Multiply your meditation benefits – it grows when you have a sangha community to support you. It’s difficult to practice mindfulness all by yourself, and there’s no reason you have to go it alone.
Sangha is one of the three jewels of Buddhism, along with Buddha and Dharma. One simple definition of Sangha is to think of it as our spiritual friends who attend to each other with loving kindness. In Yoga, the community is referred to by the Sanskrit word “Kula.” Many faith traditions have congregations, and even in secular life we talk about neighborhoods and networks. It’s all about recognizing our connectedness and cherishing each other.
In some ways, meditation partners help us to train our minds in the same way that exercise buddies help our physical fitness. They encourage us to be consistent and accountable about our practice.
Of course, these interactions may run deeper than just doing push-ups together. Intimacy develops as we breathe the same air and combine the power of our virtuous wishes. For people who work long hours, meditation centers provide an opportunity to get to know people in a context that goes beyond our workplace identities. We can practice equanimity as we extend the warm feelings we probably have about our family and friends to the rest of the world. We come to realize that everyone’s happiness matters.
Many people also prefer gathering with others so they can participate in guided meditation. The teacher can walk you through each step, call your attention back when it wanders, and suggest topics to think about.
You can find a meditation community in many different places with a wide range of approaches. Check with yoga studios, public libraries, churches, and community centers.
If you’re browsing online, search for meditation Meetup groups or Vipassana meditation. Some Buddhist organizations offer online tools for locating centers all over the US and the world, and many centers welcome everyone so you don’t have to be Buddhist. Try the Shambhala Centre or Tricycle Magazine. This nondenominational Buddhist quarterly publishes a Dharma directory in each issue and has a website search tool as well.
We invite you to make us part of your meditation community too. Contact us to find out more about how we can support your practice of mindfulness.
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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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