Welcome to the official Guru Meditation blog! This blog is going to house a lot of things: announcements for new meditations, a story about the process of bringing this app (and perhaps one day, startup) to life, contemplations on our emotional and spiritual journeys as we do this, a smorgasbord of random musings about practice and entrepreneurship, and just about anything else. And this post is intended to get you up to speed - we'll share who we are, what Guru Meditation is, why we're doing this, and catch you up on what's happened so far.
So, hey there. My name is Ravi Mishra. The idea for Guru stemmed from wanting to share two formative aspects of the way meditation was taught to me: traditional Buddhist philosophy and a social approach, where practice was frequently discussed within a community of practitioners.
Why is this so important, and how can this approach be so powerful? I felt this most intimately last fall. I found myself at a week-long silent meditation retreat that started on November 4th, 2016. You might have already done the math - overlooked by me when I booked the retreat, it overlapped with Election Day here in the US. Beforehand, the teachers at the retreat decided to post the results for those who wanted to know, thinking it wouldn't turn out to be disruptive - but as we awoke to the previously unthinkable outcome on the morning of Wednesday, November 9th, it was a bombshell that needed to be addressed.
The teachers - Tara Brach, Larry Yang, Jonathan Foust, and Pat Coffey, to whom I'll be forever grateful - decided to break from our schedule of silent meditation and facilitate small group conversations and practices to help us be present with and process the emotions that were arising. The morning-long session was transformational for many of us: an experience of how mindfulness, Buddhist philosophy, and human connection and community can be a foundation for support, learning, and growth. After that morning, I felt a deeper connection to my own truth, instead of being weighed down by unprocessed emotional reactivity - and a large part of that truth is dedicating myself to making these sorts of experiences more accessible via this app.
The spark had been fanned into a flame, and there was no going back. So what is Guru? It's a contemplative and social meditation app rooted in Buddhist philosophy. Each audio-guided meditation includes both a mindfulness meditation and a guided contemplation, where we reflect on Buddhist teachings and how it relates to our real lives. The contemplation culminates in a question or a prompt that you're invited to answer and share with the community.
Our practice has 3 pillars, which we'll be blogging about a lot as we go forward:
- Rooting in the Buddhist philosophy of meditation. Meditation is built on a foundation of philosophical teachings that contextualizes the practice. For example, as we encounter difficult moments during meditation, we can lean on the truth of impermanence - that this, too, will pass. Buddhist philosophy helps us understand what's going on when we practice, and over time, we are able to develop and rely upon our inner wisdom.
- Fearless and gentle engagement with our whole lives. Mindfulness obviously plays a huge role in our enjoyment of life and ability to be present to it, be it art, food, sex, or anything else. But beyond that, meditation and spiritual practice as a whole are not distinct from work, economics, and politics. One of the primary themes in Buddhism is the exploration of suffering and its causes, which is primarily described as our habit of grasping or clinging onto the way we want things to be. Our approach with Guru will be to see how this grasping manifests subconsciously and affects our relationships, communities, and society as a whole.
- Community and conversation. Each meditation offers the opportunity to share your wisdom with others and engage with what other meditators had to say. This conversation and the community that forms around it is a key component to our practice. Lest you think this is a modern day twist on meditation, community (Sangha in Sanskrit) is actually one of the 3 tenants of being a Buddhist. Meditation is meant to be practiced together.
As we see more clearly what's happening in our minds and in our lives, we're able to access the inner Guru, that voice of wisdom inside of all of us. As we live more wisely, no part of our lives is left out of the benefit of our practice.
This project so far has mostly been me, though I'm joined by advisers and friends who provide feedback for drafts on meditations and offshore developers and designers who bring the app to life. We're self-funding the project for now (so we're on a shoestring), recording the meditations in my apartment in Brooklyn, and generally looking for all the help we can get. The vision is to bring together amazing teachers, engineers, etc. to take the product to the next level, and have that be financially sustainable through the app - but that's a ways off at the moment, so we're making do with what we have.
I also have all sorts of wacky ideas about startup companies and how we could be doing things differently that I'll try to bring to life. For example, I love worker-owned cooperatives and horizontal (rather than hierarchical) organizational structure, and hope to figure out how to incorporate best practices from these and other schools of thought as we grow.
Thanks for getting to know us a bit through this blog post. Getting this far has already been such a journey, full of self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and, fortunately, moments of fiery courage and heartfelt inspiration. Especially given the state of world, I truly believe practicing with the approach we've outlined here can transform the way we live in and engage with our world.
Before closing, I want to thank everyone who has helped me get here. First and foremost, that would be all those I've studied under: above all, Ethan Nichturn and Kate Johnson, who ran the meditation teacher training at The Interdependence Project and are shining beacons of Dharma in my life; Prof. William LaFleur, who introduced me to Zen Buddhism in college; Nicolas Hindeberg; Sonam Jorphel Rinpoche, who so kindly put me up at his monastery for almost a month and provided amazing instruction; and Tara, Larry, Jonathan, and Pat, who led a retreat I'll never forget.
The sanghas that currently support my practice also can't be left out: Zen Mountain Monastery and it's NYC branch, Fire Lotus Temple, the Brooklyn Zen Center, and the NYC Shambhala Center. Again, I owe so much to all the people who have specifically helped with the project by listening to meditations, editing things like this blog post, and much more. Finally, I am so, so grateful to my parents, sister, and family as a whole, as well as the many amazing friends and partners over the years.
And we'll end in the traditional Buddhist way: by dedicating the merit. May this project and the ripples from this project be of benefit to and ease the suffering of all sentient beings, particularly those with least control over the conditions and circumstances of their lives.
PS - given this is a one man show and there are always more things to do than I have time, everything from blog posts to meditations comes out a little half-baked. I like to think of this as a metaphor for our lives - we're never quite perfect, and that's ok. So I apologize for our imperfections, and would appreciate you gently pointing out everything from typos to idiocy when you come across it.
PPS - if you want to check out our introductory meditation, where we go over what we're about and offer a short contemplation, check it out below: