As sitting for meditation reaches new levels of mainstream acceptance, group meditation has blossomed into a lovely social gathering. While it may seem odd to lump the words meditation and social into one event, there is something beneficial that occurs when combining the two.
I’ve been meditating on my own for…well, according to Insight Timer records I’ve got 10 consecutive days. (This comes after 10 days in LA with family and friends when time alone wasn’t a priority. ) The point is I’ve got a sitting practice that I do at home, on my own, most days. It’s part of my routine. But it wasn’t always like this.
For a long time, I tried to meditate alone. I got the cushion, the timer, and carved out 10-15 minutes of my day. Yet never did it actually click into my routine. I felt like I was always waiting…waiting for the timer to go off, waiting for the itches to pass, waiting to meditate. I hadn’t embodied the practice in the way I do now. And the reason I believe I am more committed today is because of the group sits I did in the beginning.
My first foray into group meditation was a couple summers ago. After my favorite early AM yoga class, the instructor led an optional Buddhist driven meditation for 20 minutes. I always stayed. Along with the formal instruction I was receiving — including an array of techniques that I still turn to now — the group energy felt supportive. After the session, there would be time for discussion. It was comforting to know others faced the same challenges of monkey mind as me. This truly set the foundation for my home practice.
Eventually life happened. My schedule shifted, and I no longer attended those early AM sits. I continued on my own – on and off. But kind of lost the momentum. Sure, there would be group sits after Savasana in yoga…it didn’t have the same focus for me.
Last winter I found another class that brought me back to the practice. Again, it was rooted in Buddhism, and consisted of about 30 minutes of meditation along with an hour of instruction and lecture. The difference with this — it wasn’t attached to yoga. It was only meditation. I paid a drop-in fee, and attended quite regularly for a couple months. This was a much larger group of all kinds of people. I always went to the midday sessions, and it was fun to see who chose to meditate at noon on Tuesday with me. The teachings in this class went deep. I learned a lot. But mostly, I learned how to sit on my own again.
Here’s How Group Meditation Can Help Your Practice:
- The community inspires and uplifts.
Meeting like minded people, to talk about the challenges of the mind (and how to overcome them) is energizing. Simply knowing you are not alone is encouraging.
- The teachings are grounding.
Most meditations are rooted in a lineage, and the knowledge that comes from studying this lineage sets a solid foundation for your home practice to develop.
- Learning new techniques can keep it fresh while strengthening what you already know.
I’m a breath follower. This is my preferred technique. But some days I’ll do metta, or Loving Kindness. There’s a bundle of ways to practice meditation, and trust me you will never commit if you don’t find something you can sit well with.
The good news, there are a bunch of places that offer group meditation these days – well at least around here there are. If this isn’t the case for you then why not start your own group? You could pick a meditation book, and make it a combination book club / sit. I think you will find that sitting with a group will hold you more accountable to the practice. Then hopefully you’ll find space for it in your regular routine.
What do you think about group meditation?
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Very interesting, Elysha. You remind me of several pieces by Thich Nhat Hahn in his small, profound book “How To Relax” in which he talks about the enormous healing and positive energy generated by collective meditation–for the individual, the group and the world. You make me more interested in getting back to group meditation, which I haven’t done in years. Thank you! xx
ST, you are the second person to mention this little book to me in the past couple days. I am now going to look into it. And yes, if you have the opportunity for a group sit it really is a wonderful experience…kind of drives the whole practice home in some ways. Thank YOU xoxo!