Meditating With Others

For five minutes a day, over the last few months, I’ve spent time doing nothing.

That is, I sit on a cushion or chair, without my phone, staring straight ahead at the wall.

Thoughts come and go and I observe them like the weather. Or at least, I try to – and if I get swept away, I forgive myself and try again.

It’s been a wonderful experience, not because it’s been calming or new age, but it’s enabled me to allow pain, happiness, and other emotions come to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Since meditation is a silent and personal activity, it always made me curious that people want to do it in groups. Monks at temples, buddhist practitioners, yoga classes… all include some form of group meditation. But a group can’t meditate, can they? What’s the benefit?

I discovered my answer to this while using the amazing meditation timer app InsightTimer.

But first, let’s talk about breathing. Pema Chodron describes the act of breathing like this: when we inhale, we pull in everyone’s pain. When we breathe out, we send good vibes out to the rest of the universe. This can be a very healing experience in a room of people meditating silently.

InsightTimer rings a bell at the start and end of a meditation session. And then, it does something powerful: it shows you all the other people that were meditating with you. You just see their first name and profile pic, nothing fancy. But in doing so, I suddenly realized that all of the 400-600 people that meditate with me across the world every day (and many more not on the app) are all experiencing the same struggle that I am – to remain grounded in the present moment.

So while meditation is a solitary activity, doing it in a group reminds us that we’re all experiencing an internal struggle that is invisible from the outside.