It doesn't seem like we're alone when we're communicating on Twitter, sharing images on Instagram and Pinterest, and liking our friends' updates on Facebook, but scrolling is, nonetheless, a solitary pastime. It keeps us in one place and time flies by. No wonder it seems so difficult to add 15 minutes of meditation into our daily schedule.
Socializing has been redefined by our technological lives and has never been so easy––yet maybe it's too easy, and making us a little too comfortable with our solitude.
Nothing compares to a physical face-to-face connection. The feel of a genuine laugh and sharing ideas in person is far better than reading a text and misunderstanding its intended meaning of the typed message, because it didn't include a smiley face emoji. We ought to go for a real smile on a real face more often.
There are many benefits to getting out, even if it is just once a week, and joining a group of like-minded souls for meditation. Get rid of the restricting idea that we can only find inner peace when we are alone. Sure, meditating alone at home is great, but group meditation has some unique benefits.
Here are six benefits to meditating with others:
1. Everything is better when shared.
Just like music, meditation can be enjoyed on its own or with others who dance to the same beat. Meditation allows us to feel a real connection to others, by tapping into the same silence and source of peace at the same time.
According to the yogi who taught Russell Simmons and Dr. Oz how to meditate, Steve Ross says, “The fundamental reason why group meditation works well, especially for beginners, is that the group dynamic uplifts and empowers everyone present... This doesn't require belief, just observation and experience.”
2. Meditating with a group helps to develop a habit.
It is too easy to find excuses at home and walk past that meditation cushion for another day. Going to the gym is part of our routines now, so finding a meditation group to help us form another good habit makes sense, and the health of both the mind and the body can be checked off our to-do list.
3. Feedback is available.
Meditation groups often include practitioners at varying levels. If new to meditation, we may find that other members of the group can help clear up any confusion over different types of meditation, help find answers addressing possible difficulties with the practice, and provide feedback regarding experiences that arise during the meditation process.
4. Joining a group is actually physically good for us.
According to the book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert D. Putnam, joining a group can cut our risk of dying in the next year by half! Loneliness is now proven to be bad for our health. An environment of acceptance and belonging are perfect conditions under which social animals like us can truly thrive.
5. Be a part of the bigger picture.
A group can better support an individual's inward journey. It is inspiring and motivating to connect with others that might share our greater good intentions for world peace. It is much easier to apply Gandhi's popular suggestion to “be the change you wish to see in the world,” when you are part of a collective crowd.
According to Andrew Kelley, a group meditation teacher at The Boston Buddha, it is also a good way to "Collectively unify and add strength to our intentions," with a common group goal, even if that goal is just to be more relaxed and less reactive.
6. There is power in numbers.
Believe it or not, there are studies that prove the existence of a ripple effect of peace in the surrounding environment when a group meditates together.
According to the superstring theory in physics, waves of vibration flow from everything in the universe affecting the collective consciousness of others. Groups can enliven that field. Cellular biologist Bruce Lipton states in his book Biology of Belief, that our consciousness can change the physical world around us by altering the energetic field.
An interesting experiment tested a theory called "The Maharishi Effect" in Merseyside, England. A number that exceeded one percent of the population, meditated together every day from 1988–1991. As a result, the crime rate dropped so much that Merseyside went from third highest to the lowest ranked city in England, during the time of the analysis. Meanwhile, the control town of non-meditators held a steady crime rate. Meditation was the only factor in the study that could account for the change, as the scientists calculated police practices, local economics and demographics that remained the same throughout the study.
As Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
Meditation classes and groups can usually be found in the clean, friendly, secular environments like yoga studios or other holistic businesses.
Meditating in a group is a fun and healthy way to socialize and learn a new skill that is good for mind, body and spirit.
Photo by Jake Laub