Get your ‘ohm’ on
Most of us have heard about the incredible benefits of meditation – from becoming more focused and calm, to sleeping better and not letting stress affect us as much. Some people even report having brilliant ideas pop into their heads during or after meditation. What’s more, you can practice some form of meditation sitting, walking, lying down or even eating!
If you want to start reaping the rewards of this simple, yet powerful practice, look no further. Here to help is our guide to some of the main meditation techniques and schools around town.
Kadampa Meditation Centre
Who is it for? This is for anyone who wants to learn the essential skills of meditation and practical ways of incorporating Buddhist teachings into their everyday lives.
What is it? Based on Modern Buddhism, meditations here focus on a “virtuous object” such as love, compassion or patience. But much more than just theory, students here learn how to incorporate the ancient wisdom of Buddha into their daily lives. The teachings are very practical, accessible and easy to understand.
What can I expect? An oasis of calm in busy Causeway Bay, Kadampa Meditation Centre offers meditation classes, workshops and study programmes. Beginner drop-in classes on Tuesdays are in English and include a breathing meditation, a prayer and a teaching on a Buddhist topic. The teacher then guides a meditation, focusing on what he or she just taught. The Centre also runs half-day “Learn to Meditate” courses.
Where can I practice? Drop in classes take place every Tuesday in English from 11.00am – 12.15pm and 7.30pm – 8.45pm at the main centre.
How much does it cost? Drop-in classes are by donations (suggested donation $50-$100). Learn to Mediate courses cost $200.
Top tip: The centre is running a three or six-day silent meditation retreat in September with the ultimate goal of increasing peace and happiness in the world.
Kadampa Meditation Centre, 1st floor, Causeway Tower, 16-22 Causeway Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, 2507 2237, www.meditation.hk
Who is it for? This is for anyone seeking a deeply relaxing experience that leaves you feeling rejuvenated, energised and refreshed. It also gives your body the chance to heal itself.
What is it? The sound of the gongs quickly induces a state of meditation and relaxation that facilitates the movement of chi or prana throughout the body. In effect, the gongs put your body in a state where it can heal itself. The sounds affect every cell in your body on a molecular level. The vibrations eliminate tension and stimulate the circulation and glandular systems.
What can I expect? Gong bath sessions at Red Doors Studio start with chanting and a few gentle seated exercises. You also set an intention for the session, which will help guide the sound. You then lie down, and make yourself comfortable with bolsters, eye pillows and blankets. Then all that is left to do is relax and allow the sounds to wash over you and through you. The worst case scenario is that it’s a nice nap, the best case scenario is that it’s life changing! Many people can feel the effect of the gong for a few days after a session. The session ends with yogi tea and brownies.
Where can I practice? Red Doors Studio offers regular gong bath sessions at the studio in Wong Chuk Hang Road. The founder, Martha Collard also regularly plays at large events and corporates.
How much does it cost? A gong bath costs $300.
Top tip: This may be one of HK’s best kept secrets! Keep an open mind and check out the full moon gong baths and all night pujas that last 10 hours (which Martha describes as an adult pyjama party!).
Red Doors Studio ,Flat A, Floor 21, Lee Fund Centre, 31 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Hong Kong, 2110 0152, www.red-doors.com
Who is it for? Yoga Nidra is for anyone who likes the idea of lying down and being guided into a deep state of relaxation. It’s a kind of internal yoga.
What is it? Known as ‘yogic sleep’ yoga nidra is one of the deepest forms of meditation. This simple practice helps you deeply relax and completely switch off. But it can go much deeper than that – yoga nidra enables you to release things that no longer serve you and to reprogram your subconscious mind. Practiced lying down, you’re flirting with that in between state between being awake and being asleep, known as the hypnagogic state.
