We spend a lot of time alone without realizing it. Sure, it might not always seem like we’re alone when we're communicating on Twitter, sharing images on Instagram or Pinterest, or liking friends' status 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 fit in that yoga class or add 15 minutes of meditation into a daily schedule. Socializing has been redefined by our technological lives and communication has never been so easy, yet maybe it’s too easy and making us a little too comfortable with our solitude.
Nothing can compare to a physical face-to-face connection. The feel of a genuine laugh or the satisfaction of sharing ideas in person is far better than reading a text and misunderstanding the intended meaning of the typed message because it didn’t include a smiley face emoji. Go for a real smile on a real face more often.
Nothing can compare to a physical face-to-face connection.
And when it comes to yoga practice? Yoga literally means "union" of mind and body. We may go to class to practice asana in community, but what about meditation? Even if it's just once a week, joining a group of like-minded souls for meditation has tons of benefits for the whole person, mind, body and spirit. The convincing link between the mind and body is well established, and health and wellness advocates in the medical profession are prescribing meditation for stress-related problems. Sure, you could go it alone at home, but group meditation has some unique benefits.
Here are six excellent reasons to meditate with others:
1. Everything is better when shared—including meditation.
Just like music, meditation can be enjoyed on its own or with others who dance to the same beat. You can feel a real connection with others by tapping into the same silence and source of peace at the same time. In fact, we can literally meet people on the same wavelength: recorded EEG results show that brainwaves synchronize while meditating.
2. Meditating with a group helps to develop a habit.
It's easy to find excuses not to meditate at home. Just like meeting friends at the gym for group fitness class can motivate you to work out, finding a meditation group can provide the necessary encouragement for developing a consistent practice.
3. Feedback is available.
Meditation groups often include practitioners of varying levels. If you're new to meditation, you might find that other members of your group can help clear up any confusion you may have over different types of meditation, help you find answers addressing difficulties with 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 your risk of dying in the next year in 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 thrive.
5. Be a part of the bigger picture.
A group can better support an individual’s inward journey. It's inspiring and motivating to connect with others who share our intentions for world peace. It is easier to apply Gandhi’s suggestion to “be the change you wish to see in the world” when you are part of a collective crowd. According to Andrew Kelley 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 the 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 unified field superstring theory in physics, waves of vibration flow from everything in the universe affecting the collective consciousness. Groups have the power to 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 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 to 1991, and 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 that police practices, local economics, and demographics remained the same throughout the study.
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.
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 often be found in clean, friendly, secular environments like yoga studios or at specific meditation organizations like Unplug in Los Angeles or Stil Studio in Boston, with many more opening up in between the two coastlines. In New York City there's The Path, which is a pop-up meditation group that changes locations every week both to keep things fresh and to prove that we don’t need perfect conditions to meditate. Or, if you can't find a local group, you could start your own using the “Meet Up” app. Rather than allowing technology to become a distraction, you can make it work in your favor! You can use an app to find or start a group. Perhaps each week someone could bring a favorite, guided meditation to share with the group—from an app, yoga website, or YouTube video, for example. This keeps things fresh and the learning curve goes up.
Meditating in a group is a fun and healthy way to socialize and learn a new skill that is good for our mind, body, and spirit. Take meditation group leader and author of “Happy Yoga” Steve Ross’s advice: “Aim for the center, take a deep breath, and dive in!”