Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Communal Meditation

Building community is about more than just interacting with a few, like-minded people. Real communities span age groups, and have diversity as well as areas of commonality that enable connections. Shared meditation can be used to provide some common ground and bring otherwise disparate people together.

Coming together to share a specific interest creates a good foundation for a community. Performing a communal activity can build bridges because issues of wealth, class, race and also religion become secondary to the work in hand. So much of our life does not encourage us to mingle with people outside our normal sphere and so our communities readily reflect too much of what we already know and think rather than opening new doors.

Organised meditation is not something that belongs to any particular religion, or to religion at all. It can be used in any way by anyone inclined to take it up. While the main action of meditation is inside the head – and inevitably solitary as a consequence, the process can still be shared. In groups, talking about the experience after the meditation can be a powerful, binding experience. Meditation takes us deep into our own emotions and inner worlds which is often daunting to offer to strangers, or friends, but the process of sharing creates new kinds of trust and relationship. When we listen to each other with respect, and take each other seriously, bonds of community grow.

A community may exist solely for the purposes of meditation, or meditation can be an offshoot of something else the group already undertakes. In the former scenario, it creates something new, in the latter, it reinforces and deepens bonds. How often does life afford us opportunities to sit quietly alongside other people? How often do we slow down to a consciousness of our own breath in the company of those who are doing the same? Regular meditation encourages us to step out of time and shared meditation magnifies the effect. A community which deliberately seeks slowness, even for just an hour, is a radically different experience. By sharing our experience, we reinforce each other’s experiences and validate the process of stepping away from all that is ‘normal’.

In our modern, western culture, the word ‘community’ is bandied around and its meaning becomes lost. People who know each other and who share life’s journey to some degree - and who are mindful of each other - are fairly unusual. What we do each day that we share with others, often tends to have an economic essence to it so to sit quietly with someone, not consuming, buying nor selling, gives us an equality we don’t often find. When we meditate, we are not 'market' and 'product' any more. We are not 'give' and 'take', 'win' or 'lose', 'profit' or 'poverty'. We are just people, breathing quietly, asking nothing of each other, but recognising each other as fellow creatures. This 'being' rather than 'doing' has the makings of a much more soulful, rewarding community. When we share the fears, dreams and eccentricities that arise in our mind during meditation, we reveal our flawed and human selves in a way that makes us more accessible to each other. We may even start to find aspects of each other very interesting. Competition for who has the shiniest new toy, the fastest broadband or the best paying job, etcetera, is left behind.

The basis of all true community, is not wealth, possessions or power. It is simply our shared humanity. Anything that allows us to be naturally human together will aid us in the process of creating healthy communities. To this end, I can very much recommend the use of meditation as a tool. It’s by no means the only one. Community singing, walking together, clearing up litter, eating together, celebrating life – these simple things all help to bind us into meaningful and valuable groups and help us to become open to each other and learning more about life.

Nimue Brown blogs regularly and reviews for The Druid Network. She lives on a narrowboat and plays folk music to unsuspecting ducks. Her book: 'Druidry and Meditation' is published by Moon Books. Visit: http://www.druidlife.wordpress.com/

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