What can I expect? Many sessions start with a few gentle exercises to open up the body and release tension. You then lie down and get into your most comfortable position, often using bolsters, blankets and eye pillows. You will form a ‘sankalpa’ or affirmation and begin and end the session repeating this to yourself. A typical class include rotating your consciousness through different parts of the body, a breathing exercise and a visualisation. Expect to feel deeply relaxed, focused and refreshed after a session. The hardest part is staying awake!
How much does it cost? From $250 a session
Top tip: Deep relaxation is just the beginning – yoga nidra is so much more than that. It can truly transform your life helping you reprogram your subconscious mind.
YogaUP, LG-02, Office Block 1, North Plaza, 92 Siena Ave., Discovery Bay, Hong Kong, 8197 5591, www.yogaup.com.hk
Balance Health, 2705, 27/F, Universal Trade Centre, 3-5 Arbuthnot Road, Central, Hong Kong, 2530 3315, www.balancehealth.com.hk
Who is it for? Mindfulness is great for anyone who wants to reap the benefits of meditation without introducing any of the spiritual elements.
What is it? Mindfulness is simply about paying attention with your full awareness and it can be practiced at any moment, whether you’re sitting, eating or walking. Try it right now – feel the your feet on the ground, the sensation of your fingers on your phone or computer, the air around you. That’s mindfulness! Practicing makes you aware of the present moment and stops you from living on autopilot. Studies show it can effectively help manage anxiety, lower moods and stress.
What can I expect? Hong Kong Center for Mindfulness runs an eight-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course which includes weekly meetings, a day retreat and daily home practice. Participants learn various practices such as sitting meditation, body scan, movement eating mindfully and communication exercises. The course emphasises experiential learning through practicing.
How much does it cost? The Hong Kong Center for Mindfulness runs a 8-week course for $3,900.
Top tip: If you need any more incentive, new research shows that eating mindfully can also help you lose weight!
Hong Kong Center for Mindfulness, Room 1701, 17/F, Far East Consortium Building, 121 Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong, www.mindfulness.hk
Who is it for? 10 days of silence, without a phone or any contact with the outside world is pretty hardcore so Vipassana it’s definitely only for those seeking a total, immersive experience!
What is it? One of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation, Vipassana means insight or “to see things as they really are.” The technique, which is taught during a 10-day silent retreat, is said to eliminate the three causes of all unhappiness: craving, aversion and ignorance. With continued practice, Vipassana meditation enables students to tackle stress and problems in a calm and balanced way.
What can I expect? The day typically begins at 4am, with about 10 hours of meditation throughout the day, interspersed with regular breaks. For the duration of the 10 days, students must abide by a moral code of conduct and abstain from killing, stealing, all sexual activity, lying and using any intoxicants. They must also agree to be silent for the full 10-days, although speaking to the teachers is allowed.
How much does it cost? The 10-day course is completely free. All expenses are met by donations from people who have completed a course and donated to give others the opportunity to experience Vipassana.
Top tip: There’s no easy way around it – Vipassana is hard, but it can also be life changing
Vipassana Meditation Centre Hong Kong, G.P.O. Box 5185, Hong Kong, 2671 7031, www.mutta.dhamma.org
Transcendental Meditation (TM)
Who is it for? TM is for anyone seeking a simple, easy to learn practice that is said to boost creativity and help you realise your full potential.
What is it? First brought to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1959, TM has has had a string of celebrity supporters including Oprah Winfrey, Katy Perry and Russel Brand. The simple technique is said to help settle your busy mind until you experience the deeper levels of the mind and eventually pure consciousness. At the same time, your body experiences a profound state of relaxation. Studies show that TM helps with stress and anxiety, brain function and cardiovascular health.
What can I expect? TM is taught one-to-one by an instructor. The first step is to join an introductory talk and then have a private chat with the instructor. If you’re interested, you’ll sign up for a four day course where you’ll learn the TM technique. It’s meant to be practiced 20 minutes, twice a day.
