Calendar of Events. A listing of psychotherapists in the bay area who have regular Vipassana practice for at least 3 years and 25 nights of day-long retreats: Vipassana Therapists.
  7. MLA Insight Meditation Center in Campbell.
  8. SF Insight in San Francisco offers classes, retreats and lectures for Buddhist meditation.
  9. Insight Meditation Community of Berkeley offers classes and weekly meetings for Buddhist meditation.
  10. East Bay Meditation Center at Oakland has weekly group sittings, classes and retreats.
  11. Vipassana Santa Cruz conducts group sittings, retreats and multiple week meditation courses. The List of Teachers includes Dr Bob Stahl who is the Director of an organization called Awareness and Relaxation Training that conducts Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR -- see below) programs in hospitals and educational institutions in the bay area. In 208, two of the courses that Dr Stahl is conducting 32-Parts of the Body Meditation, and Meditation on Death, which are not taught at other meditation centers in the bay area.
  12. Zen Meditation: The Zen Center in Palo Alto was founded 20 years ago by Cheri Huber. The center offers weekly meditation sessions and workshops.Floating Zendo is run by Angie Boissevain. The group practices Zen in the Soto tradition from Japan, founded by Dogen Zenji.
  13. Shambhala Meditation: The Silicon Valley Shambhala Meditation Center in Mountain View is part of an international community of 165 meditation centers founded by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a controversial but highly acclaimed teacher of Tibetan Buddhism.

Finally, a List of Insight Meditation Centers Worldwide might help you discover a famous Buddhist meditation center close to you.

Hindu Meditation Traditions

Patanjali's 8-Step Path to salvation forms the basis of many Hindu traditions. Three of these 8 steps are Yoga, Pranayama and Dhyana, with Yoga (postures) facilitating Pranayama (breathing exercises), which in turns facilitates Dhyana (meditation). Thus, unlike Buddhist systems, meditation is taught in conjunction with (or subsequent to) yoga and pranayama. How Yoga Works by Michael Roach and Christie McNally (406 pages, 2005) explains the Yoga Sutras in the form of a story. A vast collection of commentaries on the Sutras has also been compiled.

  1. Art of Living Foundation (AoL) by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar runs stress reduction programs worldwide. The main technique taught in the introductory AoL course is Sudarshan Kriya, which is a sequence of Pranayamas (breathing techniques) to be practiced about 30 minutes every day. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar discovered the Pranayama techniques taught in AoL courses by himself in 1982. He does not have any known teachers. In harmony with Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, mastery of Pranayama is essential for Meditation (advance AoL course).
  2. Society of Abidance in Truth (Santa Cruz) is devoted to teachings of Advaita Vedanta, as revealed by Ramana Maharshi. Calendar of Eventa — Meditation on Friday evenings.
  3. Ananda Community at Palo Alto is one of multiple Ananda communities and teaching centers founded by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda whose widely read book Autobiography of a Yogi (free online edition) brought Indian spirituality to the West in a big way. The Palo Alto chapter has meditation courses. A short article on the meditation technique.Paul Sibcy teaches meditation (Kriya Yoga) at Integrated Healing Arts, an organization that he founded in 1970s. Schedule of classes.
  4. Mt Madonna in Watsonville was established in early 1970s by Baba Hari Dass. The center teaches according to the 8-step Ashtanga Yoga as outlined by Patanjali.
  5. Isha Foundation by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev holds "Inner Engineering" programs. For example, Inner Engineering program at Milpitas in August 2008.
  6. Self Realization Fellowship in Los Gatos is a part of the Self Realization Fellowship that was founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920. The meditation and lecture services at the Los Gatos center are open to public.
  7. The Vedanta Society of Northern California has a temple in San Francisco. The society was founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1900. The Vedanta Olema Retreat is in a town called Olema, 37 miles north of San Francisco. It hosts a library of books and provides free residence to anybody who wishes to pursue meditation for extended periods of time.The Vedanta Society of Southern California maintains monthly archives of articles: the articles on meditation are very good.

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