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Where can I learn how to meditate?

Jan 2010

As part of dealing with everyday stress and kids etc, I would like to learn how to meditate. Are there any classes that i can take or meditation groups? I would appreciate if someone can recommend. Thank you.

James Baraz offers a 6 week meditation class a few times a year in North Berkeley. It's a great introduction, and meditation is a great way to help you be in your life. It has changed my life.

You may wish to consider attending a Kaiser Health Education class. Even if you are not a Kaiser member you can sign up for Kaiser's Mindful Meditation Stress Reduction classes (can't remember the exact name). It meets one evening a week for about 8 weeks and includes a one day retreat. I was very pleased with the experience, and it was only $95 for members (a little more for non- members) more mindful

I've found meditation tremendously helpful in my parenting. My kids remarked that I was ''nicer'' after I started ;-) The Blue Mountain Center for Meditation runs classes nearby, and their beginning meditation instruction book, ''Passage Meditation'' (very straightforward, not tied to any particular religion, and easy to read), is available online for free on this site: Tako

Guided meditation/relaxation

June 2006

I'm interested in finding a guided meditation or relaxation class in the Oakland area, or a great class that includes guided meditation. I really have no idea where to start my search. THANKS!
Wishlist: Peace and Quiet

Kaiser has a fantastic basic meditation series - 8 week sessions. They are available to non-Kaiser members. It's a good program because it includes a sampler of several different methods so that you can find out which works best for you. My back specialist recommended it for muscles tension causing neck pain, but I'm finding many other uses. Fiona

Meditation for Children

May 2006

I'm looking for a meditation class for my 6-year old son. He's been diagnosed with a neurological disorder similar to ADHD, and becomes easily frustrated, angry and excited. His therapist thinks meditation would be very beneficial for him, but didn't have any recommendations. I checked the website but didn't see anything. Thanks for any suggestions. Trying everything

I would suggest calling the meditation centers in the area and look into someone to work one on one with your son. Maybe both of you could receive meditation instruction and make it a part of your daily/tri-weekly schedule. I would also suggest unplugging him if he is plugged in to videos, tv, computers, etc. When I consider meditation (I've been meditating daily for 10 years and lived in a buddhist community for 8 of those), I think of grounding oneself through one's breath, connection with one's body and one's place. I can't help but feel that the electronic world ''messes'' with that connection, especially with sensitive children. Kids can only meditate for short periods of time but there are many he could try. Touching the earth meditation is one that comes to mind. Thich Nat Hahn has worked alot with children and has written many books. Check out Parallax Press. Also, in my opinion, gardening and time in nature can be very grounding. I'd be happy to talk to you if you would like to contact me. Nancy

There is a Buddhist Temple in Lafayette, the Buddha Gate Monastery, where they have Saturday morning classes for children. They're not continuous, so you may have to wait for the next round to start, but the nuns are lovely. Our school visited them this year, and they were so generous and warm, and taught the kids how to meditate in a very abbreviated instructional period. We've been thinking about visiting them again, it was so sweet. I also think Spirit Rock in Marin has family events. calming the mind

It's Yoga Kids (located in the Presidio of San Francisco with plenty of free parking) offers yoga for kids of all ages and abilities. Classes for each age group include a time for calming down and relaxation with a guided visualization or meditation appropriate by age. The first class for kids is free. Call 415.561.0900 or visit Michelle

Feb 2004

i would like to get my 10 year old to begin meditation.he is a pretty stressed young guy,and never really gives his brain a rest. does anyone have experience with a class/teacher/book to recomend for meditation for children? annon

Just a few months ago, we were looking for a meditation/yoga class for our 9 yr old son. We called San Leandro Parks & Rec. One of their instructors, Stuart Moody, called us back. He wasn't offering a kids class in the East Bay, but he does them frequently in Marin. He let my son and I join his 8-week adult meditation class thru Parks & Rec as a try out. My son loved Stuart, who is by far the calmest, nicest man I've ever met. The class is over now -- but Stuart will be teaching a kid's class on Wednesdays thru San Leandro Parks and Rec starting in June. My husband has changed his work hours so that we'll be able to participate when it starts. Stuart's bio says that he's a somatic educator with Young Imaginations, a somatics-based arts education agency at (415)472-7338. I'll be interested in seeing the other replies. Joyce

I highly recommend James Baraz' beginning meditation class. He is a wonderful and patient teacher who introduced me to Vipassana (insight) meditation about 14 years ago. He still teaches an introductory class in Berkeley at the Northbrae Community Church several times a year. The schedule for his classes can be found at the web site of the Spirit Rock meditation center, if you click on the beginning classes link on the left hand side of the page. I think Spirit Rock also offers meditation classes for children. The web site is I highly recommend Vipassana meditation--it has made a big difference in my life. Jim

