Best resources to learn and practice meditation

Best resources to learn and practice meditation

Effective resources to learn and practice meditation

We list these resources as a way to provide further options for study but also to acknowledge the incredible knowledge that came before us. To read more about our acknowledgements and influences click here.

Teachers that you can meet with:

  • Kynan Tan, the co-creator of Sit Down and Practice, is available to meet with students one-on-one. He also offers various courses, a free weekly drop-in class, and leads online and in-person retreats.

  • Tucker Peck is a meditation teacher and clinical psychologist that offers individual guidance via video chat. Tucker has a wealth of experience working with meditators.

  • Upāsaka Upali offers tangible and inspiring meditation instruction. You can talk to Upali 1:1 to get feedback and expertise on how to navigate practice.

Books

  • The Science of Enlightenment - Shinzen Young. Shinzen Young is one of the foremost teachers of the modern Western movement of meditation practice. He was trained as a monk in Japan, then studied vipassana with Thai and Burmese teachers, and now has developed his own system of meditation practice called Unified Mindfulness. His perspective on meditation is scientific, mystical, and practical all at once. His book, The Science of Enlightenment is highly recommended! 

  • The Mind Illuminated - Culadasa, Matthew Immergut, Jeremy Graves. This is an incredibly detailed guide to meditation practice. It may be the most comprehensive text available on the samatha-vipassanā (tranquillity and insight) meditation technique. You can use this book as a detailed, step by step textbook that breaks down the entire path of meditation from the first steps to very advanced progress. 

  • Seeing that Frees - Rob Burbea. Rob Burbea was an English meditation teacher who died in 2020. The teachings in this book focus on the idea of emptiness, which is thought to be the crown jewel of the Buddhist teachings. This is a deep text that offers many different mind-shifting explorations, meditations, and contemplations.

  • With Each and Every Breath - Thanissaro Bhikkhu. This book is written by an American Monk who was ordained in the Thai Forest Tradition of Buddhism. With Each and Every Breath strikes a great balance between being clear and comprehensive. It provides most of the information you might need in a simple and direct way.

  • Mindfulness in Plain English - Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. This book has lots of great information about what mindfulness can do and is filled with great examples and analogies for how the practice can unfold. It is well-written and applicable to modern audiences. In particular the first and last chapters of the book are very helpful for motivating and clarifying what the practice of meditation is about.

  • Foundations of Buddhism - Rupert Gethin. This is a highly readable exposition of the core history and concepts of Buddhism. It strikes a balance between being detailed and concise. There’s still a lot of terms and concepts, but it is made manageable by the direct writing style. This book is recommended for those interested in getting a fuller picture of the history and philosophy of Buddhism. It also makes some headway into explaining how Buddhism has developed over the centuries into the different traditions and sects that we see today.

  • Modern Mindfulness - Rohan Gunatillake. This is an accessible, easy to read book that introduces a powerful idea of 'always on' meditation. Modern Mindfulness helps to dispell the myth that meditation can only happen in quiet spaces, on the cushion and instead helps bridge. practice into our busy modern lives. 

Courses

  • Unified Mindfulness CORE Training Program. This is the foundation course for the Unified Mindfulness System developed by Shinzen Young. The system emphasizes clarity and has been used in scientific research programs.

  • Deepening Meditation Practice Course. Run by Kynan Tan, this course is for deepening the practice of meditation and seeing what is possible by practicing in a community and with guidance and support. The core of the course is śamatha or calm abiding practice, using the breath to access states of tranquility and deep calm.

Audio

  • Deconstructing Yourself Podcast with Michael Taft. This is one of the top resources for people who like to geek out and learn a lot about meditation and Dharma. There’s fun interviews with lots of big names. The host Michael Taft is a great teacher and brings together a lot of different interests into a podcast that deeply explores questions around meditation, awakening, self-improvement, world-improvement, neuroscience, philosophy, religion, and more!

  • Rob Burbea's audio talks on Dharma Seed. Rob Burbea has left an enormous archive of recorded talks that are available for free download. You can search by topic and view transcripts on the official transcription site. A nice one to start with is Rob's talk on Creative Samadhi.

  • Kristin Neff is one of the world's leading experts on self-compassion. There are a number of free resources on her website including guided meditations, exercises, and tips for practicing self-compassion.

  • Dharma Seed is a repository of audio recordings from a huge range of dharma teachers, from monastics to lay teachers, from one-off talks and guided meditations to full retreats. It's a wonderful resource. Note that you can add talks to your podcast app using RSS for easier access.

