Meditation is hard. Letting go of your thoughts and concentrating on the tiny things that are your breath and weight of your body on the ground are difficult tasks to accomplish. After all, we are constantly stimulated by external factors and avoid at all cost silence in fear of getting lost in negative thought patterns.
Two weeks ago, I went to do a Zazen meditation with 2 friends and observed my best session to date. Two 25 minutes sessions in a row during which not only us 3 but also another 20 people, were just there to concentrate on their breathing and posture, forgetting about the rest of the world.
This experience brought to light the advantages of meditating as a group instead of as a lone activity.
It all starts with the fact of being a group in itself. Despite meditation being a task one can only do alone, the presence of other people around, doing the same activity, changes the mindset you start your meditation in.
You are letting go of everything together. No matter how long it will be, others will be going through the same difficulties. It might be thinking about work or your relationships, your posture not being correct, noticing your breathing is irregular, the list goes on. But each of those will be shared with others in silence.
Being together in this silence allows you to accept and let go of thoughts more easily. Because you are not alone.
An underlying challenge
Whether you like challenges of not, the presence of other people — and especially friends — around you and meditating with you will make you want to stay concentrated until this end and keep the right posture.
Who knows? Your friend might see you fall asleep or hear you moving all the time! I don’t know for you, but I know I wouldn’t like it. For this reason, the intention of focus set in place becomes much higher.
During my session, I felt my left leg start to lose sensation and the will to move suddenly grew out of nowhere. However, I remember I wasn’t alone and I wanted this session to be a success so I let go of the thought and concentrated again on my breathing and posture.
A group breath
Finally, having many people around with a regular and calm breathing rhythm slowly starts to impact your own breath.
Due to the sheer amount of people, no single breathing rhythm is possible, but the smooth cadence of air going through the room soothes your mind and thus your breath, making it also easier to focus on it and let go of thoughts.
While meditation, in general, has been observed in Western cultures as an activity to do alone, far away in nature or in the comfort of your home, Buddhists often do it as a group too. Neither is better nor should they. The goal of meditating is to let go of appreciations of the world after all.
Group meditation and meditation alone in your room should go hand-in-hand, balancing each other and bringing advantages from one to the other. In a virtuous circle of letting things go.