People often ask “what’s the best way to start a meditation class?” These days people feel called to host a circle, class, or group. I usually respond with a simple question:
What’s your intention for leading a meditation a class?
That question may seem rhetorical, but take some time with this. Connect to a deeper meaning in creating a meditation class because it can be challenging. A higher purpose will anchor and ground you and give you the confidence to move forward when things aren’t certain. It takes courage to start a meditation group.
After identifying your intention, think about who you want to serve. Who will be in your group? You will want the circle to be open to everyone and for them to feel accepted. So it will help if you can let people know how they’re going to benefit from this experience and if it is for them. For example, you could identify your meditation circle for healing or a meditation circle for busy professionals.
Part of your marketing should also include benefits—what people are going to receive through the circle experience. How are they going to be changed? Communicate some of your purpose and who it is for even in your title. Be sure to include whether it is a beginner level or for all levels.
Taking into consideration the higher purpose for your meditation circle and who it is for will help you decide when to offer it: once a week? twice a week? once a month? A busy professional and a parent with young kids might be able to meet at different times of the day. That will also help you decide for how long to meet (30 minutes? 1 hour?) and how long your circle will last (6 weeks? 12 weeks?). The most important thing is that you’re consistent and that you show up every week.
Find a good space where it’s quiet, contained, and peaceful so that people feel good in the space. You should also feel good in that space that you’ll be hosting. Communicate your location and details of how they can get in touch with you—or even sign up—especially if you’re going to charge for your circle. Most meditation classes are somewhere between $15 and $24. Others communicate that the circle is free plus a donation. But your space will be part of that decision, according to whether you are renting the space.
Money is often stressful for people, so if you are taking up money, it is best to do so at the door and not in your space where your circle will meet. Plan ahead who is going to handle the payment or registration. Even better if people can register by paying online through PayPal or Venmo. It is better for you not to handle all of these details yourself right before you’re going to host. You want your attention to focus on setting the tone for the sacred space where you are meeting. See if you can make that part seamless so you can focus.
Set the tone for your circle each week. Make sure not only that you show up each time but that you come early to set up your space and welcome people. That communicates that the circle is important to you and that the people there are important as well. You might burn a candle or incense to set the mood for your space, but if you’re burning any scented products, I recommend seeking permission from your group first to ensure there are no allergies.
Plan the rhythm and structure you’d like to create in your circle. Think of something that’s fun and joyful for you, as somebody who’s leading and facilitating. If it’s something that you love, that you yourself are passionate about, that’s really going to shine through and touch the people you’re connecting with.
Meditation class format
Think of the format of hosting a circle as having a beginning, middle, and end. As you structure your session and teach meditation techniques and tools, plan your meetings consistently each time. Teach the same techniques and tools every week. That’s the way people learn—through repetition and practice. Structure and familiarity bring comfort to your circle experience.
Start of the class
Introduce yourself briefly. You may give a brief introduction, also known as a dharma talk. You can focus on a theme for that day’s meditation. If you’re building upon a theme each week, this is the time to introduce it to focus everyone’s thinking. You might also read poetry or from a book, such as ancient texts.
Your middle section will be a guided meditation. Focus on those tools and practices that you want to emphasize. Let your participants know how long the meditations are going to last, how much of it will be guided, and how much of it will be silence. That way people can relax if they know what to expect.
Have some consistency in your meditation guidance. If you’re teaching awareness meditation, always have that element of awareness throughout your meditation practice. Set them up with their posture, eye gaze, connecting them to their breath, and their body. Practice the same cues each week. You can always build upon these basic techniques, but practicing the same techniques allows your participants to develop their core practice.
How to end the meditation class
Always have a consistent close to the practice. A singing bowl, for example, is a wonderful way to awaken the senses and to invite a close. You might say the same words each time as well: “Your guided meditation is complete. Let’s take the energy from this guided practice and invite it into our hearts, into the center of our being, and send it as blessings to everyone.”
Many times, I find that it is helpful to also have a space for discussion. You can invite anyone to share what their experience was like or if they have any questions. It opens up the space for connection and community. Some like to set time for that space. Others like for it be open, where people can get up, talk to each other, or can stay in that circle format. But it’s a way for people to integrate when they’re able to share about their sacred experiences in a safe space. It allows them to integrate their meditation experience and embody it.
My advice to you is to come with an open heart with no expectations or attachments to how your circle needs to be. Begin with your pure intention and what you’d like to create with your community. If only one person comes, that’s okay. It really doesn’t matter what those numbers are. What matters is that you show up, that you stay dedicated, that you commit to the process and practice.
Sometimes it takes time to build a class or circle. What’s required is patience, perseverance, humility, and faith. Remember these qualities, how important they are, and they’ll give you the strength and resilience to have the confidence to keep inviting people. Be open to having a new experience every time, no matter who shows up. We all start somewhere. Stay true to your intention and you’ll soon discover the joy of hosting meditation groups.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead