How Meetups Work
What is a Mindful Meetup?
A Mindful Meetup is a free, regularly scheduled gathering of people who meditate together, open to practitioners of any (or no) tradition and experience. It is an opportunity to harness the collective energy to strengthen each participants' personal meditation practice, and create a supportive local network of meditation peers.
Many people find it difficult to maintain focus, motivation, depth, or regularity when trying to meditate on their own or with only an app as company. They may take a course like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction or go on retreat and feel the power of the group lift their practice, and want to continue to meditate in that sort of group environment after the program ends. Attending more paid courses or retreats may be out of budget or impossible for other reasons. Local Buddhist temples or sitting groups may be good options for some, but others may not have access to those or feel discomfort with their religious components. Others may be traveling away from home, or looking for a group that they can casually drop-into without requiring a longer commitment.
Mindful Meetups provides an opportunity to find or create a local community of fellow seekers to practice with in a comfortable and accessible format.
Each Meetup has total flexibility in how it structures its time together. For those looking to start with a tried-and-true format, we recommend including two primary 30-45 minute activities - silent meditation and mindful communication - followed by a brief closing meditation of 3-5 minutes. Optional components including refreshments and processing time can be added as well.
The meditation can be totally silent, with each participant following a practice they've already learned or listening to a recorded meditation with headphones (a silent disco of attention). If a Meetup prefers a more communal feel, they can choose to play a recording out loud for everyone to follow together, using either Mindful Meetup's weekly recommendation or selecting one from our archive, Insight Timer, or another preferred source. If a qualified meditation teacher is present, the group can also opt for them to lead a live guided meditation.
Mindful Meetups is designed to facilitate universally accessible contemplative communities, particularly for people who don't feel at home into more traditional Buddhist (or other religious) communities. The meditations we recommend therefore follow the universal language of the evidence-based Mindfulness, Compassion, and Self-Compassion courses. These borrow techniques from a variety of traditions and include both awareness practices - like noting and body scans - as well as cultivation practices that generate positive states like joy and goodwill. You can find a list of our recommended recordings here.
That said, meetups are welcome to explore other types of meditation practices if they want, as long as they note their preferences in their description in the Mindful Meetup directory so prospective attendees know what to expect. Along those lines; we also welcome existing and newly forming Buddhist meditation groups to list their publicly available sits in our directory.
Mindful Communication and Compassionate Listening
Mindful Communication is a practice of interpersonal mindfulness and compassion. Each person is invited to take a few moments to sense inside and then share what is important in their mind, heart, and body in that moment or more generally in their practice. The listeners offer their full presence, giving acceptance and compassion to the speaker without responding or attempting to fix them. All participants agree to keep everything confidential, facilitating a safe space for openness, honesty, and vulnerability. Mindful communication can be practiced all together, in small groups, or in pairs, taking turns so every person has time to speak.
As a whole-group activity, mindful check-ins are a skillful way for each person to feel a connection to the group. The time spent on check-in may vary; the group can decide how much time it wants to spend on this part, and how in-depth the sharing is. Often groups have some method to allow individuals to identify the start and end of their check-in, such as bowing or using a talking piece/item.
If the Meetup chooses to break into pairs, they can practice paired meditation. In paired meditation, person A reads a prompt to person B, and then witnesses with presence, acceptance, and non-reactivity as person B senses inside and notes aloud if a thought, feeling, image, or sensation is evoked by the prompt. After noting aloud, person B returns to silence, senses inside again, and then again notes aloud whatever is being evoked by the prompt. After five minutes, a bell rings, both quiet for 15 seconds, and then switch roles. We recommend giving each person 2-4 opportunities to speak, for a total of about 21-45 minutes of paired meditation. Groups can opt to use weekly prompts suggested by Mindful Meetups, the basic prompt "What is new arising in you now?" or other preferred prompts. More on dyad meditations here.
After the Mindful Communication, we recommend a 3-5 minute silent sit to allow the energy to settle again. Cultivation meditations focusing on gratitude, joy, and kindness can be an excellent choice for concluding the Meetup, building on the positive emotions often generated during the Mindful Communication.
Optional additions: refreshments or processing time
Meetups can conclude at that point or continue with informal time to connect, perhaps with volunteer-organized refreshments. Groups may decide to prepare these individually potluck-style or "pass the hat" around to collect funds and give those to a volunteer to purchase the refreshments for the next Meetup.
After the mindful communication, before ending the meeting, groups may also include some "process time" for members to express how the meeting was for them. Process time, which may be brief (5 -15 minutes), may be particularly useful for new groups. It gives people a chance to give feedback about what is or isn't working for them in the group. Everyone can benefit from individual observations, and see if there's anything to do differently that would be helpful in making the group stronger. The process time can be a particularly rich practice exercise in using compassionate communication. Saying what's truthful and useful, without blame, can make for a deeper sense of honesty and mutual commitment to waking up.
Other Meetup Formats
Groups are welcome to tailor the style and structure of their Meetup however they would like. This might mean shortening it to only the silent meditation component, focusing discussions around a theme or teaching, or exploring new kinds of practices each week. If you would like some more ideas of what's possible, check out the CEC's Community Activation kit and IMCW's Spiritual Friends Guide on our Resources page.
Who can start a mindful meetup?
Anyone! No experience or enlightenment is necessary to form a meetup. As long as you are willing to put some effort into organizing the logistics and follow our code of conduct, you can start a Mindful Meetup in your neighborhood, office, or wherever else is convenient. We do encourage meetups to have at least two co-leaders, preferably of different genders, in order to ease individual burdens and facilitate continuity and safety in the group. New meetup leaders are encouraged to attend one of our monthly online orientation sessions so we can bring you into our wider community and answer any questions you might have. We'll also send you a short guide to help you through the nuts-and-bolts of getting started, and connect you to a regional MM leader for support as you ramp up.
If you are considering starting a meetup, fill out our new Meetup form.
How much does it cost to attend a Meetup?
In order to maximize accessibility, we recommend that all Meetups should be free. For meetups that have costs like renting a space or purchasing refreshments, facilitators are encouraged to "pass the hat" physically or electronically to collect donations from participants in order to maintain the meetup, which must be self-sufficient.
Where are Meetups held?
Meetups can be held anywhere with enough space and quiet to allow for the group to practice. Smaller groups can be held in private homes, perhaps rotating among participants. Libraries or other community buildings may have rooms available for free or a nominal fee. Workplace meeting rooms can be good options, as can churches and other religious buildings. Local Buddhist or yoga communities may have space open too. Don't be afraid to start small and find larger spaces later if needed.
Can Meetups be private?
Certainly. Some people prefer a more intimate group particularly if they are hosting in their homes. You are also welcome to create a Meetup that's only available to a particular audience - for instance one during lunch break in an office conference room that's limited to your coworkers. Just make sure you note the relevant details in the Meetup description.
How do I get the word out?
For starters, by registering your Meetup on our site. We'll advertise in all neighborhoods that have Meetups listed thanks to Google's Ad Grants program. Tell your friends and neighbors, and ask your first participants to do the same. You may want to create a Facebook group and/or event to share, or if you are social-network-free you can just send an e-mail to whoever you think might be interested. Old-school flyers up in the neighborhood can help too, particularly if you can post them at the studio or community center where you're hosting the Meetup. Listing on Meetup.com is an option as well, though that comes with a small fee.
Interested? Check out our Meetup Map to see if there's one available near you.