Meditation: Show Me the Way to Go Om

June 2004

I'd like to start meditating as a way to manage stress and get a better perspective on some difficult emotions, but I'm not sure how to get started. Since I have 2 kids and a full-time job, pretty much the only time I'd have would be at home in the early mornings. Can anyone recommend any CDs, books or other resources for guided meditation? Or is a class a better way to get started? If so, what are some good places to take one? (Preferably with minimal driving time from Berkeley, since I'm perpetually pressed for time.) Jennifer

I would highly recommend the meditation method taught by the Blue Mountain Center. It seems to show the way to a more peaceful place, and is very accepting of our humanity. It connects to all the major religions, but does not require religious belief. Although the center is in Marin County, they teach a free class in Berkeley every other Tuesday. More info at Best of luck to you. anne

I have been meditating for three years now, and words can't explain how much more positive my life has become. I am a full time mother, wife, student, and teacher and without meditation my days were filled with anxiety. Since I started meditating, I am a lot more chill, so much that everyone wonders how I handle everything. I was introduced to meditating through the know thyself organization. They offer a class absolutely FREE, and it only takes two hours. If you want to learn to meditate they'll teach you, if not then you're free to leave. There are no religous like obligations and no fees. You can call them at 1- 877-meditate or visit their website at They have a representative in Berkeley you can get in contact with. Good luck. Cherie

It sounds like the meditation workshops at Creating Harmony Institute in Albany (San Pablo Ave near Solano)is just what you are looking for. We offer a meditation workshop that is a ''meditation sampler''. An opportunity to learn several types of stress reducing meditations and find out what works best for you. Our next workshop is Saturday June 26th, 2004 9:30 am - 11 am. Fees are very reasonable. Classes are small and personal. We also have guided visualization CDs for stress reduction available for home use. For more information you can call Creating Harmony Institute at (510) 526-1559.

I had a great experience taking a meditation class with Nancy Bardacke last fall. She teaches a ''meditation for stress release'' (my paraphrase) course following the work of John Cabot- Zinn. The class was fabulous and very effective. Textbook, workbook and meditation tapes are included as are several types of practices (body scan, yoga, sitting meditation) and an all- day session. I went on to take my childbirth prep class from her. I had tried meditation off and on throughout the years without sticking to it in any real way. This class taught me mindfulness in a way that has changed my life. I continue to practice it every day. She can be contacted at nancybard[at] Beth

James Baraz associated with Spirit Rock offers a six week class at Northbrae church in Berkeley-it's great. look at alice

Try Sogyal Rinpoche's Chapter 5 from ''The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying.'' It's probably available in the library (or you could buy the book), or you can get a tape of Chapter 5 - titled ''meditation'' from Rigpa in SF (in the phone book). Rigpa also has free meditation sessions that you could go to, and there are other buddhist organizations that do this. Rigpa used to have one in Berkeley (they may still), but they definitely have one in SF. I think group meditation or meditation classes can be helpful but not essential. It's helpful in that you can see other folks doing the same thing, whcih can be motivating. But it can also be distracting, and there is always somebody in the group that's busy watching everybody else rather than meditating. What I liked about the Sogyal Rinpoche chapter is that it is said in a very accessible way: he tells you the purpose, and techniques, that just make inherent sense. one example, if I recall correctly, is something like: imagine a glass of water (taken from a high mountain stream); when you first get it, it is cloudy. Only after letting it settle is the water clear. This is what you need in your thoughts. or: imagine a lake: if it is disturbed (eg, by the wind), the surface is disturbed and it reflects nothing. If it is peaceful, it reflects the sky. One last example is that in learning to let your disturbing thoughts go, he says to imagine them as very rude houseguests. You can't control them. You just give them lots of room. THere are some funny examples too, that really make the point of meditation. he says that meditating is the space between thoughts, and the goal is to expand that space. Enjoy... janet

Overeducated, impatient, multitasking atheist: Should I try meditation?

October 2003

It has been suggested to me that meditation might be a good way to address some of the issues that are keeping me from being perfectly happy with my generally wonderful life. I have real problems paying attention to anything, which has hindered me in my career: even when I'm listening to something I know I need to pay attention to, such as my project manager discussing the future of my project, I can't seem to stay focused--my mind wanders everywhere. I can even be *giving* a talk to a group of people while part of my brain is busy thinking about what to cook for dinner. I don't have ADD (apparently that involves other issues I don't have, such as impulsiveness and explosive temper), but even my toddler has a longer attention span than I do.

