Sometimes our day to day can get a little hectic. We’re balancing work and relationships and managing to pay our bills on time, exercise, and eat right. It’s a lot for one plate! Meditation is a great way to channel our energy and focus our minds on breathing. It can release anxiety and stress that has built up throughout the day. Unfortunately, like most healthy habits, we may not pursue them wholeheartedly because our minds or schedules are elsewhere. Even when we finally sit (or lie down) to practice meditation, our thoughts can wander. We fixate on the running list of chores or errands we believe we should be doing instead. A way to fix this mentality? Group meditation sessions.
While practicing meditation within a group, not only are you being held accountable, but you’re also able to feed off the room’s positive energy and have an experienced instructor guide you through your sessions and practices. We’ve talked to several group meditation instructors and participants about the art of this practice and how it can positively affect everyone’s ability to meditate. Read on as we discuss what happens in a group meditation practice and what teachers love most about being part of a group setting.
Why meditate in a group?
“The main objective of meditating in a group is to create an energy field where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts,” says Susan Shumsky, meditation instructor and author of Exploring Meditation. “In other words, when one person meditates alone, there is a feeling of expanded awareness, deep relaxation, peace of mind, and contentment. When many people meditate together, those experiences are intensified, and effects expand to the environment. So benefits are both individual and collective.”
Along with expanding your mind and sense of awareness while practicing group meditation, some believe there is a biological and chemical occurrence that happens when people choose to meditate together. According to Ellie Shoja, founder of Peace Unleashed, “We are all vibrational beings having physical experiences. And as such, we are all connected. The easiest way to see the effect of this interconnectedness is when you witness someone you care about experiencing something. If they’re experiencing joy, you’re more likely to experience joy with them. If they’re in pain, it might physically hurt you to be in the vicinity of their pain.
“When we meditate, our vibration naturally rises. When we meditate in a group setting, we have an opportunity to experience the clarity of someone else’s raised vibrations. This is why, for first-time meditators, being in a group can be comforting. Because even if they are not able to quiet their own thoughts enough to allow their own vibration to rise, they can take advantage of being in the vibrational vicinity of the raised vibrations of more seasoned meditators around them.”
Why Meditation Experts Choose to Start Meditating in Groups
It’s often comforting to hear others who are experts in certain practices share their personal journeys and what brought them to where they are now. It’s reaffirming that everyone has to start somewhere. For Shoja, after her divorce six years ago, she felt lost. “I was off-balance, and I didn’t know where to turn. At the time, a friend of a friend was hosting small group meditation at her home every Monday evening. I started attending. Even though we met once a week and meditated for only 15 or 20 minutes, I started seeing the positive effects of meditation on my life and my state of mind. So, when this friend asked if I’d like to attend a ten-day silent meditation retreat with her, I didn’t have to think twice to sign up.”
Whereas some start their meditation journey in groups, others elevate their solo meditation practice by joining in on a group atmosphere. Shumsky started practicing group meditation when her mentor recommended it. “I first learned it from my guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was the founder of TM (Transcendental Meditation). Maharishi was the guru of the Beatles and Deepak Chopra. Maharishi asked us to practice TM in large groups so that we could have a powerful positive effect on the world. His philosophy was that if a high enough percentage of the world population would meditate in groups, then world peace would be achieved.”
How does group meditation work?
Meditation in itself is a personal journey that reflects on clearing your mind and focusing on each breath. But when practicing meditation within a group setting, you’re able to feed off the energy of the group. According to Shoja, “Meditation is always an individual journey because it’s a journey into the self. However, the group allows us to go deeper into ourselves. We’re able to take advantage of the group’s high vibrations to raise our own beyond our immediate ability. It’s important to have an individual, daily practice. Periodic group sits, however, can complement the private practice and help us dig deeper into ourselves than we can individually.”
“What I love most about leading these sessions is that the people in the group, including myself, have wonderful spiritual experiences of expanded consciousness, inner peace, deep relaxation, healing, greater awareness, and increased intuition. And I am greatly rewarded when I get reports from students that they are experiencing the deepest meditation they have ever had,” Shumsky says.