  • Buddhist Geeks podcast offers many fresh (sometimes with healthy controversy) takes on ancient teachings for the modern world. It offer and accessible starting point that bridges a wide range of topics from traditional buddhadharma to interbeing to psychedellics and conscious evolution.

 

Suttas and Buddhist Text Resources

  • Access to Insight is a simple website dedicated to providing accurate, reliable and useful information about the practice and study of Theravada Buddhism. It is an in-depth resource based on the teachings held in the Pali canon and is managed by the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.

  • Sutta Central is a website created by Bhante Sujato that presents different translations of Buddhist texts. It has many different translations and also provides guides for beginning to read the suttas. There's also an active forum for the discussion of these texts.

 

Communities (online)

  • Reddit - r/streamentry. An online community dedicated to the practice of awakening. In addition to a lot of discussion about practice, there is also a beginner's practice guide and a number of curated resources.

  • Reddit - r/themindilluminated. Based around the practices described in the book The Mind Illuminated, the community offers a place to talk with other practitioners and ask questions.

  • eSangha is a weekly online meditation class run by Tucker Peck. It's a 90-minute class that consists of Q&A related to meditation, Dharma, and other similar topics. There's also a sizeable online community around these classes and a yearly retreat offered in Arizona.

  • SF Dharma Collective. This community offers a huge range of classes available both in-person in San Francisco and online via Zoom. All classes are by donation and there are a range of great teachers who guide meditations and lead classes.

Communities

There are a number of meditation groups operating across the world. The majority of these follow Buddhist traditions to varying degrees. Many of them offer both in-person and online classes. These range from silent sits, to combination sitting and teaching, to a ‘Dharma Talk’ where a teacher may give instruction about meditation or more general information about Buddhist practice.

After completing Sit Down and Practice, you should have a solid foundation that will allow you to follow along and navigate your way with the majority of these groups. Even if the specific technique differs, the instructions for training the mind will be familiar.

We recommend doing independent research to find out what is around you and engaging with different groups to see if they fit what you are looking for. When joining any meditation or Buddhist groups you might want to do your research on them first, or ask peers what their experience has been. It can be useful to look for a sense of friendship, companionship, and openness. Look for a sense of connection. If there is a positive intention to practice together and support each other on the path then that's a good place to be. While there are many different techniques and approaches to meditation and dharma study you will have to explore a bit to find what works for you. 

Retreats

When people find that meditation is doing something or is interesting and compelling in some way, they might want to do a bunch more of it. Going on retreat is one way to do a period of intensive practice in a short time. Retreats are typically conducted with a firm conduct protocol, often in noble silence, meaning that you will not speak unless necessary. 

Going on retreat is one of best ways to deepen your practice. While in noble silence there will be much less talking, responsibility, or distraction. You will have the opportunity to maximize your time meditating, increase mindfulness in all activities, while also getting direct support from teachers. For most of us, this is simply not possible in our day-to-day lives. While there are a wide range of experiences of retreat, regardless of what the experience is like, most people find that result of that time is increased awareness and equanimity. There are great benefits to going deeper into the mind through meditative techniques in a supportive environment. This doesn't necessarily mean it will be easy! But given the right conditions and supports, going deep into the mind and cultivating awareness and equanimity are incredibly helpful uses of the time. 

Sometimes retreats are led by teachers where they will teach a specific style of meditation and ask that you follow along. Other retreats create the space for you to practice what you are working on, with support from teachers to guide you. There's a number of different styles of running retreat and it's a good idea to find out more about the way the retreat is structured and taught before signing up. Retreats also vary in duration from one day up to many months! Most commonly retreats take place over a weekend, a week, or 10 days. 

There are many opportunities for doing retreats. Look for them in your local area. Retreats in the insight meditation tradition or doing Buddhist practices will use similar techniques to those described here. There are also a number of online retreats that you can attend from the comfort of your own home, or other accommodation that you can find yourself.

When doing a retreat, it can be a good idea to think about it in terms of the kind of support that you will get and how steady you feel in your own practice. S. N. Goenka Vipassana retreats are found all over the world and are offered for free, providing an accessible introduction to full immersion practice. They are strict, intensive and provide minimal support to students or opportunities to talk with a teacher. Consider if it might be better to attend a retreat with a higher degree of support and if in doubt talk to a teacher first about what might suit you best.

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