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Meditation class at LBC

reality is dangerous
No, not the radio station, the London Buddhist Centre ;-) I've been missing group meditation lately and also feeling like I'd like to explore Advaita/Buddhist philosophy a bit more. Advaita is a non-dualist philosophy of Hindu origin, sufficiently similar to some Buddhist lines of thought that the historic proponents of each used to get accused by their co-religionists of being heretics and secret adherents of the other. It was taught by several of the Hindu teachers who were involved in introducing yoga to the West, including Swami Sivananda, whose disciple Vishnudevananda founded the tradition of yoga I follow. I'd thought I was doing okay just focusing on Christian practice, but the truth is that my actual beliefs are far more easily expressed in Advaitin terms than Christian ones these days, so I suppose it was inevitable that eventually the need to express that in my practice as well would reassert itself.

I thought it would be useful to find something a bit closer to home than the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre in Putney, so I thought I'd give the LBC a try. Unfortunately, I don't think it was what I was looking for. The people were nice enough, and the style of practice - while different - is certainly something I could get used to. They teach two techniques in alternate weeks. This week was metta bhavana, which is a technique to develop compassion; the other is mindfulness of breathing, which I'm already familiar with, so I guess I picked a good week to go. The metta practice basically involves successively thinking compassionate thoughts towards yourself, a friend, someone you feel indifferent towards, someone you dislike, and finally expanding gradually out from the people around you to wish the whole world well. The format in each case is to mentally repeat "May X be happy... may X be well... may X be free from suffering... may X make progress." I had no problem with that and relaxed into it quite happily, but I was not so taken with the general atmosphere in the centre. They have three classes going on at once, and for some unknown reason arrange them so that they all break for tea at the same time, which results in absolute hubbub in the tea room as everyone crowds into a space that is basically too small to hold them. A sizeable number spill over into the shop, and there's a lot of excited talking. There were also several fairly intimate PDAs between people who were evidently partnered; I wouldn't mind in any other setting, but I prefer my meditation space not to be sexualised. It was a huge contrast to the much more peaceful and focused atmosphere at SYVC. I don't think I'll be going to LBC again.

The only place I know in North/East London that does Sivananda-style satsangs (group meditations) clashes with MCC. I do still love MCC and the Eucharist, so giving that up isn't an option, and I'm too involved there now to miss a lot of Sundays. There is a vipassana meditation group in East London that meets one Friday a month, which I might try when the schedules align properly (vipassana being another Buddhist technique); failing that, I might try to go to SYVC once a month or something and see if that's enough to scratch the itch. Poly scheduling - just as tricky whether your loves are people or religions ;-)

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( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 17th, 2012 10:08 pm (UTC)
I used to go to the LBC but went to one of their "advanced" sessions once and did NOT enjoy their Puja. It was all about honouring and worshipping the Buddha which is NOT what I do meditation for.
Nov. 17th, 2012 11:05 pm (UTC)
*nods* Yeah, I can see that wouldn't be a good fit. It probably wouldn't suit me either at the moment, for different reasons. I'm okay with SYVC's use of Hindu deity-forms, but I'm at a different point in my relationship to Hinduism than to Buddhism.
Nov. 18th, 2012 04:08 pm (UTC)
Ah, the pujas. I am very ambivalent -- and that's after a couple of decades of association with Triratna (which used to be called FWBO).

It has to be said that honouring and worshipping the Buddha is part of all buddhist traditions, though emphasis may be different.

Most Western (and some Eastern) traditions see this in terms of honouring your own buddha-like potential, which I am a lot more comfortable with personally. Another way of seeing it is as a technology, a way to achieve a certain mental/spiritual condition through ritual, where the object of the ritual doesn't matter.

That said, I totally understand your reaction, which was my initial reaction too (and still is to some extent).
Nov. 18th, 2012 03:51 am (UTC)
I prefer my meditation space not to be sexualised
Om to that, as my yoga mentor would say.

why is it so difficult to find a spiritual home sometimes?
Nov. 18th, 2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
Eh. Triratna are big into the sangha thing, which occasionally leads me to call them tea-and-biscuit buddhists. I also find the conversation breaks rather disruptive. Never noticed much in the way of PDAs or sexual overtones in Dublin, but I can easily see different centres having different styles (they have a certain amount of independence).

Have you tried a zen sesshin? It may be a bit unstructured, or it may be more like what you're looking for.
Nov. 18th, 2012 04:35 pm (UTC)
The meditation sounds like an interesting thing that I may try. I find myself longing for community but not fitting anywhere. It doesn't sound like this would fit my need. I like the UU ideals but I find the congregations avoid spirituality which I dislike.
Nov. 27th, 2012 01:57 pm (UTC)
Hullo. Having been (briefly) conversing with you about what the_alchemist should have for dinner, I popped over to have a look at your journal - principally because you're the person who beat me to my chosen username by about 18 months!

Your public posts look interesting, so I have added you as a friend because I'd like to read them. It looks from your profile as if you're ok with people doing that, but let me know if you're not :)
Nov. 27th, 2012 05:41 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's cool! I probably won't add you back, but that's because I'm trying to limit my online time. Sorry about the username thing ;-)
Nov. 28th, 2012 04:23 pm (UTC)
Sorry about the username thing ;-)

I'll let you off. Your claim to it does seem at least as valid as mine :)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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Liz Williams

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