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One way of learning to meditate is to go on a retreat of the kind I described in my last blog, but you don’t have to travel far away or take a week off work to get started with this very beneficial practice.

Londoners have a variety of venues to choose from. One great place to start meditating is the London Buddhist Centre in Bethnal Green, which runs a range of drop-in meditation classes, many of them for beginners. These classes are open to all, whether or not they identify as Buddhists, and the centre has a very warm and welcoming feel.

The Breathing Space project at the LBC offers mindfulness-based courses – which include meditation – for dealing with depression, anxiety and addiction. These are non-Buddhist courses and again they are open to everyone.

The North London Buddhist Centre on the Holloway Road, the West London Buddhist Centre near Bayswater, the Brixton Buddhist Centre and the Croydon Buddhist Centre also offer a range of drop-in classes and/or more structured courses in meditation. These four centres and the LBC belong to the Triratna Buddhist Community, which has centres in most big cities around the UK. I have always found Triratna a very open movement, regardless of religion or sexual orientation.

For south Londoners, there is also Jamyang, a Tibetan Buddhist centre near Kennington. Again, its meditation classes are open to all.

In Crouch End, Yoga Junction runs a regular introduction to meditation course spread over four Sunday evenings – a great time to meditate, especially for those who suffer from pre-Monday nerves. Brent, who teaches the class, is very good at guiding students on how to connect mindfully with the breath when meditating. Brent also runs an early Thursday morning meditation group at Yoga Junction.

In Central London, the London Buddhist Centre runs Saturday classes at the Westminster Quakers’ meeting house (also known as the Friends’ Meeting House) just off St Martin’s Lane.

Several other groups run meditation classes at this location, including the London Gay and Bisexual Men’s Buddhist Meditation Group (again, open to non-Buddhists). For gay guys, I find this Monday evening class a great alternative to the scene as a way of making friends and just being with other gay men in a supportive atmosphere – and one that isn’t centred on sex or alcohol (although they do pop to the pub afterwards for a pint and a natter!). The group is run by Nick Kientsch who has a wonderfully calming manner (as you might expect from a meditation teacher) and a very understated sense of humour.

What should you look for in a meditation teacher?

There are lots of different styles of meditation so to some extent it’s a matter of personal taste. One very important thing a good teacher should help you with is finding a position that is comfortable and that you can hold for a decent period of time. They should also be able to help you tackle those moments when your mind wanders or you doze off. (A great tip I recently picked up from a friend for dealing with the dozing-off problem is to not breathe in as deeply as you normally would. This helps you stay more alert.)

Once you have been to a few classes and have found a meditation posture and practice that suit you, you might want to start meditating at home.

Personally, I find just sitting and focusing on the breath with no structure to the meditation quite hard work, especially for longer sessions (15 mins +) so I regularly use an app called Meditator (£1.99). This allows you to set a bell to ring at the start and end of your meditation and at regular intervals during the session. This provides the structure that you would get in a class with a teacher.

So that’s my brief guide to getting started with meditation. It’s by no means an exhaustive list and I’m sure there are plenty of resources I’ve omitted – so if you have any suggestions that you feel would be helpful, or any questions about this article, please add them in the Comments section below.

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