By Daniel Scharpenburg
Meditation with a group is easier than meditating alone.
It’s easier because when you have a group there’s a sort of accountability. If you’re alone there’s no one to hold you accountable but yourself. That’s tough; it’s very easy to come up with excuses to not practice or not shorten our practice, so it helps to have a group practice. It’s the same as working out. Most of us have a much easier time getting to the gym if we have a workout buddy.
I don’t have a group practice that I go to with any regularity, although I’ve taken it upon myself to go out and try to lead public meditations sometimes. As an aside, I think this is a reason that communities need to do everything they possibly can to make people feel welcome and not push them away. If someone has a bad experience once with one spiritual community, that may be enough to get them to stop meditating entirely. It happens.
The downside of meditating with a group is that you can’t possibly do it as often as you could by yourself.
There aren’t many groups that meet every day or every other day. That amount of practice is something we could strive for and it is something a lot of teachers recommend. I’ve heard it suggested that frequent short meditations are a lot more beneficial than occasional long ones, and of course, for group practice you usually have to go somewhere. That involves traveling, going inside, getting settled, etc. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that a 20 minute meditation is going to take at least an hour when you add up all the other things that are happening.
I think when people say they don’t have time to meditate, this is what they’re talking about. It’s not that you don’t have time to meditate, it’s that you don’t have time for all that other stuff. I’d love to have a group practice in my home and I think about trying to set one up sometimes, but I always start to think no one will come.
I think it’s great if you can get to a group practice once a week or several times a month. Of course, some people are far away from anywhere that they could practice, so they simply don’t have that opportunity.
So, my big suggestion is this: Have a group meditation if you can, as often as your schedule allows, and add to that a practice at home. Practicing at home can include the people in your house (If you’re lucky and they’re into it) or it can be just yourself. This is very hard. I do not practice as often as I want to. I fall short of the goals I set for myself and you probably do too. But the point is to try. If you live with kids like me you probably need to do it before they get up or after they go to bed.
I think the best times to practice are when the world is a little quieter.
What do you need to do?
Pick a spot in your home and make that your meditation spot. Maybe have two different spots; that’s okay, but don’t just meditate anywhere. It matters. If you can get to the same place at the same time of day, that is going to help a lot. Routine is one of our greatest tools in this endeavor. So, you need to go to this place at this time and do what you can to shut off distractions. Switch your phone to airplane so you don’t get any messages. Lock the door, if you can. Let the people in your house know what you’re doing.
Start off with a goal you know you can accomplish. Maybe resolve to sit five minutes a day at first. Then increase to 10 minutes.
And you’ll be on your way.
You can do this. We can all do this together.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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