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Two Meditation Centers to Clear Your Mind

Posted by Nirmala N.

It's no surprise that San Francisco is a meditation cloud nine of sorts. Since the mid-sixties, when Buddhist meditation became popularized in the Bay Area, the practice of sitting with oneself and emptying the mind of all thoughts has mushroomed into hundreds of meditation centers -- more than a few, and most likely within walking distance of you. Whether you're interested in opening portals to spiritual awareness or just getting a few moments of peace and quiet, the following offerings will lead you into a personal nirvana away from the bustle of it all. The San Francisco Buddhist Center offers an unpretentious and grounded alternative to practitioners who feel daunted by the monastic upshots of Buddhism. Tucked away into an unassuming corner of the Mission District, the SFBC is part of an international network of communities called the Friends of the Buddhist Order, founded by a British monk named Sangharakshita in 1968. The Center draws from a variety of Buddhist traditions: Zen, Tibetan, and Vipassana, to name a few. Focused on the development of metta bhavana, or loving-kindness, the Center is also focused on the building of community, or sangha. The SFBC is entirely run by volunteers, a diverse, international group of men and women who don't fit the ascetic monk stereotype. Some of the SFBC's eclectic offerings include yoga, performance and other arts-related nights, men's meditation sitting groups, and a monthly meditation sitting group for people of color. The common area is filled with cozy couches, teacups, and sumptuous Buddhist art -- perfect for socializing and talking about the Eightfold Path in an informal setting. All meditations are held in an airy adjacent room that has an elaborate Buddha shrine as its centerpiece. Morning meditations, which take place five days a week, are free -- drop-in meditations and classes for both the seasoned practitioner and wide-eyed beginner are on a reasonable sliding scale, and the seasonal meditation retreats that happen at the SFBC's Santa Cruz cabin are also amazingly economical. 37 Bartlett Street, San Francisco The San Francisco Zen Center is a veritable fixture of the Buddhist community in San Francisco. Established in 1962 by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, who was responsible for bringing Zen to the West, the Zen Center maintains the rigor and intellectual complexity of classical Zen while remaining accessible to laypeople. The Zen Center comprises one of the largest Buddhist communities outside Asia and has three practice areas: the City Center building in San Francisco, Green Gulch Farm in Marin, and the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, just outside Big Sur. All three centers offer a rich array of meditation, retreats, practice periods, classes, workshops, and family events. While the Zen Center is perfect for laypeople (zazen meditations at the City Center on Saturday mornings are specifically tailored for beginners and fidgeters), events are led by a cache of experienced monks, many of whom were Suzuki Roshi's students. The Zen Center is also deeply connected to a variety of social justice causes that include protecting the environment, speaking out against war, and outreach to the homeless. The City Center is also known as the Beginner's Mind Temple and offers a wide range of talks, meditation, classes, one on one spiritual counseling, and residential student programs. Workshops include storytelling and mindfulness practice for children, suggestions on how to take one's mindfulness into the hectic world, and Zen tips on parenting. 300 Page Street, San Francisco
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