Another issue that periodically plagues me is middle-of-the-night insomnia--generally I can get to sleep ok, but I often wake up at 3 or 5am and lie there unable to fall back asleep. And a third issue that sometimes bothers me is a feeling that I am not enjoying my life as much as I could be. I don't think I'm depressed, but I feel like I could be happier.

I have thought about trying antidepressants, but I'd rather wait until I'm done having children (we would like to have another soon). Someone suggested that I try meditation. My first response was, you've got to be kidding. I'm an overeducated, impatient, multitasking atheist--no way do I have the patience for that kind of slow-moving spiritual stuff. But then I thought, hmm, maybe I should give it a try.

Any other Type A's out there who have found meditation helpful? And can anyone recommend a meditation class (?) in the North Berkeley area that is not too spiritual or squishy, but more pragmatic? A wandering mind

yes! you definitely should explore meditation. and you don't need to ascribe to any particular spiritual belief to have it work for you. (there's a decent publication titled something like ''relaxation response'' which instructs in getting to a meditatative state w/o the ''woo woo.'')

meditation will greatly assist you with narrowing your focus to the task at hand (single point of focus) and side benefits include restful sleep (though i do have friends w/ chronic sleep issues that were not helped by meditation alone.)

i really do not think you need a class as there are many good and instructive books on the subject--best of luck to you! jeff

You don't say what your age is. Are you pre-menopause? Are you having early menopause symptoms? Spaceyness and inability to focus is definately one of the hormonal changes. If you're too young for that yet, you may have a mineral or vitamin deficiency. Do you eat a lot of sugar? Do you have food allergies? Wheat is a very common allergy and in someone very sensitive (and you can develop a sensitivity at any time) it can create all kinds of wierd and not seemingly related symptoms as fogginess, mood swings, etc.

I recommend that you talk to a nutritionist...someone that can take a thorough life history and do some testing. 2 such people I can recommend are Nori Hudson, she is a nutritional consultant, educator. She helped me tremendously a year or so ago when I was turning 50 and feeling lousey. Her number is 847-3197, and I can highly recommend Dr. Charlie Prins. Charlie is a chiropractor who uses applied kinesiology (ie:muscle testing) to find out what the body's needs are. He also works with nutritional issues. I also saw him and see him still for my continued nutritional maintenance. My life has changed in the last year due to changing my supplements and my diet.

Another thing I wonder about you do anything in your life that is fun, just for you? How busy are you? Do you get enough sleep? Sleep is SOOOOO important and most of us don't get nearly enough. If you are stressed...constantly on the go (I know a few type A's, so I know that you may not allow much down time), and always have to be doing something you may be overstressing your brain/body. If you're not already doing these things, I'd suggest some regular time for evening a week, a few hours on Saturday or Sunday...whatever, to do something that is strictly for you. Do you ever get massages? That's a great way to relax and wind down. All these things, stress, too busy, hormones, nutritional deficiency could all play a part in your inability to focus. I'm not saying meditation won't help you, it very well might but if it were my problem I would look at the physical possibilities first.

Also, have you seen your Dr. lately? Maybe it's time for a check up and complete blood test, just to see what's going on inside. I'm a massage therapist...if you'd like to talk to me further about massage, please e-mail me. Good luck, I hope you can find something that will help you easily make a change and feel better. June

There are many reasons why people have difficulty staying in a ''meditative'' state and many ''solutions.'' Physical solutions might involve martial arts, Tai Chi, massage, walking, strength training, hatha yoga, sports, etc. Emotional approaches might include counselling, compassionate care giving for ''those less fortunate'', choral singing, etc. Mental might involve Zen practice of ''vacant mind'' by staring at a rock or candle to still the thoughts. Alternately, some people have spent a lot of money to acquire a ''mantra'' or phrase that they reapeat over and over during the day in an attempt to ''force out'' unwanted thoughts with a mind numbing repetition of a meaningless phrase. I have found a spiritual practice,, to be very helpful (after decades of searching on many paths.) If you are interested in a spiritual practice, a sure sign of a ''false'' one is whether the practitioners charge money to share it. Also, does the practice make you ''Your own Guru or Master?'' Do you acquire the powere to pass it on to others? Good Luck on your search! Signed: anonymous

It's worth a try. You might consider a moving mediation practice, like yoga, T'ai Chi, or Chi Gung, if a sitting mediation seems too dull or confining. Carolyn

Should you try meditation? Yes! But I have to say, it's not really something that you can ''try'' and expect to get certain results from, although it will change you profoundly if you stick with it. First of all, it takes a commitment to practice (almost) every day. Second, it is difficult and frustrating for many people for quite awhile. Your mind will not change, you'll just develop a new relationship with it, and over the course of time you'll notice that things are clearer, easier, more settled. I've been practicing meditation for over 10 years and I can honestly say it has saved my sanity.

