The Benefit of Meditating Alone Together

Meditation may appear to be a solitary pursuit, says Barry Boyce, but many benefits come from doing it with others.

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One of the persistent misrepresentations of mindfulness is that it is predominantly a solitary struggle. One thinks of the sage on the mountain, the hermit sequestered in a cave, you sitting home alone in your room, privately gazing at your navel (which is a pretty strange image if you think about it). It’s true that mindfulness meditation does involve spending time alone with your own thinking mind. In fact, a great benefit of cultivating more mindfulness, many people report, is that it helps them get along better with themselves. Meditation helps you be a better companion for your own throbbing mind, to be more comfortable with the fact that you have to travel the world alone with your thoughts much of the time.

But being comfortable being alone does not equate with acting in isolation. An important feature of programs like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is that you practice meditation along with others, and you share your insights, misgivings, struggles, questions, and joys with others in group discussion and inquiry. Donald McCown, a longtime MBSR teacher and coauthor of Teaching Mindfulness: A Practical Guide for Clinicians and Educators, has made the point to me on several…