Best Zen Centers In America

Daniel Brown
• Thursday, 29 October, 2020
• 8 min read

Sometimes, a week on the beach is not enough of an escape from the whirlwind of daily responsibilities and social media notifications. But Retreats, a new website launched in May 2019, allows users to search by location and filter by type to find their perfect match.

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The 27-acre campus includes a farm and gardens, an art studio, and a clothing-optional cliff side bathhouse and natural hot springs. The Shamble Mountain Center holds more than 100 two-day to weeklong programs per year, including introductions to meditation, deep dives into different practices, and multidisciplinary offerings that incorporate indigenous wisdom traditions, body awareness practices, contemplative arts, and more.

The modern and distinctly American practice draws on the traditions of Zen Buddhism as they evolved in ancient China and Japan. Curious newbies can join regular meditators in the monastery’s weekly Sunday Morning Program or participate in an Intro to Zen weekend retreat.

The center also offers longer programs, from one week to one month to one year, during which residents have the opportunity to learn more about integrating their practice into everyday life. Visitors stay in dorms (for short courses) or private rooms (longer retreats), and the main building, which was built as a Benedictine monastery, is a national and state historic landmark.

Intimate Rolling Meadows only accommodates 11 guests at a time to a handful of silent meditation and yoga retreats each year at its restored 1840s New England farmhouse. Guests are encouraged to stroll the walking paths and through the flower and organic vegetable gardens of the 100-acre property, relax in the sunroof or library, or unwind in the wood-fired sauna as a valuable part of the experience.

Less than an hour outside of San Francisco, Spirit Rock nonetheless feels worlds away from any metropolitan hustle and bustle on its 411 acres of quiet, hilly countryside in West Marin. The teachings at Spirit Rock also draw on other practices, including mindfulness through breathing and loving-kindness meditation, which focuses on compassion.

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There’s something for everyone here, whether you’re looking to dip your toe into a two-hour class, interested in getting involved at a daylong event, or ready to commit to a longer (three days to two months) silent retreat. Guests spend their days on these silent courses alternating sitting and walking meditations, enjoying vegetarian meals, and sleeping in simple single rooms.

But in some cities, the cure to easing anxiety might be just be around the corner … literally. In a 2011 study by the Massachusetts General Hospital, scientists had 16 people participate in an eight-week meditation class.

This isn’t to say that upsetting global issues should be ignored, but learning mindfulness and some of these ancient alternative medical practices can help foster a healthy mental balance. Using data from Dun & Bradstreet, FindTheHome teamed up with FindTheCompany to create a Zen idea” that combines the number of yoga studios and alternative medicine businesses per 10K people in each city.

Ended Score: 97.44 Yoga studios per 10K people: 1.6 Alternative medicine clinics per 10K people: 2.1 Population: 86,001 We understand the demographic makeup of urban areas based on the specialization of industry, or the stains and triumphs of their political current.

We won’t answer all these questions here, but it’s worth thinking about the geography of these cities in which meditation has become increasingly mainstream (though it’s interesting to note, how it has continued to be seen as “alternative healing” in so many of the places listed here). Perhaps situating oneself at the foot of mountains, or by the crash of waters, makes one more apt to rejoice in quiet and become interested in the fluctuations of the mind.

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(Source: www.pinterest.com)

You may notice a few places typically known for meditation are not on this list, such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Attempts to quantify the presence of meditation in a place may always fall short of seeing firsthand the effects of dedicated community practice, compassionate leadership, and institutional support for contemplative pursuits.

Yet, we hope this analysis still provides an interesting snapshot of mindfulness in America, including a few unsung heroes that have helped bring the practice to more people in all pockets of the country. But the truth is that thousands have flocked to Fairfield since 1973 when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi founded a university by his name right in the center of town.

The University of California Berkeley houses the Greater Good Science Center, which produces extensive research in meditation and mindfulness. Decatur, Georgia Home to a Shamble Buddhist Meditation center, as well as Millikan University, which has recently conducted research on contemplative writing, this southern town is rife with budding pathways into practice.

Boulder, Colorado On the precipice of the Rocky Mountains, this liberal city is home to eight meditation studios and has ample opportunity for contemplation and mindfulness practice. The University of Colorado at Boulder conducts extensive research on meditation, its most recent study cites the power of mindfulness in mollifying postpartum depression.

With events and instruction from internationally renowned teachers in the field, as well as ongoing research and learning projects, this center has put Charlottesville forever on the map of contemplative studies and practice. Asheville, North Carolina Home to five meditation centers, as well as several counseling centers that teach meditation, this unique and colorful town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, with a population of 88,000, has its pick for regular practice.

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Mount lake Terrace, Washington This northern suburb of Seattle, a progressive city with a booming population of yogis, houses a Buddhist center as well as a cutting-edge medical treatment center, called mindful therapy group, which forges a bond between Western psychiatric treatment and mindfulness practice. San Rafael, California The Bay Area is rife with possibility for meditation and mindfulness practice.

