Main image courtesy of Forbes.
While Pittsburgh is an urban jungle where it seems to not be particularly easy to find a place to meditate, there’s a surprising amount of places to go to relax, be at one with nature, and find your inner peace.
What exactly is meditation and why you should start doing it
A quick guide to what meditation can look like and the benefits that come with it
At its most basic level, meditation is a practice of focusing your energy at the moment on hand. It consists of only focusing on breathing in and out and clearing the mind of any other thoughts for that period of time.
There are various methods of meditation, including focused meditation which is the method mentioned previously, mindfulness meditation which differs in that it allows the meditator to recognize thoughts as they pass, and movement meditation which consists of any kind of instinctual movement that brings you peace. While these are three methods of meditation that are popular, there are a plethora of types that can be practiced in most settings and by beginners. If you’re a beginner, it might be wise to start with an easier method like the ones mentioned above, as they allow for a good introduction to the practice.
When you decide to meditate, find a spot that feels calm, set a time limit (and possibly a five to ten minute one if you’re a beginner), and focus your mind on your surroundings, the feeling of the environment around you, and your breathing. When your time limit is up, gently come out from your meditation and again notice your surroundings and how you feel. With practice, meditation becomes significantly easier to consistently utilize and experiment with over time. For a more in-depth guide to your first meditation, check out this guide from Mindful.
Aside from the relaxation meditation can bring, there are a slew of health benefits that come from long-term practice. Studies have shown that meditation can lead to boosts to the nervous system, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood circulation, lowering respiratory rate and cortisol levels, as well as many other benefits.
Whether you’re looking to meditate with a group of other fellow meditators in a designated area or you’re seeking spots to find your zen solo, there’s plenty of places throughout and around Pittsburgh regardless of meditation style. Here’s our list of some of the best places to go to relax for beginners and pros, both indoors and outdoors, in Pittsburgh.
Shambhala Meditation Center of Pittsburgh
Stop in for free meditation guidance based rooted in Shambhala and Vajrayana Buddhist tradition
733 N Highland Ave | Highland Park | Pittsburgh.Shambhala.org
Shambhala Meditation was founded with the intention to teach kindness and enlightenment to each of their students, and they offer free classes in many types of meditation for Pittsburgh community members. Their mission is to welcome and teach meditation to students from all walks of life, and they are currently offering meditation classes that focus on helping those recovering from addiction in their Heart of Recovery class, as well as their Aging as Spiritual Practice class which focuses students’ meditation on acknowledging aging as a part of life and the beauty that comes with aging. You can access information and sign-ups for these classes on their website.
Shambhala offers memberships with a request of monthly donations of whatever amount, and while there are no current in-person classes due to Covid-19 social distancing restrictions, they are continuing to offer their services over Zoom.
“In my search for a place to grow within Buddhism, I found this little place up in the Highland Park area. It was the first place I went to and I am happy to now call it my spiritual home. We are still a growing organization and if you are looking for a place to learn more about meditation or Buddhism, I welcome you to join us here.” -Google Reviews
Himalayan Institute of Pittsburgh
Join for a concentrated meditation and yoga experience with highly trained specialists
300 Beverly Rd | Mt. Lebanon | Pittsburgh.Shambhala.org
The Himalayan Institute offers a wide variety of meditation, yoga, and other health-based classes to its members. Some of the classes include Movement Breath Meditation, Hatha yoga, and Savasana Yoga. They also offer other relaxing services like acupuncture, massage therapy, and Reiki therapy.
While they offer both monthly and yearly memberships, their services are also welcome to newcomers for a drop-in fee.
