Listening is a simple art: Keep your mouth closed, look at the person talking to you, move your head up and down a few times and ask a follow-up question that demonstrates you understood. That’s about it, and yet it’s increasingly hard to master. This is a problem since texting is only an adequate substitute for most, not all, human interactions; sometimes we still have to have actual face-to-face conversations. Haven’t you ever come to in the course of one of those, realized you have no idea what just happened, proceeded to queue up your default “polite laughter” — the conversational equivalent of bubbling C on a Scantron — only to … whoops. Completely inappropriate response to your bike getting stolen, Rachel. Sorry about that. In the New Year, let’s all resolve to cut the crap and just study for the test, shall we?
One of the most popular and logical places to start studying for being present is with listening intently to yourself, aka meditation. Studies suggest there's also lots more to gain: Meditation can have numerous other physical and psychological benefits, purportedly including improved immunity and memory, and a decrease in stress and blood pressure. But still plenty are skeptical and think it’s a bunch of New Age phony baloney. We don’t have anything against skeptics, they're in company that includes The New York Times (“Can We End the Meditation Madness”) and The Onion (“Annoying, Well-Adjusted Friend Even Fucking Meditating Now”) lately, but it’s a new year, people. After an overstimulating couple of months of holiday parties and small talk, you can’t honestly say that an hour of uninterrupted peace and quiet would do you harm, can you? Here are a few places where you can give it a shot. Even better, because many who practice meditation view it as a community service, you can often attend these gatherings or classes for nothing more than an optional donation.
1888 Sylvan Ave.
7:15 p.m. Thursdays
$10 suggested donation
This yoga studio in the Sylvan 30 development offers a donation-based, 45-minute guided meditation every week on Thursdays. The industrial look of the studio's exterior belies one of the most enchanting rooms in Dallas. The Moon Studio is warm and ethereal with a beautiful carved wooden door. Even the occasional sound of a truck passing by somehow becomes spiritual and relaxing surrounded by its walls.This class is perfect for a first-timer since the guide, Courtney Pinkerton (a life coach who studied at Harvard Divinity School), walks you through two 15-minute meditations separated by a break when she takes questions.
Crow Collection of Asian Art
2010 Flora St.
8:15-8:45 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays
2-3 p.m. Sundays
Especially if you live or work near downtown, the free meditation groups the Crow Collection hosts during the week are a great opportunity to get centered before heading into the office or otherwise starting your day. Those are just 30 minutes, but if you want to sit for a heftier length of time, you can attend the hour-long meditation on Sundays, also free, which is guided by clinical psychologist and certified meditation instructor Michael LaValle. Plus afterward you'll be in just the right place, literally and figuratively, to take in the museum's spectacular collection of art from China, India, Japan and Southeast Asia.
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Dallas Yoga Center
4525 Lemmon Ave.
12:15-1:15 p.m. Sundays
$19 drop-in rate; memberships start at $89 a month
The structured, hour-long mindfulness meditation class will teach you the techniques you need to develop a practice at home. It's not free unlike the others on this list; at $19 for an individual class, your best bet is to sample other classes from Dallas Yoga Center's roster and see if one of their all-inclusive memberships appeals. There are more than 70 classes offered a week, all told — including other meditation options, like workshops and a "sound healing" class. If you're looking to reinvigorate your exercise routine also, and not just your mind, this could be a good bet.
2912 Oak Lawn Ave.
Dynamic Meditation 10-11 a.m. Sundays
Chakra Meditation 7 p.m. Sundays
$5 suggested donation (completely optional)
You've probably eaten at this funky house in the Oak Lawn neighborhood; its Indian-influenced vegetarian cuisine is among the best options for Dallas' non-carnivores, and the atmosphere is cozy and completely unique. You've probably heard, too, that there are free classes offered on the second floor. But have you been? The next time you're craving their chai or Cosmic stir fry, make it a two-fer — Sundays offer two opportunities to meditate. Maybe you'll be emboldened to come back on the first Monday of the month for ecstatic dance, a form of meditation through wild, uninhibited dancing.
The Yoga Movement
4931 Airline Road
The Yoga Movement has also been offering weekly guided meditations on Wednesdays, led by Kirsten Burch. It looks like Burch may be moving to Sync Yoga in 2016, and based on what we've heard, it's worth following her there. But Yoga Movement will surely be coming through with more meditation offerings soon, so check their website for updates on what will replace her Wednesday class.