Life can be so stressful—it helps to have a place where you can learn techniques to help manage the stress and become more compassionate towards yourself and others. Especially for atheists, agnostics, and the nonreligious, it’s rewarding to do that in a non-religious, non-proselytizing, science-friendly atmosphere with great, supportive people.
We practice a variety of meditations, including mindfulness of breath, ambient sound, loving-kindness meditation, mantra and others. All meditations are presented in a secular form free from religious language and ritual. We often discuss scientific research on meditation that shows how it can reduce stress and elevate mood. Plus we talk about our lives and provide mutual support in a warm and confidential setting. This is the emotional and visceral side of Humanism. It’s a great place for both those who want to learn how to meditate and for experienced meditators who want to try out new techniques and meet like-minded people and new friends.
We generally start off meetings with an introduction, followed by a breath meditation or other type of meditation, and concluding with a discussion and sharing of joys and concerns.
We meet every Tuesday night in the training room in the lower level of the library in the Harvard Science Center. There is no charge to attend and no Harvard affiliation is required. Just tell the security guard that you are going to the meditation.We announce which type of meditation we’ll be doing on any particular evening on our Secular Meditation meetup page, the Humanist Hub meetup, or on our Facebook page.
We have been meeting since 2009. Our meditations have been collected into a book, Secular Meditation: 32 Practices for Cultivating Inner Peace, Compassion, and Joy by Rick Heller. Rick leads many of our meditations, but we are interested in cultivating new meditation leaders—maybe you!
Here is Rick leading a secular Loving-kindness Meditation:
Here are some of the things members have to say the group:
“…I started reading about Buddhism over the past couple of years, and started my own informal practice— but I couldn’t really talk to people at work about it. Then I tried a bunch of Buddhist groups but they often involved altars, or things that felt like praying, or Gods, or magical powers…I really like that the humanist mindfulness group is more science-based. I’m not even sure if I’m a Humanist. I know I don’t believe in the supernatural, but I’m open to experience different things…still, I figure if I’m going too far towards either rationality or supernaturalism, I’ll go with rationality, and this group gives me the opportunity to do that and still meditate with others. ”
“…Meditation opens up new experiences for me— it helps me feel more calm, more aware. I’m an atheist who appreciates that there is a lot of wisdom in the non-Karma, non-reincarnation aspects of Buddhism.”
“…Meditation helps me be a better teacher, a better family member, a better member of the community…”
“…Metta (“lovingkindness”: a meditation technique practiced in the group) meditation makes me more compassionate— and I think that’s what we all need in the 21st century— more compassion.”
“…I like myself better when I meditate— I have greater empathy. It really makes it easier to understand other people and what they’re feeling.”
“…Meditation makes me a better, more effective leader. In her book The Charisma Myth, leadership expert Olivia Fox Cabane argues that one of the keys to being charismatic is truly feeling empathy—and the key to empathy is having compassion, which we work on building.”