Developing your practice

Learning the basics

There is a free online course that you may find helpful to learn about the practice.  There is also a 6-week course run by Plum Village UK where the amount you pay is according to your means.  There is no obligation to follow either course but the courses go into a level of detail aimed at beginners that our group can’t cover in its weekly practice meetings.

Gil Fronsdal’s course

Gil is a long-established US teacher.  You can access Gil’s programme of instruction on the section of the page headed “Introduction to Meditation Online Course Talks”.  As you will see, there are six approx. 90 minute talks that you can download or stream.  (There are transcripts you can download but we suggest listening to the talks rather than reading the transcripts).  Gil delivered this course over a six-week period with a talk each week and homework for participants to do.   We suggest that this is a reasonable timescale to cover the material but feel free to take much longer if you find it helpful.   It’s best to listen to each talk straight through rather than breaking it into chunks and you may well want to listen to each talk more than once.   Please do the homework for a week at least after listening to each talk – as you will get most out of the course by practising!

Plum Village UK’s course “Be Calm Be Happy”

This is also a very good six week course especially if you want to learn with others and have the opportunity to interact with the course leader and with other people on the course.

What the courses will and won’t do!

Mindfulness and meditation are practical skills.  Learning them needs some instruction, plenty of practice and the availability of people who you can help you with questions and offer support. The courses will give you the first two of these. The programme of instruction will explain the fundamentals of the practice in a structured way with each talk and homework session building on the previous week.   Following the programme will also give you the opportunity to practice and to find out what you find easy and what you find difficult.

Our group can help you with encouragement and support in your developing practice and answering your questions.

The course won’t make you an expert meditator in six weeks any more than a six-week painting course would make you a David Hockney!  Meditation and mindfulness are a lifetime’s practice and for each person they open up on a different timescale.    You will find the “aha” moments will come as insight arises.  Please don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel you’ve made much progress after six weeks.  Be kind to yourself.


Leading an element of the Sangha evening

Sangha attendees have the opportunity of volunteering to lead an element of the Sangha evening such as offering a guided meditation or bringing a reading. We have notes on how to do these:

Offering a guided meditation – click to open and download

Bringing a reading – notes to follow

Introduction to Buddhism

Even if your interest in mindfulness and meditation is as a secular practitioner, it is helpful to have some understanding of the Buddhist background to these practices. We have a couple of suggested routes depending on whether you would sooner read books or watch videos.


What the Buddha Taught – Walpola Rahula. A long-standing classic introduction to the subject written for non-Buddhists.

Buddhism for Dummies – Jonathan Landlaw etc. One of the “for Dummies” series of books that provides clear explanation of the subject from first principles.


The Path to Inner Freedom – A Short Introduction to Buddhism – This is an excellent course by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, a renowned modern teacher. The course introduction states “Buddhism is often treated as a world religion, but at its heart the Buddha’s teaching is a systematic path of wisdom and mental cultivation, based on open inquiry and personal experience, that leads to peace, insight, and inner transformation. This six-week course will offer an introduction to the core teachings of Buddhism. Each class will be divided into two sections: the first, the theoretical part, will explore the major principles of the Buddha’s teaching; the second part will introduce the practical side of Buddhism, with emphasis on mindfulness and meditation. This course will be useful not only for complete beginners, but also for those with some prior knowledge of Buddhism who want to deepen their understanding and practice.”

1 Introduction – who was the Buddha
2 The four noble truths (general treatment)
3 Core doctrines of Buddhism
4 The noble eightfold path – part 1
5 The noble eightfold path – part 2
6 Buddhism and the world today

You may also like to refer to the Self-Study Resources on the site.