Where can I practice? Hong Kong Transcendental Meditation Program runs regular classes and weekly group classes for those who have learned the technique.
How much does it cost? The introductory talk is free.
Hong Kong Transcendental Meditation, Room 1101, 11th Floor Qualipak Tower, 122 Connaught Rd West, Sai Ying Pun, 3908 5999, www.hk.tm.org
The Sanctuary Guided Meditation
Who is it for? This is for anyone who wants to foster a deeper connection to the higher aspects of themselves. These meditations are all about self-empowerment and finding your own true inner beauty.
What is it? Each meditation is unique and tends to focus on a different lesson every week. This could be about self-forgiveness, love or gratitude – all themes to help participants develop a deeper sense of connection with their inner selves. This enables participants to gain clarity and also to start to realise just how powerful they really are.
What can I expect? The Sanctuary is a soothing and serene space in the heart of Central. The meditations are led by Phil Davies, the founder of The Sanctuary. You’ll sit in a small group as he guides you on a journey within.
Where can I practice? Phil leads guided meditations every Wednesday evening from 7:15pm – 8:45pm.
How much does it cost? Each session costs $300.
Top tip: For a more personalised session, you might like to consider a one-to-one vibrational attunement. Lying down, this incorporates a guided meditation and energy work that helps accelerate your healing process.
The Sanctuary, Unit 902, 9/F Waga Commercial Centre, 99 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2537 1373, www.thesanctuary.com.hk
Diamond Way Meditation
Who is it for? This is for anyone seeking an authentic and traditional meditation based on Tibetan Buddhism. The meditation practiced at the drop-in session is called the 16th Karmapa Meditation.
What is it? The Karmapas are the most important teachers within this school of Buddhism. Here, you meditate on the 16th Karmapa, a realised teacher, and identify with his enlightened qualities. The goal of the meditation is to directly realise the nature of mind, the state called enlightenment.
What can I expect? The drop-in sessions at Diamond Way Buddhist Centre start with an introduction and the meditation is then read aloud by one of the members of the centre. You simply follow the text and try to keep your focus on the meditation. Everyone has different experiences during meditation and there is no ‘right’ experience to have. The main benefit is finding happiness – the kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on external circumstances but comes from within.
Where can I practice? Drop-in classes every Wednesday from 7.30pm – 8.30pm.
How much does it cost? It’s free.
Top tip: The centre is run on a very informal basis by a group of friends who meet and meditate together regularly. It usually ends with a cup of tea and a chat with the other participants!
Diamond Way Buddhist Centre Hong Kong, Unit 3 2/F, 3-5 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, www.buddhism.hk
Meditation Made simple: Tips for Beginners
Ready to dive in and try meditation right now? A good place to start is simply to focus on your breath. Follow these simple steps and you’ll soon be on your way to a calmer, happier, more zen you!
- Find a quiet spot to sit down, either on a cushion or on a chair if your back needs extra support.
- Set a timer for a specified time. Start with five minutes and slowly build your way up to 20 minutes. Having a set amount of time helps your mind to settle.
- Place your palms comfortably on your lap or on your knees and allow your eyes to blink closed.
- Take a moment to make sure your body is completely relaxed. Check in with your forehead, your jaw, your shoulders and release any tension you might be holding on to.
- Just start to notice the breath moving in and out of the body. Feel how your body rises as you inhale and how it falls as you exhale.
- Begin to notice the pauses between the breaths – at the top of the inhale and at the bottom of the exhale. Try to lengthen those pauses.
- When a thought pops into your mind, just acknowledge it and allow it to drift away. It sometimes makes it easier to imagine your thoughts like clouds and see any thoughts simply drifting away.
- Continue to focus on your breath until the timer goes off.
- A nice way to end your meditation is to think of a few things you’re grateful for – big things, little things, anything that fills you up with love. Now let that feeling of gratitude flow through your whole body, and then open your eyes.
All photos via respective websites or Facebook pages.