by Kenneth Folk
As long as meditation is defined as sitting silent and alone, it’s not going to catch on. We are human primates. We are social in our very bones. Isolation is punishment. Silence is dull.
Here is another definition: meditation is the bringing of attention to experience, and training in meditation is training in attention. By this definition, neither isolation nor silence are required; we can train together, and that is good, because together is what we were born for.
Social meditation brings the benefits of traditional silent meditation while simultaneously cultivating intimacy and strengthening bonds between humans. Social meditation is engaging in a way that only social activities can be. And social meditation provides a built-in feedback loop; when two or more people are taking turns reporting their experience in real time, there is little time for mind wandering. Meditators stay on task, thereby increasing the efficiency of training.
Every silent meditator knows that for every hour of practice some considerable amount of time is lost to mind wandering. It may happen that in one hour of silent practice, only a cumulative five or ten minutes are spent with the attention continuously on the objects of meditation. The bulk of the period is spent ruminating, worrying, planning, reflecting, fantasizing, drifting, or sleeping.
With social meditation, ten minutes of practice equals ten minutes of time on task. The feedback loop of reporting aloud while taking turns ensures efficiency. Accountability to another human being generates motivation.