In the here and now
It’s an ancient practice and suddenly it’s all the rage. Once the realm of yogis, Zen masters, and new-age hippies, now everyone from Jerry Seinfeld to Russell Brand is meditating. It’s hard not to be skeptical of any practice adopted en masse by celebrities and the public at large, but there’s ample evidence to support the benefits that regular meditation brings to the body and mind.
In recent years there have been many studies on what happens in the brain when we meditate. Thanks to new technology, such as neuro-imaging and genomics, scientists are now far better equipped to provide some answers. After a single 20-minute meditation session, the brain starts to show a decrease in beta waves, an indication that it is processing information differently. The body also responds in many ways, including changes in metabolism, heart rate, respiration and blood pressure. The Harvard Medical School is currently conducting a five-year study on how meditation affects genes and brain activity in the chronically stressed, and a paper published last year as part of this study links meditation to decreased stress and a stronger immune system.
Unless you’re living under a rock somewhere, you’ll know that the buzzword right now is ‘mindfulness’, the focussing of the mind on the here and now. Mindfulness meditation involves sitting quietly and following the breath, letting thoughts come and go without hanging onto them. The quietness that arises when the mind is released from its relentless chatter brings serenity and a heightened awareness of the present moment. In the eighties, Jon Kabat Zinn, a Zen teacher and professor at the University of Massachusetts, developed a course called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Combining meditation and yoga, this eight-week course cultivates an awareness of the unity of mind and body and is widely used to combat stress-related illness and to improve emotional wellbeing. Spain has wholeheartedly embraced the trend and there’s no shortage of places to practise mindfulness meditation—atención plena or consciencia plena—in Barcelona or to take the MBSR course.
Barcelona’s many Buddhist centres are also good places to start out in meditation. Many hold introductory sessions (generally free of charge) and non-Buddhists are welcome to attend the regular meditation sessions. Sometimes there is a small monthly fee which entitles you to attend as many or few sessions as you want. Many yoga schools and wellness centres around the city also have regular meditation groups.
Espai Obert. Ribes 24.
A space dedicated to personal development and meditation, Espai Obert offers introductory sessions, daily meditation sessions and regular ‘Meditation Sundays’, which include meditation,
a vegetarian lunch and yoga.
Dhamma Neru Vipassana Meditation Centre.
Located in the Montseny, just 35 kilometres from Barcelona, the Dhamma Neru centre offers 10-day silent meditation retreats. The centre is owned by the Spanish Vipassana Association and is one of many such centres around the world. Vipassana is an ancient Buddhist form of meditation which focusses on transformation through the connection between mind and body. Some experience meditating is advisable but not essential and you can sign up to a retreat on their website.
Payment is by way of donation to the centre.
Centre Namaste. Calàbria 202.
This alternative therapy centre holds regular Vipassana meditation groups and introductory courses.
Centre Zen Barcelona. Bacardí 10 baixos.
Monks, lay Buddhists and regular folk attend the daily zazen (literally ‘sitting meditation’) sessions with no goal other than to abandon the ego and be fully present. Housed in a temple that was inaugurated in November 2013, the Centre Zen Barcelona is part of the Soto Zen tradition and its Japanese heritage is apparent in the ceremony, rituals and aesthetics. Once a month they hold an introductory session for beginners.
Zen Dojo Barcelona Kannon. Rda. Universitat 14. www.dojozenbarcelona.org
This Zen dojo also offers regular zazen.
Asociación Mindfulness y Salud.
Through the AMYS website you can find groups that practise mindfulness meditation. They also hold occasional MSBR courses in Barcelona.
This website lists professionals who are certified to give the eight-week MSBR course.