Meditation might be growing in common practice, but it's been a daily practice for millions of people throughout history. Whether you're a curious beginner or a long-time zen master, San Francisco has an abundance of meditation resources and sacred spaces. Our list has a bit of both: we've found organizations that offer meditation instruction and regular dharma talks as well as a handful of special spots around the city that are perfect for your private mantra moments. Namaste.
San Francisco Zen Center, 300 Page Street
The San Francisco Zen Center has been connecting students and San Franciscans to their inner voices since 1962. The Center offers tons of classes and dharma talks, many of which are live-streamed, as well as more in-depth Buddhist study and various retreats. The Zen Center also owns Green Gulch Farm, a working farm, Buddhist temple and meditation center in the Marin Headlands. Green Gulch is open to the public on Sundays for zazen instruction, a lecture and a communal lunch.
Land's End Labyrinth, Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Enjoy a stunning hike along the Pacific Coast on your trek to the Land's End Labyrinth, regarded by many as a (not so) hidden San Francisco treasure. Created in 2004 by artist Eduardo Aguilera, the mesmerizing rock labyrinth sits on a large ledge that juts out over the ocean, offering spectacular views of the Pacific, Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge. A moderate level of fitness is required to access the many steps down (and back up) to the labyrinth, but the hike is worth the quiet near-solitude to be found in this extraordinary city spot.
Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street
Perched atop Nob Hill, Grace Cathedral is so much more than a stunning, stained glass palace. The decidedly progressive church offers a number of non-denominational events involving meditative walks to live music and yoga around the cathedral's famous labyrinth. Grace Cathedral is actually home to two labyrinths—one inside and one outside. Both provide a simple and direct way to meditate, and while open to the general public, the cathedral maintains a sweet, pristine silence perfect for private meditation.
San Francisco Shambhala Meditation Center, 1231 Stevenson Street
Home to a seemingly endless series of meditation classes, dharma talks and free workshops, the Shambhala Center is a great place for beginning to dip a toe into the waters of meditative practice. You've probably passed this welcoming organization numerous times without even noticing the Center's friendly exterior. Located just off Market (across the street from Zuni, basically), the Shambhala Center is ideal for taking the occasional at-home attempt at meditation to the next level, with warmth and without judgement.
Baker Beach, 1620-1699 Battery Chamberlain Road
Why turn on an app to hear the sound of waves crashing on a beach when you can meditate to the real thing? Of the handful of beaches in San Francisco proper, our pick for a nice, long meditation and communion with nature is Baker. Typically a touch warmer, quieter and more intimate than Ocean Beach, and far less crowded than the masses at Crissy Field's beaches, Baker Beach provides a sandy respite from the busy city just over the hill.
Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society, 2701 Folsom Street
Formerly Dharma Punx, Against the Stream is street smart and tattoo-sleeved meditation. Vinny Ferraro's guided meditation and dharma talks on Friday nights are the place to be. Open to everyone and by donation only, it's best to arrive early and score a good seat. Located just three blocks from the Mission and 24th Street BART station, Against the Stream has a cool collection of dharma lectures and guided studies, including a series of of meetings called Refuge Recovery, geared to applying Buddhist teachings and practices to help those recovering from alcohol and drug addiction.
Japanese Tea Garden, 75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park
We're huge proponents of the tranquil Japanese garden nestled in the heart of San Francisco's biggest garden. The Japanese Tea Garden is a classic San Francisco destination, and one that never gets old. While frequented by (usually quiet) tourists, the garden has an almost magical, serene quality. Numerous little nooks and crannies house single benches where one can sit and meditate or simply take in the meticulously designed botanical surroundings. And of course, any moments of zen should be finished off with a hot cup of tea humbly served in the garden's small, open-air tea house.