For many of us, ‘mindfulness’ conjures up images of solitude and meditation. And while mindfulness can indeed take this form, it extends far beyond solo meditation practice. From peer groups to corporations to school groups, there are a variety of settings and circumstances that mindfulness can be woven into. If you’re an intermediate to advanced meditation practitioner yourself, you’ve likely come across mindfulness in group settings at some point. Or, at the very least, wondered how you might incorporate mindfulness into gatherings or organizations of your own.
Mindfulness exercises for groups are tools we can use to strengthen or sense of community, wellbeing, concentration, and more – on both individual and collective levels. Diving into the unique characteristics and requirements of mindfulness as it relates to these settings is the first step to bringing greater awareness into your community.
The fundamentals of mindfulness in group settings and those of personal practice are really no different from one another. Both are built on a foundation of non-judgment and compassion. With that said, what makes mindfulness for groups unique is that there are infinite external factors to consider. Especially, when sharing mindfulness in this way. Some of the categories these factors fall into include:
Within a group setting, you’re likely to have both complete beginners and those with pre-existing experience. This might influence the approach taken. And so, if we are guiding such an experience, we might ask ourselves: is there a way to make the exercises explored applicable to those of various experience levels?
Mindfulness exercises for adults are different that those that we would introduce to children and teens. The techniques we explore as a family have to be age-appropriate and applicable to everyone in the group, especially for the children. As parents, we can explore mindfulness exercises for adults in our own time. While also, holding time and space to practice techniques and skills that our little (or not so little) ones might be more comfortable with.
Factors to consider when introducing mindfulness to children include:
Just as adult beginners require time to get used to the techniques and ideas covered in mindfulness activities. Children and teens will be better off with short mindfulness exercises to start off. Naturally extend the length of time you explore these activities as your child becomes more comfortable. Use your intuition to guide you.
Individuals within a group each bring their own stories to the table, which presents both challenge and opportunity. The challenge of a group setting with different personalities, capabilities, and histories can bring two things. First, as with varying levels of mindfulness experience, we must find a way to bridge gaps. And second, make our teachings as relatable to everyone in the group as much as possible. Despite these differences, however, diversity brought about by a group setting helps us to grow more compassionate. As we begin to see our shared humanity in face of our differences, our sense of loving kindness and oneness flourishes.
Depending on the size and nature of the group, location of the group mindfulness practice is likely somewhat limited. This might limit the types of exercises we can explore or the number of people we can include. However, as mindfulness is an inner practice, this likely won’t pose an insurmountable challenge. We can make due with whatever space we have available to us.
What the unique circumstances of group settings boils down to is lack of control. With so many people participating, it is impossible to even guess at what dynamics, emotions, and energies will arise. A challenge? Perhaps – although it’s more empowering to look at this as an incredible learning opportunity and indication of the nature of reality. In life, where we might think we have control we likely have little. Life offers us continual twists and turns, and nowhere is this more evident in mindfulness practice than when a group gets together to practice. Embracing whatever arises as a sign of life’s ever-shifting expression is how we come to see the beauty of growth, transformation, and our shared humanity.
Given the challenges that can arise when we explore mindfulness exercises in groups, why do we do it? Well, humans are social creatures, and while many of us enjoy mindfulness practice in solitude, there is great benefit of coming together. With others, we can explore these powerful practices. Some of the reasons group mindfulness practice is so impactful is that it can:
Depending on the nature of the group, mindfulness practices can be tailored to meet various goals and needs. Creative mindfulness exercises for groups can spark mindful dialogue, critical thinking, and new insights in professional or educational settings. On the other hand, engaging in fun mindfulness exercises for groups. Like nature reflection and visualization exercises, it can shift ways of thinking and empower meaningful relationships. Regardless of the niche you’re working with, fun, dynamic, and creative mindfulness exercises for groups can help you to achieve whatever result you’re in pursuit of.
Mindfulness exercises for groups remain a collection of personal practices. Leading to a collective shift in energy and influencing the functioning of the whole. Each individual in the group will shift in unique ways through the practice. As we practice together, we gain the opportunity to share our experiences, our challenges, and our triumphs with one another. Which eventually, fuels our collective evolution. This is the power in numbers.
