13 Online Mindfulness Meditation Groups to Join During COVID-19
Many of us could not have foreseen the state we’d be in as a collective at the start of the new year. Though we did indeed get off to a challenging start with everything from rising geopolitical tensions to wildly spreading bushfires, most of us could not have predicted how the first quarter would conclude. From new social distancing requirements to complete lockdowns, these are unprecedented times for all of us.
Yet in correlation with the rising difficulties we face, new opportunities are presenting themselves much the same. Online mindfulness meditation groups featuring live sessions are being offered by numerous organizations as a way of continuing to support the global community. And given the rising level of collective fear and anxiety at present, many of us are in need of mindful support during these times.
This comprehensive guide to online mindfulness meditation groups covers:
How to Unite During Difficult Times
Despite the modern movement away from traditional community living, humans still thrive when we honour our connection to one another. During these challenging times, the need for community is growing stronger – and yet, we find ourselves unable to connect with one another in the face-to-face ways we are used to.
One blessing that is available to us that facilitates our yearning to connect at this time is the advent of technology. But it’s a double-edged sword: On one hand, technology (when unconsciously consumed) can overwhelm, distract, numb, and even divide us. On the other hand, it is a useful tool for checking in and reconnecting with loved ones, teachers, and the global community. The result that technology has depends entirely upon how we use it.
If we want to cultivate our sense of unity at these difficult times, we can make use of the technology available to us in the following mindful ways:
Though we are all facing new challenges at this time, it is important that we keep our eyes out for blessings and opportunities. Whether you are feeling anxious and stressed out due to recent events or have been longing to deepen your spiritual practice for some time, this collective transition is a perfect opportunity to turn inwards.
The Benefits of Meditation Groups Online
There are numerous reasons as to why we might explore online meditation groups at this time. For many of us, the reasons are intuitive, rising from the heart space. However, if we are to put those benefits into words, some of them would include:
1. Creating a space of mutual support and shared practice
The Sanskrit word sangha can be translated into ‘community’ or ‘assembly’. It refers to a practice in the Buddhist tradition of getting together for spiritual practice. A sangha cultivates a sense of support, connection, and shared space that helps us to move deeper into our personal practice – and also to connect with those around us.
2. Reminding us of our interconnectedness
Coming together in an online meditation space helps to remind us of our interconnectedness despite our physical separation at present. It is a reminder that we are not alone – that we are all experiencing the tides as they move around us. None of us are immune; our experience is interwoven.
3. Deepening our relationships and improving communication
Coming together in a group (online as the times now require of us) also helps to deepen our relationships with one another. It creates a new type of intimacy as we quiet the mind and come into the heart space. This influences the way we communicate with others, enhancing mutual respect, understanding, and peace.
4. Shifting the collective energy
If you believe that all thoughts, all words, and all actions are made of energy, then we might reason that when we come together to meditate, we shift the collective energy that hovers around us. Even if subtle, everything we do sends a ripple into the universe – and when rooted in presence and compassion, this ripple is a positive one in support of all beings.
13 Online Mindfulness Meditation Group Offerings
If you are on the lookout for a supportive online community to share or deepen your practice with at this time, there are numerous offerings to consider. Thank you to Tricycle: The Buddhist Review for compiling a list that is reflected in the offerings listed below.
Note that there are dates and times listed alongside some of these offerings. Find up-to-date details with each respective host as things may change given the uncertainty of the times. Some of these offerings repeat for a set number of days or weeks, some are offered indefinitely, and some are one-off events. In any case, dates and times are subject to change.
Led by renowned mindfulness experts Sylvia Boorstein, Donald Rothberg, and guest teachers, Spirit Rock Meditation Center hosts weekly meditations on Wednesday mornings – 10:00am to 12:00pm PDT. These sessions are suitable for both beginners and those with a more advanced practice.
The San Francisco Zen Center is hosting numerous online offerings in response to COVID-19. Silent sits, ceremonies, and dharma talks are all available to the public. These are free offerings, but donations are welcome.
Each weekday at 11am PDT, livestreams of practice and inquiry with Jon Kabat-Zinn are made available via Zoom. These are offered to help us cultivate greater mindfulness at this critical moment in all of our lives.
Hosted by Sean Fargo, this online mastermind group offers a wealth of online resources in addition to live workshops by renowned mindfulness teachers. The next live event, ‘Stop Missing Your Life’, hosts mindfulness teacher and author Cory Muscara on April 15th. Recordings of all past sessions are made available.
Treeleaf Sangha is a Zen Buddhist community hosting multiple online sessions each day (check their schedule for exact times). For those that are new to Zen practice, they have online resources to help you familiarize yourself with sitting techniques before practice.
Every weekday at 3pm EDT, Dan Harris hosts some of the world’s top mindfulness teachers in guiding viewers through an online meditation. Guest teachers include Richie Davidson, Diana Winston, and Jeff Warren.
Brooklyn Zen Center is hosting daily online sitting meditations (zazen). All are welcome to join. The morning session opens at 7:15am and the evening session at 6:15 pm EDT. Sessions close with chanting.
This free, online meditation group meets daily, sitting for 30 minutes each morning beginning at 7:00am PDT. These sessions are hosted and led by Mary Stancavage.
Seattle-based Bodhiheart Meditation Hall is now offering a weekly, free virtual practice open to all. These meditations are live-streamed for 45 minutes, beginning at 9:00am. Email the community to register.
The New York-based Chan Meditation Center is now offering numerous online sessions, including sits and dharma talks. Upcoming dharma talks can be tuned into on April 12th, 19th, and 26th at 9:00am EST. Check their website for full offerings.
In mid-April, the Nalanda Institute is hosting lunchtime meditations from 1:00 to 1:45pm EDT (weekdays online). Current scheduled dates are April 13th through to April 17th. Teachers vary but include Nina Herzog, Susanna Nicholson, and Abby Eletz.
On Sundays, join Yangsi Rinpoche at 11am PST for a weekly Medicine Buddha Practice. A PDF document is available of chants for this session. For additional offerings by the college, check out their website.
Last but not least, Gaia House UK has opened a virtual dharma hall to support the community during this pandemic. Sessions are currently scheduled daily (excluding Mondays) until April 19th. Times vary; check their website for details.