I've felt it distinctly. I've heard it from lots of folks in the Mindfulness Circles over the years, too.
Meditating with other people is different than meditating alone.
It only makes sense.
After all, at a fundamental level, we are not inherently isolated individuals, separated from one another (and the rest of the universe) by some impenetrable barrier. As Alan Watts wrote years ago, we are not merely,"skin encapsulated egos."
As best I can sense it, we are, each of us, a focal point of energy in a interconnected web of energy that is inseparable from what some folks refer to as God. Although I may not feel the truth of that in each and every moment, I've experienced this enough to know it to be the Real Deal. We are not just in this together. We ARE this together.
So, sitting together in meditation will actually feel different. Especially when we then take time to compare notes on our lives and meditation practice. As we learn to open our hearts and minds to one another, to listen to one another mindfully, without judgment, we can actually feel our connection more readily.
Although the existence of a spiritual dimension to reality has been proclaimed by mystics and spiritual teachers throughout the ages, we live in a society where materialism has dominated the cultural landscape for centuries. The entire thrust of our conditioning has operated to disconnect us from that spiritual dimension. This has happened for generations. Yet, with commitment, time, energy -- and grace -- we can return to our True Nature as spiritual beings.
With Practice, we can get real. We can access our heart's boundless wisdom. In our heart of hearts, we can experience the healing power of Connection -- to ourselves, to one another, and to the infinite One Love that we emerge from and return to each moment.
The Mindfulness Heart Circle
In 2012, I was asked to teach a meditation class at a local yoga studio. I replied that I would gladly facilitate a weekly group meditation practice -- and do it for free. Retired, living on a small fixed income, I would barter as the studio caretaker for use of the space as I had done in order to take classes there.
Having begun the exploration of yoga and meditation as a college senior in 1969, having practiced with a number of major (and not so major) teachers over the years, I felt quite deeply that the hierarchical nature of traditional institutional Buddhism was not unlike that of the other major world's religions. The patriarchal structure that institutionalized power over rather than power among members of a community, was deeply problematic. It was clear to me that authoritarian structures serve to disempower human beings, and lead to subtle, and not so subtle, abuse of the human spirit. I'd seen that with my own eyes, felt it in my own body.
I'd also seen that the commercialization of spiritual practice in our society, like all aspects of life in a capitalist society, operates to prevent access to people of limited economic resources. The so-called New Age Spirituality that blossomed during my lifetime was nothing new. A whole lot of money was changing hands. The deep healing that is available through a committed meditation practice and alternative forms of healing flowed primarily through an economically privileged, mostly white, sector of our society. American Buddhism had become the Upper Middle Way.
As a person who had grown up in poverty, who had spent time in foster care as a kid and experienced homelessness as an adult, I wasn't comfortable with putting a price tag on human liberation. The healing I'd receive through Practice was priceless. I didn't want to capitalize on it.
Then and Now.
So Monday Morning Mindfulness began. It was a DIY moment. As Thich Nhat Hanh had suggested, I started a sangha.
Although I knew I had something to share (over four decades of meditation and spiritual geekdom at that point,) I had seen clearly that Buddhanature is universal. It was clear to me that we each have the onboard equipment to discern the Truth. I could see that in everyone's eyes. I'd found deep wisdom and compassion out on the streets among the homeless, sitting around a campfire with Native American activists, in the smile of a child. It was not just available in the high seat at the front of a meditation hall.