Meditating by yourself is really different from meditating in a room with other people. When you are alone, there’s nobody else to distract you, no coughing no abrupt movements, no heavy breathings, nobody falling asleep and (ugh) snoring. You are on your own and by yourself one hundred per cent. That feeling is certainly very different from the group sittings where the mere presence of others creates a different type of energy that can sometimes uplift you, sometimes take you to a deeper level, and sometimes irritate you. For example, I remember a retreat I took in 2005 at a beautiful place called Saltspring Centre of Yoga, in Vancouver Island. During five days of meditation and silence there was a woman on the other side of the room who did not stop crying for a moment.
The group sittings are, in my experience, much harder because I feel sometimes constrained not to move or scratch my nose. I also have stranger feelings. For example, sometimes I think that the other meditators are better than me and I wonder what level of concentration on moving their attention through the body they have achieved. Somehow I wish I could compare notes, but that’s not possible.
From a different perspective, I came to understand lately that we all meditate alone and at the same time nobody meditates alone. This is not a contradiction: what I mean is that every one of us has to deal with his/her own mind and body. But also, considering how many people meditate all around the world and the different time zones in which we humans conduct our daily life, I’m sure that when we sit to meditate there’s always somebody else (hundreds? Thousands? ) engaged in meditation at the same time than as us. I like to think of different people from different meditation traditions and lifestyles in different countries and social environments meditating together.
In fact, as meditation continues to gain popularity, I hope that there will be more and more people meditating at the same time and I’m sure we are all going to be helping each other.
Perhaps when we sit in our meditation seats we should try to do it always very gently, trying not to bother our neighbors who are also starting to meditate, two houses from ours, or on the other side of the world.