You might also consider some other options, which could be better suited to you, depending on your temperament. Things like yoga and tai chi are moving meditation, and work for people who have a hard time with the sitting still part. I also really think that psychotherapy at its best is a kind of relationship meditation that can help you understand yourself and your mind, and old habits can loosen up.

As for meditation in the East Bay, there are lots of groups. I'd recommend a regular group as opposed to a class, as you can have a place to sit over time if you find it works for you. Many have some degree of Buddhist or other Eastern trappings, but some less so than others. You might try the Bay Zen Center in Montclair, the sitting group affiliated with Spirit Rock (meets in South Berkeley I think) or Pacific Zen Center in Oakland. Berkeley Zen Center is pretty ''Buddhist'' but you might try it too. Most places are happy to give instruction to newcomers. And most offer sittings weekly or several times a week.

Good luck, and don't give up. There are many meditative practices, and with some patience you'll find the right one(s) for you. A happy meditator

Yes, I think you should try meditation. Some of the ''benefits'' can include improved ability to pay attention and be in the moment. I say ''benefits'' in quotes because it's usually best to approach meditation without expectations as to particular ''results''.

That said, a wonderful place to start would be James Baraz's 6- week introduction to meditation class that takes place twice a year at the Northbrae Community Church on The Alameda in North Berkeley. He teaches in the Vipassana tradition, a branch of Buddhism that flourished in Southeast Asia. Its translation in the West has taken a rather secular form and is probably one of the more secular approaches to meditation. You can find out when the next series is on the Spirit Rock website ( Look for the link to classes or beginning meditation classes or something like that. Anon

You seem to be describing what I refer to as ''monkey brain''! I too have a mind that is constantly jumping around, swinging from high branches or counting fleas instead of just Being There. I'm certainly not ADD, just Type A multi-tasker, as you've called it. And no way can I calm down the monkey brain in order to do most forms of meditation. While it is tempting to find a chemical solution such as anti-depressants or alcohol (briefly, my monkey brain took me on the search for the perfect bourbon), I think there are good possibilities for people like us that may also be good for the body, mind and spirit as well. Here's what's worked for me:

Exercise - my mother calls it ''moving meditation''. Burn off some of this restless energy by walking.

Qi Gong / Chi Kung or Tai Chi. Also a kind of ''moving meditation''. I've found my Chi Kung classes (with Ellen Raskin) to be tremendously helpful in giving me a way to quiet the mind by engaging in some very calming, centering, simple, natural movements. Of great help when I can't sleep or the kids are making me crazy.

Mindfulness Meditation. I took this class at Kaiser a few years ago after a close friend died and the combination of her death and other life stresses were becoming hard to deal with on my own. Two simple techniques I learned in that class have stayed with me. One is the ''body scan'', which is a simple relaxation technique, again good for those 3 am wakeups or for the brain that won't shut down at night. The other was ''mindful eating'' based on the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn (who wrote ''Full Catastrophe Living'' among other good books). That one exercise taught me what I think you already know - that life is what happens when you're busy doing something else, that in choking down our food standing over the sink, rushing out the door, driving while talking on cell phone, playing with our kids while thinking about by engaging in some very calming, centering, simple, natural movements. Of great help when I can't sleep or the kids are making me crazy.

Mindfulness Meditation. I took this class at Kaiser a few years ago after a close friend died and the combination of her death and other life stresses were becoming hard to deal with on my own. Two simple techniques I learned in that class have stayed with me. One is the ''body scan'', which is a simple relaxation technique, again good for those 3 am wakeups or for the brain that won't shut down at night. The other was ''mindful eating'' based on the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn (who wrote ''Full Catastrophe Living'' among other good books). That one exercise taught me what I think you already know - that life is what happens when you're busy doing something else, that in choking down our food standing over the sink, rushing out the door, driving while talking on cell phone, playing with our kids while thinking about something else, making love while thinking about our to-do list, going to a symphony but thinking about our taxes...we are missing out on our own lives.

Eat that peach. Taste it. Don't talk. Make it last. Live your life! Best Wishes, Natasha B.

