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 don’t sing, bow, chant, or play chimes and drums (even though there are many widely practiced styles of meditation that include some or all of these things). As a general rule, we also resist the urge to use our mobile devices even though that could be done silently while sitting. We just sit. And we are silent. That’s it.

The idea here is to create a certain kind of physical and mental space that, within the basic boundaries of sitting* and silence, can be shared by multiple people in whatever way makes the most sense for each of them. Here are 3 possibilities (and there are probably others):

  • Burdens. An 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 need a place to rest and process what is happening.
  • Curiosity. You visited this page, or you saw the door hanger that said “Welcome to Reed meditation” and you are simply curious. What is it like to sit calmly and silently for a few minutes? What is it like to pause? 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), feel the weight of your body resting on the planet and the planet supporting you, or notice the thoughts and feelings that arise one moment after another?
  • Meditation. You simply need a time and place for your personal silent meditation practice — gratitude, reverence, loving kindness (metta), mindfulness, koans, insight (vipassana), concentration, etc..

Whatever the reason, 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 that hour. All that we ask is that you conduct yourself in a way that will minimally disturb others.

*Sitting can be 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), 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. 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 for either type of session. You don’t even need to be on time.  “Drop in” participants are welcome. Show up (in-person or online) anytime during the silent session, and leave whenever it is most convenient for you. Here is how you can join each session:

In-person participants

Location: Nearly all of our in-person sessions will 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 next to the Great (Woodstock-facing) lawn through the ‘Admissions Office’ door at the west end of the building.  Go up the stairs to your left and you will enter the chapel directly. If you enter the building through any other door, take one of the sets of stairs to the 2nd floor and enter the chapel through the doors at the west end of the hallway. During the silent session, try to conduct yourself quietly and in a non-distracting manner so that you don’t disturb the other participants. Note to Reed guests: At this time, some Reed buildings may be closed to people outside the Reed community, but Eliot Hall is open to the public. Restrooms are located roughly in the center of hallways on most floors.

Practice: Simply enter (or leave) the chapel through one 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 you can also borrow a chair from the classroom next to the chapel’s stage. If you prefer a cushion or kneeling bench, then please bring one with you. 2022 Covid policy: Masks are strongly encouraged for people when they are inside Reed buildings, especially in situations where social distancing is not possible.

Online participants.

Connecting: Join the Zoom meeting at https://zoom.us/j/639700409.

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 requirements: Mute your audio during the silent session. 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.