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Thread: Mindfulness & Meditation - Benefits of Group Practice?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Geila's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011

    Mindfulness & Meditation - Benefits of Group Practice?

    Recently a friend suggested I join a meditation or mindfulness group and I was not keen on the idea because basically, I'm lazy. The idea of having to trek out to a meeting doesn't appeal because it involves work (have to put on bra, socks & shoes, maybe shower, drive there, etc.) for what basically can be done perfectly well at home. Sure, you might get to meet some like-minded people, but I've always been a bit of an outsider and I've kind of given up exerting energy in an effort to "make friends". I've grown quite content to follow my own path and appreciate the freedom that gives me.

    But, I don't want to be close-minded either. Maybe there are some benefits I'm not aware of that I might enjoy. So I thought I'd put this out and see what you all have to say about this if you've tried it. I've done zero research into this, so I don't know if one is supposed to pay for the class. Zoe Girl's post about teachers getting paid seems to indicate pay is expected. I also don't know what kind of qualifications and training the paid teachers are required to have. I would expect volunteer teachers to be self-taught, but would expect a paid teacher to have some qualifications. I know most of the classes I've taken that included mindfulness and meditation as a component were taught by instructors who had a master's in psychology and were either working on their PhD or completing their training hours in counseling.

    But all of those classes have been in something specific and presented material that I would not have been able to obtain on my own. I'm not quite sure if meditation and mindfulness can be learned on one's own - the reading I've done on it suggests that it can. Maybe it's like weight-training - easy to do by oneself but group classes provide the motivation for those who need it?

    Question for Zoe Girl: What would you say have been the greatest benefits you've gotten from group practice in meditation and mindfulness? I know you've been doing it for a long time, so I'm sure you have a lot of valuable insight.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    I have attended sangha classes at a Buddhist temple off and on. I do feel lazy and like a dilettante for not going regularly.

    Bras are optional. (This past weekend, not at a temple but elsewhere, I was happy to see a young woman wearing a No Bra Club T shirt.) There is no dress code. I went barefoot if the weather was warm. You are asked to remove your shoes. I am lucky the temple was less than 10 minutes away. Donations are accepted but not required.

    Advantages - open discussion, different perspectives, and different methods of meditation are taught. A setting free from the distractions I have at home. At one time they had potluck vegetarian lunches I was happy to contribute to, but later these were discontinued.

    Disadvantages - the heavy accents of the teachers made them hard to understand, I did not agree with everything they taught (one meditation tape they played referred to spirits for instance), the room was cold in winter, and yeah, the laziness factor.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Great questions, I can tell you that a meditation group is about the most comfortable place to be if you are not comfortable around people. It is perfectly acceptable to attend and not talk to anyone. Even when we do check ins all I ask is people to share their name and if they want to share on the topic (usually a brief sentence about how their sit was) they can. Passing and silence are fine.

    I find that a group is supportive of both deeper and longer practice. I may be struggling at home with 10-20 minutes but 30 is much easier in a group. One group I go to has a 45 minute sit. It can be very supportive if you are having a racing mind often, lack of confidence or overall struggles. You may still have those struggles in a group however I find it is helpful. Sometimes the person holding that space is very beneficial. Some of the teachers I sit with just create the environment by their presence.

    Qualifications are all over the place so I recommend checking people out. Payment is most often dana/donation based. There is only one place that has a set fee of $5 and they own the building. We have a goal for rent with our group and make it a couple times a year. The owner of the yoga studio really likes us and our primary teacher. On a regular basis we are peer led, with a range of 10-30 years of practice. We meet together to work on our skills of facilitating the group and presenting information. Many times we follow a book or readings that are thoroughly explained. We stay in one tradition, Theravadan/Insight, to keep things clear.
    We have a Buddhist nun and a former Buddhist nun as our supports who also come teach when they can. We try to do better with money when they come. I have been studying with both of them so I personally donate on a regular basis. Most teachers work on a donation basis, so all they have to live on is the generosity of others. There is no national support system like churches so I feel it is important to make that clear. Our teachers living and eating is directly based on our support. It can be a beautiful practice of mutual benefit in a culture that is so transactional. And I never met a teacher who looks in the donation box to check or has a problem with what you offer. One of my male teachers has classes with a suggested cost, and was always gracious about accepting what I could offer when my income was lower.

    The qualities I look for in a teacher is their own sense of ground, their calm nature, and attentiveness. I like teachers who have meditation/mindfulness as an integral part of their lives and are not flashy about it. I find I get more out of a talk based on how present and aware the teacher is as compared to their educational degrees. A welcoming environment is key, and accessibility of a teacher. So a local teacher who you connect with is better than a more well known teacher that won't have time for many students. Then you also can see their direct needs and know exactly where your donations are going.

    I just went on an 8 day silent retreat that was nature based. I was in trauma after leaving a toxic work environment, quite a lot to process and deal with. Even with the silence I felt that I was able to process so much more in the group than I ever could have alone. Even when on my solo (48 hours alone in the woods) I felt the presence of the sangha and care of the teachers. I would recommend something like a one-day local retreat as a way for experienced meditators to go a little deeper.

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