Dear Wandering Mind, I am currently taking a class at Alta Bates Herrick Campus called StressCare which teaches you all about reducing stress and symptoms associated with stress through meditation. It is an eight week course based on the methods of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and the University of Massachussetts Stress Reduction Program. It is not a squishy, spiritual class. It is a very serious class that helps all kinds of people with all kinds of stress: job stress, family stress, finacial stress, illness, injury, And helps reduce or manage the symptoms of stress: anxiety, insomnia, nervous disorders, pain, migrains, digestive problems, cardiovascular problems, depression. I've been taking the class now for several weeks and found it quite helpful in terms of learning how to really pay attention to myself , my body and just how I respond to everything around me. Meditation is a challenging practice, but is highly regarded as an effective tool to aid healing and general overall health of the body and mind. The class has you do weekly homework with daily meditaion excersises including note taking (journal) and yoga. The biggest challenge is doing the homework. Your own success in the class depends on it. It involves commitment and a change in life style. Check out the website at : http:// Goodluck Laurey

Dear Wandering Mind, I feel for you! I find meditation very helpful with focus, with self-acceptance and with general well-being. It will be challenging, because you really watch your mind spinning around. But I think it is the best thing. I would also challenge your thought that you don't have ADD! There are many variants, including inattentive type(without explosions and impulsivity). My child, my husband and I all have this. We can be distractable, we lose things, we have trouble staying on task, but not all the time! It is more about inconsistent attention than a constant ''deficit'' of attention. People with ADD can sometimes hyper-focus and tune other things out. Check out the book Driven To Distraction by Hallowell or Ratey (or if it is too hard to focus on a whole book try their other one: Answers to Distraction, which is in Q and A format). I think insomnia is pretty frequent with ADD, as are feelings of depression. You're not alone! There is advice out there for how to cope better and create a lot of external support for yourself (look in the books I mentioned or look up CHADD on- line). In terms of where to go to learn meditation, I don't have any East Bay suggestions (hopefully others will), but I certainly recommend Spirit Rock in Marin. See Good LUck! Another Wanderer

I practice Transcendental Meditation (TM) and can say it has saved my life. And I am serious when I say that. (You may call me and we can discuss it on a more private level 734-4122) Here is what I know: it is not a religious-based practice, it is done twice daily for 20 minutes, I feel more balanced and happy when I consistantly do it, I am more focused, less agitated and able to be a more present since I have been practing this type of meditation. My teacher is Paul Brown, he is in SF and teaches this lineage of meditation at his home for a 4 or 3 class meetings for $400. (It is worth every penny, you will have it the rest of your life) Call him for more info 415-586-1905. Also, Nancy Bardacke teaches mindful awareness medtation, again, no religious influence and it is very powerful as well. You may reach her at nancybard [at] I am a yoga instructor and can only sing the praises of a steady yoga practice, the bay area is a mecca for classes and senior instructors...try a few out and see how you feel. Lastly, meditation and yoga are practices. The mind /ego is a very fascinating thing...meditation can feel tedious and sometimes quite boring/ simply shows us hoiw busy our mind actually is. I encourage you to be open to seeing what changes may come by doing the practice. Jnana

The symptoms you are describing could be ascribed to many things/events/conditions. Certainly meditation might help, but as well, I would definitely consult with professional(s) such as a doctor, naturopath, nutritionist, therapist. I had some of these symtoms plus many others for a few years before I found out I had very thyroid when I visited an astute naturopath. There are quite reasons why you might be experiencing these things and if you haven't already, it would be good to learn whether there is some organic (or other) cause. All the best to you. Anonymous

Absolutely! I wish I had the time to tell you all that meditation has done to this type A single mother. Not just my general well-being but also my physical health and my parenting. James Baraz is a great teacher who has the best introductory class. It's in Berkeley 2-3 times a year at the Northbrae Community Church. You can contact him through Spirit Rock at 415-488-0164. Leave them a message and they'll call you back with the info. By the way, as an outgrowth of my meditation practice a group of us parents started a meditation group for parents in Berkeley and we even teach the kids some mindfulness. So yes,I highly recommend meditation. Martina

Your symptoms sound familiar to me. I have a depression called ''dysthymia'' -- not the can't-get-out-of-bed depression, just the lack-of-pleasure-for-no-reason. An antidepressant has helped.

I also practice yoga -- find a teacher who encourages the whole class to be a meditation. It's easier to keep your mind focused when you can at least focus on a position.

I hope you feel better soon. These years are too good to just ''get through'' rather than living them. Happier

Mediation retreat within 1 - 1.5 hour's drive

May 2003

Does anyone have any recommendations for a meditation retreat within say 1 - 1.5 hour's drive. I had heard there may be one in Marin but I really have no idea where to look. If anyone has any recommendations, I would love to hear them Thanks in advance inez <> Recommended: