Learning about and practicing meditation with other people in a peaceful group setting can have a positive impact on our mental and emotional health. If you don’t already know how to meditate, learning how to do it and practicing it in a group makes it more enjoyable and provides encouragement and benefits to your mood and well-being. If you already know how to meditate but have been practicing alone and not getting as much out of it as you had hoped, you can start meditating in a group at any time and start receiving the same benefits.
Studies using fMRI have found that enjoying time with others in a social setting activates the same areas in the brain that are activated during group prayer. This would suggest that there is also a similar benefit to meditating in a group setting. The common denominator has nothing to do with the actual activity being done. It is the feeling and sense of human connection with others that activates those same brain regions. Mindful Meditation is a method of opening the consciousness and letting whatever is present come into awareness without judging yourself or the others around you.
People are able to feel a sense of connection between themselves and others when doing the same activity in the same place mentally, emotionally and in spirit. Feelings of isolation or loneliness are decreased by allowing ourselves to be comfortable while sharing pleasant experiences with others and there is a “felt” sense of connection. Our mind controls the logical thought process that causes us to make plans and take action, the heart provides our emotional desires, dreams and sense of purpose and our spirit is what makes us willing. When our mind and heart are in balance we feel a sense of harmony and peace and our “spirits” are high giving us a greater will to continue meditating.
Support or activity groups that provide a sense of community have also proven effective in increasing rates of survival and longevity. Dan Buettner’s study of longevity in his work The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest Published by National Geographic Books, recognized the role of social connection in prolonging people’s lives and enhancing quality of life, stating it is as important if not more so than eating healthy foods and getting enough exercise and sleep.
Or as the great Bob Marley once said: “One love, one heart… Let’s get together and feel all right.”