This article serves as the third installment of a five part series called “What is Group Meditation?” I am going to focus on basic types of meditation that are commonly practiced in a group format, benefits of each type, and some questions that will help you decide which is right for your individual practice and level of skill.
This article will focus on Group Mindfulness Meditation. Mindfulness meditation has its origination in Buddhism of which there are many roots of lineage. Buddhism concisely is the practice of being kind, also known as loving kindness. Buddhism delves deeply into the practice of being kind. The practice of kindness takes on meanings such as, shedding possessiveness, embracing inclusion, discovering non-duality, expressing compassion, and serving others from a heart that radiates peace. For the purpose of this article, we will concentrate on group practice of mindfulness rather than the roots of origin or the depth of practice.
Mindfulness is a quality rather than something that one can attain. When people think of meditation and Buddhism there can be an aspiration within the mind, Nirvana. Some special place within the mind that serves as a retreat from all the human toil and suffering, however, that special place is derived from human toil and suffering. The quality of your toil and suffering is directly affected by mindfulness meditation. This is where the practice of kindness comes in!
When practicing mindfulness within a group, the lead practitioner may choose to ring a bell, say a word or phrase, or call the group to focus on an object periodically. The mind returns to focus by breathing and distractions are let go of, experiencing is narrowed to the present tense. This narrowing of focus causes an expansion in energy within the physical body and mind. Mind-body-spirit connectivity is cultivated through practice of mindfulness meditation. There is a bulk of scientific research within the psychological and medical communities around the multitude of healthful benefits of mindfulness meditation as well.
A mindfulness meditation session may start with a short discourse from the instructor, something relevant to the group if there is a theme that the group is working with. The session continues with instruction to breathe deeply, paying attention to the in breath, exhaling slowly and completely, keeping the attention on the breath. As the practitioners settle in to sitting, the mind naturally wonders away into thoughts of the day, worries, to do lists, projections of the future, thoughts of the past, endless chattering. It is the practitioners disciplined awareness that keeps the mind in the present tense, with awareness in the here and now. As the session progresses, the leader uses a means of focus (bell, words) to bring the practitioners back to the present moment and instructs the practitioners to breathe deeply inward and slowly and completely outward. The practitioners return to periods of silence. This is the way of mindfulness practice.
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Up next in this series on group, meditation is the collective meditation experience. Until next time, keep practicing! Remember there is no right meditation, there is no wrong meditation, there is only meditation.