Benefits of joining a meditation group
There is a common misconception that meditation is an inner discipline that is best practiced in isolation. In fact it is the opposite that is true. Meditating in a group is as important, if not more, for deepening of our practice and moving towards awakening.
Mother Theresa talks about the great suffering of modern life, as the suffering of loneliness and disconnection. When a contemporary Hindu yogi, Swami Satchidananda, asks his students what the difference is between illness and wellness, he simply answers by circling the I of illness and the WE of wellness. This sense of disconnect is especially strong in mainstream Western society. We live in densely populated urban and suburban environments and we don’t know the people who live next door.
Nevertheless, as the meditation teacher Larry Yang reminds us in his book Awakening together, we are all interconnected and interrelated just by the fact that we are alive together in this world. We need each other and we learn from each other. Intuitively, we know that we need the support of others.
Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr saw this very clearly: “In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All men [and women] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be who I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
When we are engaged in conscious relationship, we can explore truths and practices in ways that bring out more of who we are and connect us with each other. In the safe space of community, we can practice what the poet Mark Nepo calls “the exquisite risk of being real”.
Coming together to meditate and share our experience brings the practices to life. The meditation teacher Sylvia Borstein describes how “in a community in which we experience the comfort of feeling seen, we discover our natural ability to feel empathy for others through the sharing of individual challenges.”
Meditating in a group is also a great way to enliven your practice and remain motivated in the face of challenges. Hearing what it is like for other people and realising that we are not the only ones to experience difficulties in our practice and in our life, we come to know that we share our vulnerability with all human beings, and our compassion for ourselves and for the world grows.
I invite you to experience this for yourself by joining one of my courses or drop-in meditation session, and seeing what it feels like to connect with others in this way.