“The Himalayan Institute of Pittsburgh offers an inclusive and welcoming environment for anyone looking for balance, wellness, and calm. With a variety of workshops, classes, and educational opportunities, the HIP serves as a supportive presence to those who are regulars or those who are brand-new to the path to wellness. The HIP is where I began my yoga journey and I owe a lot to the community for helping me find a safe, peaceful space to channel mindfulness that I can take with me outside of the studio. Namaste!” -Google Reviews
Three Rivers Tibetan Cultural Center
Immerse yourself into Tibetan culture and spiritual practices through Three Rivers’ meditation offerings
7313 Florence Ave | Swissvale | ThreeRiversTibetancc.org
Three Rivers specializes and commemorates the practices of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism at their center by offering meditation teachings in the practice of Drikung Kagyu tradition. They offer regular meditation classes throughout the week online, with special classes devoted to Chenrezig Practice, Nyungne Practice, and a class titled Introduction to Practice for beginners.
“Saturday is a fantastic day for beginners of meditation. They will take time to answer any question...It made me feel relaxed to see the sign ‘All are welcome here,’ before I opened the door.” -Google Reviews
Leave the city behind on these nature-packed islands only accessible by boat
733 N Highland Ave | Highland Park | Pittsburgh.Shambhala.org
For a secluded and solo meditation getaway, the Allegheny Islands are a perfect place to find a relaxing spot in nature to start your meditation journey. The islands are 50 acres and are only accessible by boat, making them less crowded and bursting with wildlife. Much of the island is uncharted and has only a few footpaths, allowing for an immersive experience into its nature. The state forest offers an array of activities, like biking, fishing, and swimming, but if you’re looking to meditate surrounded by nature, hiking is the way to go.
To get to the island or camp overnight, you must make a reservation through the park’s website. Note that there are limited amounts of people allowed on the islands at one time.
“Beautiful scenery and clean! Great place to explore, as long as you have a kayak or boat to get to them.” -Google Reviews
Explore Schenley for a more laid back meditation experience that won’t break the bank
Pittsburgh, PA 15213 | Oakland | PittsburghParks.org
A go-to Pittsburgh park for college students and townies alike, this 456-acre park is home to dozens of amazing, quiet spots to get your meditation on. From Flagstaff Hill to Panther Hollow to Prospect Hill, there are plenty of beautiful views and hideouts to house your meditation session and be surrounded by nature at the same time.
“A huge park in the middle of the city, it has something for everybody. Trails, walking paths, and athletic field, tennis courts, ice-rink, a lake, a golf course... it's a wonderful part of Pittsburgh!” -Trip Advisor Review
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Get a pleasant meditation in while surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the botanical gardens
1 Schenley Drive | Oakland | Phipps.Conservatory.org
One of the most beautiful and popular attractions in Pittsburgh, Phipps is home to a diverse assembly of flowers, plants, and art. On your visit, it’s more than easy to sneak in a quick meditation either while walking around and observing the beautiful exhibits or by finding a secluded bench. Additionally, Phipps’ lawn is a fantastic place to picnic and lay out in the sun while being surrounded by greenery.
“A beautiful treasure in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park. A place for people, couples, kids and everyone. I've taken both of my children there many times...it is a tranquil oasis of flowers, plants and the exotic flora not normally seen. Go!” -Yelp Review
The Cathedral of Learning
For a pin-drop quiet meditation place, check out Cathy’s nationality rooms or find a patch of grass on the lawn
4200 Fifth Ave | Oakland | Tour.Pitt.edu
In the heart of Pitt’s Oakland campus, the Cathedral of Learning stands as an enormous landmark in Pittsburgh with a rich history. The skyscraper contains 31 nationality rooms and 42 stories, designating much of its space for quiet studying. While meditating in Cathy, you might hear the light hums of students practicing their instruments echoing throughout the halls, but it overall is a relaxing and inviting environment.
“Turns out, Hogwarts is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania! The Cathedral of Learning is a beautiful space perfect for some quiet studying. Come here to work on your problem sets under soaring stone archways.” -Yelp Reviews
Pittsburgh is full of amazing places to make your next go-to meditation spot, you just have to take some time to experiment and find out what sorts of spots work for you. Whether you’re a beginner at meditation or an experienced expert, it’s worth it to check out some of these spots and mix up your meditation routine.