“The author had spent the better part of his life deeply engaged in the physical sciences in an attempt at understanding the true nature of reality. Then he realized that certain phenomenon, spirituality for example could never be learned, only experienced. Thus, starting from scratch and empty handed, he began his spiritual quest as the Rational Inquirer.”
Normally, I follow a daily sitting practice. But I have noticed there are numerous opportunities available in Bellingham for group sitting mediation, so I thought I would try them out and see what it’s like to sit with other people. The groups I have tried were all very welcoming and there is typically some form of introduction and orientation available for newcomers. Meditation means many things to many people, but at its most basic it is just sitting still and being present. If you show up on time and sit calmly through the 30 or 45 minute session, then you’re doing it correctly enough. Once you commit to that, sitting meditation is pretty easy and very relaxing.
In this article, I present the resources I have discovered for group sitting mediation in the Bellingham area. The group meditations covered here fall into three main categories: guided meditation, chanting meditation and silent sitting meditation.
Silent Sitting Meditations
Morning Meditation (not sponsored by any particular tradition), Monday – Friday from 6:30-7:15 AM, Red Cedar Dharma Hall, 1021 N. Forest, Donations are appreciated. This meditation takes place at the beautiful Red Cedar Dharma Hall building. The meditation is open to all. When I attended this early morning meditation, there were very few people. Not much talking, just a 45 minute sitting period ending with 2 short chants.
Tuesday Evening Meditation with Bellingham Insight Meditation Society, Tuesdays 7-8 PM, Red Cedar Dharma Hall, 1021 N. Forest, Donations are appreciated. There is a 45 minute silent sitting meditation followed by introductions and announcements. Various talks and programs are scheduled at 8 PM. This meditation is fairly well attended. There were 22 participants last time I went. It’s OK to leave before the 8 PM programs.
Open Public Sitting Hours at the Bellingham Shambhala Meditation Center, Monday Evenings 7-7:45 PM, tea: 7:45-8 PM, Tuesday and Thursday mornings meditation: 7-8 AM, Thursday Evenings 6:30 PM. 2825 Meridian, By Donation. The Bellingham Shambhala Meditation Center is a part of Shambhala International, founded by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Meditation Instruction is generally offered every Monday at 7 PM. More information is available on their website: Bellinghamshambhala.org
Noon Program with Red Cedar Zen Community, Monday and Friday, 12:10 PM, By Donation. Red Cedar Dharma Hall, 1021 N. Forest St. The Red Cedar Zen Community practices Zen meditation following the traditional forms of the Soto school of Zen. The Monday and Friday meditation opens at 11:45 with a host available to answer questions. A bell rings to initiate a 30 minute sitting meditation at 12:10 PM, followed by a brief bowing and chanting service. The group also meets weekly on Wednesdays (7-9 PM) and Saturdays (6-8:30 PM). Orientations for new sitters are available at 6:30 PM on Wednesdays, however if you just show up on time, remove your shoes in the lobby and sit quietly through the 30 minutes between bells you’ll probably do just fine.
Guided meditation is a form of mediation where the group is guided to a deep state of relaxation by a facilitator (usually someone with a very nice, soothing voice) often incorporating pleasant imagery. Guided mediations are sometimes accompanied by soft instrumental music.
Guided Meditation with Kerri Burnside, 10 AM Sundays, *1111 North State St., By donation. The guided meditation takes place in the beautiful Krishna Lounge downstairs in the State Street Building. Kerri has a very soothing voice and she always has a well prepared script employing pleasant guided imagery and positive affirmations. Participants sit in chairs, lie on the floor, kneel, or sit in easy lotus posture. The group has a very welcoming feel and would be a good choice as an introduction to meditation and deep relaxation practices. The session seems to also appeal to a steady group of regular attendees. *This meditation has moved to 3670 Haggin Rd., Bellingham, WA
Meditation Hour at Simply Spirit Reading & Healing Center, 5:30 PM Thursdays, 1304 Meador Avenue, B-11, $5.00. The Meditation Hour is a combination of guided meditation and quiet sitting meditation facilitated by Tanya Braumiller, the Meditation Program Teacher at Simply Spirit. Simply Spirit Reading & Healing Center, founded by Jill Miller, also offers clairvoyant readings, energy healings, and classes in psychic development.
Daytime Weekly Meditation Class at Unity Church of Bellingham, Tuesdays 2 PM,1095 Telegraph Rd. Minister Brother Bob provides a guided meditation and class on Tuesday afternoons from 2-3 PM.
Chanting Meditation (Kirtan)
Kirtan at Krishna Lounge, 6 PM Thursdays, 1111 North State St. By Donation. The Kirtan is hosted by Sadhu-sanga das and Sudevi-sundari dasi in the tradition of Bhakti Yoga, a devotional spiritual path that uses call and response chanting of mantras to the accompaniment of musical instruments. The Kirtan takes place in the beautiful Krishna Lounge downstairs in the State Street Building. The large space is made comfortable and warm with vintage couches, Persian rugs, tapestries and soft lighting. The Kirtan is followed by spiritual conversations and a really great vegetarian meal.
About the Wandering Mendicant: Bill Cantrell has a deep respect for all spiritual traditions and likes to explore the local resources relating to body, mind and spirit.