Palm Springs, California The desert city known for its spas is also home to 50,000 people eager to meditate. With Hiragana, Buddhist, and TM centers, Palm Springs residents and tourists alike have their pick.

Known for its healthy food, its gorgeous beach views, and its avid yogi population, its no surprise that this community in the greater Los Angeles area is home to five meditation centers, and countless lay-led organizations and groups. With Hiragana, Zen, and TM options, as well as informal meditation groups at Google, the Silicon Valley city is eager for the practice.

At Harvard, there's is ongoing research on meditation’s effect on the brain, most notably in a recent study on Grey Matter. With Zen, Hiragana, and Shamble strongholds, as well as a major university doing groundbreaking work in the fields of neuroscience and mindfulness, New Haven is a great place to be meditating today.

When San Francisco ad executive John Porter started planning his annual vacation in 2005, he knew he wanted something different. But this time, he felt, he wanted to make a deeper sort of journey, one that would leave him with something more than just pretty photographs and fond memories. The desire for what he called “a more meaningful travel experience” is what eventually led Porter to book a spot on a weeklong meditation retreat, at Holy Isle off Scotland’s western coast.

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Though these retreats may promote different styles of meditation (and different degrees of creature comfort), all aim to send their participants home with roughly the same thing: a foundation of spiritual practice that they can maintain long after they've returned to the hubbub of the outside world. The location: This 100-acre estate in the foothills of the Himalayas, formerly home to the Maharajah of Tehri-Garhwal, is set at 3,000 feet and has sweeping views over the Ganges River and the nearby temple villages of Rishikesh and Hardware.

The accommodations: 78 posh rooms, suites, and villas with huge windows for taking in the mountain views (and, unusually for retreat destinations, minibars and televisions). The location: The 600 pristine acres of Shamble spread across a Rocky Mountain valley in the northern part of Colorado.

The property includes extensive botanical gardens, a bird sanctuary, several spacious meditation halls, and, most dramatically, the Great Stu pa of Dharmakaya, a traditional spired Buddhist shrine. The program offerings at Shamble range from weekend-long “Learn to Meditate” retreats to multi-week intensive study for advanced practitioners; there are also specialized workshops for children, painters, and writers, and those who prefer to combine meditation with activities like canoeing and hiking.

Be mindful: Shamble has centers around the world, including retreats in Xalapa Valley, Vermont, France, and Mexico. The location: On the tranquil island of KOH Lao NOI is the superb Paradise Retreat: perhaps one of the best places on the Andaman Coast for inner exploration.

The retreat center offers simple, clean and comfortable accommodation, enabling you to live in close contact with nature. The location: A slick, modern 40-acre “campus” just outside Mumbai that includes extensive, manicured Zen gardens, a soaring meditation auditorium, seminar spaces set inside a complex of black space-age pyramids, and a few other very unorthodox amenities: tennis courts, a nightclub, and a mini-mall.

Be mindful: All guests at Oslo must wear dark red robes during meditation sessions and maroon sports or swimwear. One of the most popular seminars on Holy Isle is “The ABC of Meditation,” a beginning retreat led by visiting BBC actor-cum-Buddhist Alistair Appleton.

Be mindful: Because of the island's delicate ecosystem (which includes centuries-old species such as Risky ponies, Shane goats, and many indigenous plants), some areas shouldn't be explored on foot. The location: An aromatic eucalyptus-wooded valley north of San Francisco that opens up onto Muir Beach and the Pacific Ocean.

Many meditation sessions are held in the Assisi East-West Center, a serene vaulted space near the Cathedral of San Roughing (a former 12th-century courthouse that Simple Peace founders Ruth and Bruce Davis renovated in 2000). Bruce, a scholar in the teachings of St. Francis, leads weeklong, largely silent meditation retreats both in Assisi and in the Haiti Valley (two hours south), where the saint first discovered his calling.

The main “campus” includes dining and lodging facilities; there's also a separate Forest Refuge, set a few miles deeper into the countryside, for long-term retreats. The accommodations: At the main retreat center, 79 sparely furnished single and small double rooms are available to guests.

Rooms all have twin beds, chairs, pillows and blankets (lodgers bring their own sheets and towels), and thermostats for temperature control. Be mindful of: Since silent meditation can lead to heightened sensory awareness, the use of perfume, incense, scented products (and, of course, tobacco) is strongly discouraged.

The location: While its home base occupies a rural spread on the coast of central Maine, Rolling Meadows runs meditation retreats several times a year in Tulum, a stunning spot on Mexico's Yucatán peninsula where ancient Mayan ruins overlook the Caribbean Sea. The retreats take place at Casey Om, a chic beachside camp with a palapa-roofed meditation center, a KOI pond, and the nearby Puerto Morelos beach.

The accommodations: As many as 16 yogis can bed down at Casey Om, a space furnished with traditional and tropical accents like onyx Puebla lights, travertine floors, carved Balinese headboards and organic bamboo sheets.

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