Meeting in person

Image by Twan Peeters

Please note:

On 3 and 10 July, Wednesday Sangha will temporarily be at

The Meditatio Centre, Myddelton Square, London EC1R 1XX

This is while there is building work at Hop Gardens. Other groups are unaffected.

 

sanghas

We have two groups meeting in person every week for Zen meditation practices, teachings and sharing. 

  - Saturday Sangha 10.15 AM - 12.30 PM (doors close 10.30)

  - Wednesday Sangha 6.45 - 9 PM (doors close 7 PM)

Location: 8 Hop Gardens, London WC2N 4EH

Hop Gardens is the alley next to Gym Box in Saint Martins Lane, Covent Garden. Please ring the bell for either the Fry Room Wednesdays, or for the Meeting Room on Saturdays. 

We close the doors once we start - at 10.30 AM Saturdays and 7 PM Wednesdays, although we check the door for latecomers around 11 AM on Saturdays.

Our Wednesday Sangha is run jointly with Wake Up Sangha for under-35s.

For online groups please see our Online Sangha page.

coming for the first time

If new to the practice, please have a look at this page for what to expect and some guidelines. Then simply come along and enjoy the calm mindful space and follow along as you can. You would be very welcome to ask the facilitators any questions afterwards. 

Mats and meditation cushions are provided or you can sit on a chair, whichever suits you best.

Practicalities

Sessions start with guided, walking and silent meditations of 10-20 minutes each. For the second part of the session there is usually a short minute reading followed by time for group members to share. 

Other activities can include tai chi-type mindful movement, deep relaxation, or simple rituals such as Touching the Earth. We will lead you through these.

  •  Please remain quietly seated throughout, except where it's obvious to do otherwise.

  •  There is a fair amount of bowing in Zen. This essentially means Thank You. Please join in with this if you wish.

  •  If needing a toilet break, during walking meditation can be a good time, or there is a break halfway on Wednesdays. At other times please enter and leave quietly and between activities where possible.

  •  There is space for coats and shoes outside the room, but please take valuables in with you as other groups sometimes use the building.

At the end there is plenty of time to stay and chat – plus for any questions you may have.

Lunch saturdays

We have lunch together on Saturdays after the session, plus on the first Saturday of every month we eat a formal mindful lunch with the first part of the meal being a silent meditation. It would be lovely if you are able to stay for any of these.

Singing wednesdays

The Wednesday Sangha usually starts with singing from 6.45 till 7 — you are welcome to join in or just listen. If you prefer you can have tea in the kitchen instead.

Singing is led by Monica Max West whose music can also be found on the Plum Village App. The Wednesday Sangha also have a choir that you can find information about if you attend.

Cost

Everything we do is offered for free and none of us are paid. We do have room hire to pay however, plus a few other expenses (such as meditation mats and cushions). A donation of £10 towards these costs would be appreciated - if you can afford this. We have a card reader or you can donate cash. It is also possible to donate online via our donations page. 

Image by Twan Peeters

How to sit

Sit with the back naturally erect and all muscles relaxed. If you find sitting or kneeling on a cushion uncomfortable, it is fine to sit on a chair. 

If on a cushion, ensure you have both knees on the floor (or on a cushion if you find this difficult), as most of us need support from three points of contact, like a tripod, to remain comfortable and stable during meditation.

Add or remove cushions to find a comfortable height. Too low causes slouching forward, too high arching back. If in doubt slightly too high is preferable.

Aim for a posture where you can be happy, grounded and comfortably still for twenty to thirty minutes. Stillness is the starting point for sitting meditation.

While aiming for stillness, please move if experiencing any pain to avoid harming the body. It often takes experimentation to find what posture works best for each of us. If you need to lie down that is ok too. 

Guided meditation

Guided meditation exercises can help us develop our understanding and go deeper. Each exercise uses the vehicle of conscious breathing to carry images which evoke various responses within us.

As we listen to the sound of the facilitator's voice we follow our breathing. We do not need to think about or analyze the words of the meditation, rather we let them fall into our consciousness, like a pebble falling into a deep, still pool.

Walking meditation

When we practice walking meditation we coordinate our steps with our breath. We are aware especially of the contact of our feet with the ground, and the wondrous nature of the present moment.

Upon hearing the bell to start we take an in-breath and make the first step with the left foot. On the out-breath we take another step with the right foot. We adjust our pace and our length of step to the natural flow of our breathing.  

If we become lost in thoughts while walking, we gently bring our attention back to other sensations - such as the feeling of our feet on the ground, our bodies gently moving and our breath flowing.  In this way we can generate a lot of peace. 

Silent meditation

Once we have sat down and are comfortably settled and still, we can begin mindful paying attention to our breath. We gently follow each in-breath and each out-breath with our full awareness. We do not aim to control our breathing but rather allow it to deepen as we relax into the practice.

When distracted by thoughts, feelings or physical sensations, we let these go without dwelling on them, returning to our breathing.

With regular practise, this can become easier to do, and a deeper sense of peace, joy and ease becomes available to us, along with a calm clear mind.

Reading

We usually listen to a short reading together. This will typically be an excerpt from a book, or sometimes part of a pre-recorded talk. When reading from a book, we pass it from person to person with those wishing to do so reading a paragraph each before passing it on.

Sharing From The Heart

We sit silently creating a meditative space into which members of the group can speak if they wish. 

When someone is speaking, we listen deeply, giving them our full attention, without judgement. If we speak later ourselves, we do not reply directly to another's sharing. It is a listening space rather than a discussion. By sharing from the heart this way, we contribute to the collective insight of the group. 

If we speak ourselves, we base our sharing on our own experience rather than abstract ideas and theoretical topics. We may realise that many of us share similar difficulties and aspirations.

Everything shared is confidential. Even if we wish to discuss someone's sharing with them later, we would first check with them that they wish to revisit it.

It is a good practice to own what one is about to say, to hold one's own suffering, and to look deeply to see if it's the right moment to share specific things because of the impact one's words may have on others.