Meditation is the act of focusing on a single thing and simply observing the rest of the world. This activity has many benefits and is a buzzword in many circles. I would even go as far as to say that people now talk about their meditation practice as much as vegans like to point out how ethical they are.
Why wouldn’t they? I mean the meditators – I can live without the vegans pushing their ethics on me. I am happy that my father introduced me to meditation, which has significantly impacted my life since I started it two years ago. It is challenging to develop a meditation habit because, like getting into an ice bath, it is uncomfortable.
The goal of meditation is to take the passenger seat of your mind; it can be easier to reach this goal when you are surrounded by others doing the same – as the old saying goes: “misery loves company.” I don’t mean this to say that meditation should make you miserable. Quite the contrary, meditation is one of the most enjoyable activities you can do, but to enjoy it requires practice.
“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to realize how good things really are” – Marianne Williamson.
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Benefits of group meditation.
“Group Meditation is a castle that protects the new spiritual aspirants as well as the veteran meditators. Meditating together increases the degree of Self-realization of each member of the group by the law of invisible vibratory exchange of group magnetism.”Paramahansa Yogananda
There are three benefits to meditating in a group, they are:
- Making friends.
- Being held accountable.
- Feeling spiritual.
While living in New Zealand, I lived in a hostel for six months. Under such shared conditions for so long, it would have been difficult not to meet people. At this time, I had already started my meditation practice which while at the hostel meant that I would wake up, sit on the living room couch and meditate.
My public meditations made people curious about the activity. Eventually, a sufficient number of them asked about it for me to offer for them to join. No one was willing to make up a half hour early and start with a 30-minute session – I don’t blame them; there are far better ways to start.
Instead, our first group session was ten minutes in the evening when everyone had time. I started a guided meditation on Headspace, and we started. For many, it was their first meditation session, and they were delighted with the experience. It was good for them to be surrounded by others because they didn’t need to worry or feel awkward about it – we were all doing this strange thing together.
Most of you will probably not stay in a hostel long enough to find a group of potential co-meditators, but you can still find co-meditators. These co-meditators can be your friends/ family members, co-workers or random people at an organized group meditation. Meditating in a group will cause the group to feel more spiritual, joyful and optimistic. Thus, making them more fun to be around.
Being held accountable
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear lays out the ways to make a habit easier to develop. He wrote that to make a habit easier, you must make it more: attractive, obvious and rewarding. Meditation is a hard habit to develop; it is often dull, frustrating, and seemingly pointless. Nevertheless, it can be made more attractive and obvious in a group setting for one key reason: accountability.
When you are alone, it is easy to end a meditation early or not do it. But what about when you are in a group? Imagine the noise made by the chair squeaking on the ground as you get up to leave the session early. The shame that situation would bring you is enough to guarantee you stay seated until the bell rings.
As Thomas M. Sterner would say:
“This is where the fun begins.”Thomas M. Sterner
The fun begins because you must choose between mental agony as you wait for a bell that feels like it will never come or meditate. If you choose the path of meditation, you will find yourself reaping the benefits and feel the calming effect of meditation when the bell eventually rings.
Therefore, the group environment will push you through the discomfort into a meaningful session. The best meditations I have had are the ones where I wanted to move or stop but pushed through; the act of pushing through deepens the practice.
While I am a highly spiritual person, I am not interested in the fluffy talk that is usually associated with spirituality. But for this post, I will make an exception; there is something intangible that happens when you are meditating as a group. This intangibility is a sort of energy – called spirituality – that generates momentum in a group and allows you to get deeper into the practice.
The social meditations I have done in New Zealand, Canada and Austria have all been uniquely positive experiences. During these sessions, I felt something greater than myself that I can only compare to the experience of going to church.
I am not religious, but there is something about the rhythm and customs of a church service that makes you feel spiritual. The last time I went to church, I could not understand a single word, but simply doing the motions in unity with everyone else made me feel connected to them, and I left the church with a glowing feeling.
Group meditation gives you this same glowing feeling without the social baggage associated with organized religion. Several religions use meditation as one of these practices, but it doesn’t need to be religious. Meditating in a group is a powerful experience that can help you bond with those around you. From fellow backpackers to family members, anyone can help you deepen your practice if they have the patience to sit with you.
How to get started
It can be hard to find a group to meditate with, especially if your friends and family are not interested but be patient. If you develop a regular practice, you will find that other meditators will gravitate toward you.
You can also use meditation as a party trick; I usually have a meditation on my phone ready to guide an interested group of people – I do this when I visit my family. There are also apps such as Meetup, where you can find local meditation groups or form your own.
Be creative and have fun. Even though meditation is difficult, it is well worth the effort.
Have you tried meditation? Do you prefer it on your own or as a group? Let me know about your experience in the comment section below.