Five Best Places to Meditate in the Bay Area
Practicing meditation is a great way to incorporate mental wellness into your life. Mindfulness cultivates one's ability to focus on the present without judgement. And research has shown that meditation not only relieves stress and anxiety, but it also improves brain function and creativity, reduce the signs of aging, as well as help you feel more connected, grounded, and appreciative of life. We love it as a great complement to regular therapy, or it can be a separate practice altogether.
Even limited practice has been shown to re-wire how your brain works for the better, including activating the left hippocampus (which assists in learning, cognition, memory, and emotional regulation), reducing the amygdala (the area regulating anxiety, fear and stress), and strengthening the temporo-parietal junction, or TPJ (associated with perspective taking, empathy and compassion). Whether you are a beginner wondering how to get started or or already a serious meditator, there are now many great options to support your practice. Here are five of our faves in the San Francisco/Bay Area:
San Francisco Zen Center
San Francisco Zen Center is one of the largest Buddhist sanghas (a Buddhist community) outside of Asia. Zen Center’s goal is to “express, make accessible, and embody the wisdom and the compassion of the Buddha.” There are three locations in the Bay Area: City Center, Green Gulch Farm, and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center.
The San Francisco Zen Center is a great option for those looking to learn more about meditation and its Buddhist roots. But don’t let that intimate you -- all skill levels are welcome. The Center offers a variety of meditation classes, sitting meditation sessions, practice groups, Dharma talks, as well as workshops and retreats. They even have outreach programs offering meditation to help prisoners and those in recovery and organize volunteer opportunities for members in the community. Talk about making meditation more accessible!
WITHIN is a local start-up bringing the many benefits of meditation to the fast-paced tech crowd in downtown San Francisco. They just opened a beautiful new studio at Sansome and Sacramento (405 Sansome Street, 3rd Floor) where they host 30 minute meditation classes to kickstart your day.
We love WITHIN because they bring together friendly, approachable instructors and a supportive community of men and women interested in learning and deepening their practice. Classes start at $18 for a drop-in, and your first class is just $10. That’s less than the smoothie you might want to grab after! There are also great unlimited monthly memberships. Follow their Instagram here or join their mailing list to stay updated on events.
Good news! Our friends at WITHIN have graciously offered our community a special offer: use the code "REFLECT" at checkout to get an additional 20% off any class or package.
East Bay Meditation Center
East Bay folks: there’s a great option in your neighborhood too! The East Bay Meditation Center offers classes, retreats, and workshops to spread the spiritual teachings of the Buddha. Deeply committed to diversity and inclusion, the Center’s mission is “to foster liberation, personal and interpersonal healing, social action, and inclusive community building.” We love their focus on making meditation accessible to all.
The Center offers meditation and yoga classes throughout the week, programs for teens, special classes for different communities, and long-term meditation retreats. They even have a POC meditation. The Center is located in Oakland and uses a “gift economics” system -- no one is required to pay for classes, but everyone contributes financially on a voluntary basis.
Founder Meditation by InnerSpace
InnerSpace is a community of founders focused on building great company cultures. They host a weekly meditation specifically for founders. Talk about the most SF thing ever. But really, we love it.
This practice helps founders stay grounded amidst the fast-paced, metrics-driven, and hyper results-focused startup environment. Through meditation, founders learn to stay present, gain clarity, and hopefully make better decisions for themselves, their teams, and their companies. Our founder Jonathan has been going since 2016 and swears by it.
Sessions are every Wednesday evening near Montgomery BART. A 30-minute meditation led by Will Kabat-Zinn is followed by a 15-minute wisdom talk and a silent prayer service (especially good for those founders seeking funding!). And the best part is this practice is completely free. Just RSVP via InnerSpace's website for more details.
For those living north of the Bay or looking for a reason to get out of the city on the weekend, we recommend Spirit Rock in the beautiful hills of West Marin. For many, this is the holy grail of meditation, and we’re so lucky to have it in our backyards.
Spirit Rock is a meditation center that teaches students dharma (the lessons of the Buddha), insight meditation, and loving-kindness meditation. Spirit Rock is perfect for all skill levels, offering classes ranging from two-hours to a full day, and retreats lasting anywhere from three days to two months. It also offers online classes that you can take from the comfort of your couch and in your pajamas.
Mindfulness should be a part of our daily lives. You can meditate from anywhere anytime. There are even a ton of online options to support you if you're too busy to attend a meditation center (one of our favorites is Calm, also headquartered in SF).
The hardest part of a meditation practice can be finding time. We encourage you to start small and build from there. We hope these recommendations make the practice of meditating a bit easier by connecting you to supportive communities and resources.
If you’d like one-on-one help developing a practice, many of our reflect therapists specialize in mindfulness/meditation. They can assist you to tailor a practice specific to your needs. To get started and find the right therapist for you, click on the link below to take our short matching survey.
We wish you the best in your practice.