By Anne McCready Heinen
The awesomeness of meditation gets a big power-up when you add one simple, magical ingredient: Sitting with others.
Practicing in community is so powerful that the Buddha said that of the three jewels — Buddha (or Buddhanature, the awakened part of everyone), dharma (the teachings and truth), and sangha (a community of spiritual friends) — that spiritual friendship is the whole of the path.
Buddha’s attendant Ananda asked the Buddha if kalyāṇa-mittatā — spiritual friendship — is half the path.
The Buddha replied, “Having admirable people as friends, companions, and colleagues is actually whole of the well-integrated life.”
Neurologically, sitting together provides connection that we human mammals crave and need. “We are born to seek connection, at every level, in every moment that we are together,” says teacher Tom Hobson.
Showing up to sit with others provides accountability and guardrails — you’re a lot less likely to bail on a meditation session early if you’re in a group that will notice if you leave. And if you’re encountering challenges, talking about them with other people who have a practice can help you learn antidotes.
“Participating in a community of practitioners can make a big difference, especially when we hit those bumps in the road when our practice isn’t smooth sailing,” says Pema Chödrön, Buddhist nun and renowned teacher.
Experience this superpower yourself by connecting with others at Community Meditation sessions! I hope you’ll join me for one — I lead sessions at 7 am central time zone every Thursday.
Anne is a meditation facilitator and teacher of Mindful Self Compassion based in Austin, TX. You can read her bio here.