Regardless of the group you are a part of – and regardless of your role within that group – there are a variety of creative ways we can incorporate mindfulness into our community, group, or organization. If you are interested in bringing mindfulness exercises to those in your circle, you might take the following steps to determine the right approach:
Whether you are an elementary school teacher, a parent, a CEO, a social worker, a yoga teacher, or a mindfulness explorer (or of any other title for that matter), consider who your group is and what your goals are. What are the goals of the individuals within the group? How might what you hope the group gets out of the practice influence the exercises you choose to share? What are the limitations of the setting you have to work with?
An extension of defining your group, take a closer look at the needs and experience level of those you will be leading through this work. What considerations do you need to make based on any known personal or collective histories or traumas? How might you incorporate mindfulness exercises in such a way that helps to bridge potential gaps between group members’ capabilities and expectations?
There are countless ways we can introduce mindfulness in a group setting. From sharing circles and journal exercises to guided meditations and interactive group activities. There are numerous approaches to consider that will vary based on the needs and level of experience of the group you’re working with. Use the previous questions and your own mindful assessment to determine the most fitting techniques.
Group and individual comfort comes from both the setting of the room and the energy held by the facilitator. Consider how you might ensure that your group feels safe to explore your chosen practices. If emotions or difficult questions arise, how might you navigate this safely and authentically?
If you are interested in deepening your understanding of how to work with groups beyond these general considerations, you might also consider taking a mindfulness teacher training course. Whether you are a parent, educator, health or wellness professional, or an evolving mindfulness explorer, you should consider this. A personalized teacher training course can deepen your understanding of the practices and teachings you’d like to share with your community or group.
There are a variety of personal mindfulness exercises that are applicable in group settings. Well, often with only a few modifications required (such as introduction and integration). These six mindfulness exercises are a launching point for mindful group activities. Use them as a starting point as you explore the compounding ways you might work towards the mindfulness goals. Those goals which you are working with.
One of the greatest barriers to moving through mindfulness practice is the fear of vulnerability. Brené Brown, researcher, author and speaker, explores the power of vulnerability in her work, highlighting the incredible gifts that come with the courage to be vulnerable. This video can be watched with a group to encourage openness, honesty, and compassion in professional or family settings. Or, it can be used by leaders to self-assess their own openness to vulnerability before they delve further into their offerings.
Group settings, whether corporate, familial, or otherwise, can spark powerful emotions. Emotions that threaten the happiness and wellbeing of our family or organization. There is nothing inherently wrong with our emotions. However, through this talk and similar teachings, we can become more mindful of our needs, our emotions, and our ways of communicating. As we do this, interpersonal cooperation and compassion are enhanced.
In corporate, family, or school settings, stress and busyness can stand in the way of productivity and wellbeing. This mindfulness worksheet can be used in groups to help spark self-awareness and meaningful dialogue around how we might mitigate the effect of our busy modern day lives.
Loving-Kindness meditations are incredibly powerful. These sessions can naturally open us up to greater understanding, compassion, and acceptance of those around us. When practiced in a group setting, this mindfulness exercise can open us up. Open towards shared humanity and strengthen our interpersonal relationships and communication skills.
Stress is a natural life happening – it’s what we do with it that matters. This worksheet is a mindfulness exercise that can be used with groups. Exploring the healthy ways of combating stress when it crops up. This might be particularly of benefit in corporate or school groups.
Getting into nature is a great way to form stronger connections between individuals and with the natural environment itself. By taking a mindful approach to the natural world around us, we might find a greater sense of harmony within. Giving us an increase in creative energy, and a stronger connection with all living things. This exercise can be modified according to the groups needs and is applicable for children and adults alike.
For corporate and school settings, mindful time management exercises, as such is outlined in this worksheet. Spark greater awareness of how we use our time. By getting clear on the day’s priorities and uncovering our own personal struggles to be efficient. Leading us to gain control with how we spend our minutes and hours. This can lead to greater efficacy and focus in the workplace.
The opportunity for mindfulness exploration within groups is infinite. Once we are clear on who we are working with. And, what the group’s needs are, we can effectively choose creative mindfulness exercises. Eventually helping us to reach the goals of both individuals and the collective community. Each mindfulness exercise is an opportunity for greater connection, personal growth, and learning. Exploring these practices collectively with an open heart brings to light a sense of community we all yearn for.
Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]
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