Our Practice

What do we do during our weekly “meditation” sessions?

To put it as simply as possible, we sit AND we are silent. We are not affiliated with any particular religious tradition so we keep it simple. We don’t sing, bow, chant, or play chimes and drums, even though many widely practiced styles of meditation include some or all of these things. As a general rule, we also try to resist the urge to use our mobile devices even though that could be (and sometimes needs to be) done silently while sitting. We offer ourselves to whatever experience might arise while sitting in silence.

This is not to say that ‘silent sitting’ is the best form of meditation. But it does create a certain kind of physical and mental space that can be shared simultaneously by multiple people in diverse ways.* To illustrate, here are 3 very different reasons why people commonly seek a silent sitting space:

  • To deal with a burden. Burdens take many shapes and come in many sizes. Perhaps a recent encounter — a meeting, a class session, a text message — has set your mind and heart racing. Or maybe, you are struggling with complicated plans, or worries, or a heavy backpack. Whatever the underlying reason, you could use a place to rest and process your thoughts and feelings.
  • To respond to curiosity. Perhaps you visited this page, or you saw the door hanger outside the chapel that said “Welcome to Reed meditation” and you became curious. What is it like to sit calmly and silently? What is it like to pause from life’s routines? What would it feel like to do “nothing” besides … breathe, hear sounds, see what is in front of you, or close your eyes and settle in darkness, to feel the weight of your body resting on the planet and the planet supporting you, or to notice the train of thoughts and feelings that arise one moment after another?
  • To practice ‘silent meditation’. Perhaps you have learned some form of silent meditation that you would like to practice — gratitude, reverence, loving kindness (metta), mindfulness, koans, insight (vipassana), concentration? Our weekly sessions can offer a convenient time and place for practice.

Whatever your motivation (and there are many possibilities), if you are willing to sit quietly, A Quiet Place (aka “Open Meditation at Reed”) is here for you. You can show up or leave any time during the silent session. All that we ask is that you conduct yourself in a way that will minimally disturb others. Continue reading the rest of this page to learn some meditation instructions, and how to participate during our in-person and online meditation sessions.

*Sitting is physically challenging for some people. If that is the case for you, please contact Alan Shusterman (alan@reed.edu) to discuss other postures that might be more comfortable.

Trying meditation for the first time? The internet abounds with instructions for beginners and nearly all of them are good. You can also find instructions here to help you get started. Check out the blog posts tagged “Instructions” in the sidebar’s word cloud. And take a look at the various sets of instructions found on the Resources page. If you would like to discuss any of these materials (including the ones you discovered on your own), or receive some personal instruction, or just discuss what happens when you try to meditate, please contact Alan Shusterman, alan@reed.edu.

How to participate in our silent sessions. Currently, there are two ways to participate: in-person and online. The in-person and online sessions take place at the same time (see sidebar for date and time of next session). You don’t have to sign up in advance for either type of session. Just show up. You don’t even need to be on time.  “Drop in” (in-person or online) whenever it suits you, and leave whenever you need to be on your way (Note: bells are rung to start and end each session, and also to help in-person participants keep track of the time. See Our Schedule for more information).

Here is how you can join each session:

In-person participants

Location: Nearly all of our in-person sessions take place in the Eliot Hall chapel (consult the sidebar at right and/or Our Schedule for the most current meeting times and locations). The chapel is located on the 2nd floor of Eliot Hall directly above the Admissions office. Eliot has many doors. The most direct route to the chapel is to enter Eliot from the south side, the side that faces the Great Lawn and Woodstock Ave. You can enter through the ‘Admissions Office’ door at the west end of the building.  The stairs to your left will take you straight to the chapel. If you enter the building through another door, find a stairway that takes you to the 2nd floor. The chapel is located at the west end of the hallway. Just look for the double doors and the “Welcome to Reed Meditation” sign. During the silent session, try to conduct yourself quietly and in a non-distracting manner so that you won’t disturb other participants. Restrooms: Restrooms are located roughly in the center of hallways on most floors.

Practice: When you are ready, enter the chapel through any of its doors and take a seat wherever you feel most comfortable. Try not to disturb anyone who is already seated. Seating is provided by wooden pews, but some chairs are usually available. If you prefer a cushion or kneeling bench, then please bring one with you.

Online participants.

Connecting: Join the Zoom meeting at https://zoom.us/j/639700409. If you arrive early, you may be placed in a Waiting Room. If this happens, please wait patiently. The meeting organizer will move all participants from the Waiting Room to the Meeting Room as soon as it is convenient to do so.

Practice: You may engage in whatever form of meditation (sitting, lying, standing, walking) that suits you as long as it maintains a quiet, distraction-free environment for other online participants. Audio requirement: Mute your audio during the silent session. Camera request: Turning on your camera is optional. If your camera is on, please minimize distracting behavior and avoid distracting backgrounds for the sake of other online attendees. It is not necessary to sit facing the camera, nor is it necessary to keep your eyes open.