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Thread: Solo Meditation vs. Group Meditation

  1. #1

    Solo Meditation vs. Group Meditation

    Has anyone else here found it much easier to meditate in a group (even if just you and one other person) than alone? If so, why do you think that is and how do you think you can better facilitate your solo meditation in order to deepen, and strengthen the continuity of, your practice?

    Look forward to hearing your responses.

    With metta, from a new member of these forums,

    Adam Gregg
    Utah, United States

  2. #2
    Hi Adam,

    I also find easier to meditate in a group setting. I would say that for me it is easier to meditate in a temple than at home, even if alone there. It could be just conditioning, same as if you exercise alone or as part of a group. Also if there is a monk it is even easier. Going to the physical exercise parallel, I would exercise more if I am with a trainer than if I do it on my own. Another aspect I don't discard is the energy. A group and not to mention a monk will have more energy than a beginner alone like me. I don't know in the Theravada tradition but in the Mahayana when they want to make a place sacred, like a new temple, shrine or a new retreat place they will go and do group chanting and meditation to 'clean' the place. People ask to monks to do chanting in their houses so they are 'blessed' so there must be something there.

    To your second question I think it is good to do both, at the beginning you can take the habit and conditioning of your mind easier by doing group meditation and also practice on your own, so you can do more insight and follow your own times. For me both are important.

    Keep in mind that before a monk/nun goes to practice alone, he/she practice first in the temple in a community environment. He/she needs certain amount of discipline and training to do it solo.

    Hopefully I am answering your question.

    Rodolfo
    Last edited by Rodolfo Rivas; 30th-May-2012 at 08:12 PM. Reason: typo

  3. #3
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    Dear Adam,

    I prefer to meditate in quiet solitude, while walking in nature or in the weirdest places like in a casino in Vegas last week. Bad events or strong negative feelings like fear are also a excellent time to meditate immeditately upon them, best Dhamma teachers :-)
    Groups and temples may be stimulating, but one depends on outer places and persons, psychologically putting "the meditation-vibes" outside you...
    I found that a daily 1h dive in joyous quietude , gives the best results on the long run. The day has a different perfume after this ... Practice of contentment goes better afterwards, "contentment is the highest wealth" (thanks to Ajahn Brahm for learning me this ...)

    Kind Regards,
    Kris
    Omega Websolutions Aalst

  4. #4
    Rodolfo and Kris,

    Thank you so much for your responses. I need to get more in the habit of responding to other people's threads, as well, as I develop more to offer from my own experience through my own practice.

    To start with Rodolfo, in particular:

    I think the issues of energy and understanding are key here. When starting my practice (which was really quite recent, but I find I am making rapid progress through constant effort), I was noticing these particular issues. But, by noticing them - by observing and investigating them - I feel I have come to understand them better, and they have therefore become less of issues (even in a short amount of time). The things that you had to say were very helpful (thank you!) and make sense in the light of my own, even recent, experience.

    For me, the issues of energy and understanding go together. When you increase your (spiritual) energy, you increase your understanding, and when you increase your understanding, you increase your energy. It's kind of like samadhi and vipassana, except the energy in this case is the result of samadhi (and cause of further samadhi), rather than samadhi itself, per say. I think the gym analogy is an apt one, for when I started I did not have much spiritual muscle. I had to learn first how to build that muscle, and this required teachers. Then, I had to get in the habit of constant effort (going to the gym daily) and this required the support and encouragement of others - environments where I could go, such as the temple, that had "meditation-vibes" (as Kris called it) that would motivate me further.

    You do reach a point, however, where your discipline or spiritual muscle becomes so strong and developed, that it becomes self-sustaining or automatic. The training wheels come off. But, even after this happens, I still find it helpful to meditate in a variety of places and circumstances - at the temple, in nature, at home, with others, and alone. The practice really has no bounds and the motivation and ability to practice the Dhamma anywhere under any circumstances both increase, I find, as you progress. Experiencing this progress is key (noticing the growth in muscle) because it will lead to even more understanding and energy...on and on, until one reaches enlightenment :-)

    Now, turning to Kris:

    I have noticed that the preferences for meditation or practicing Dhamma do, in fact, change as one progresses along the path...but I think you're really moving along when the preferences start to fall away. This is really getting into the flow of Dhamma - using everything you experience as a source of wisdom (which works in tandem with samadhi and energy, leading to even more wisdom).

    I too find that strong negative feelings such as fear can be superb Dhamma teachers. It's also important to use strong positive feelings such as love or excitement as Dhamma teachers because both (conventional) happiness and suffering (pleasure and pain) are results of clinging or attachment. Clinging to objects of conventional happiness, or pleasure, will inevitably lead to suffering, as all things of this world are impermanent...and so when one experiences great pleasure, it's important too to remind oneself that this is also impermanent (and is also dukkha and anatta). This process seems to me to be the neutralization of kamma, generally (think of equanimity), and eventually leads to the complete cessation of kamma (i.e. enlightenment).

    As I was saying to Rodolfo, I think it's normal and healthy to depend on others when one is starting out their practice...but, you're right, teachers and supporters can only take you so far, no more than half-way. You have to do the rest yourself. The practice requires drawing things inward rather than grasping for things outward and so one must, in an important sense, abandon the support of all external things and persons. The Buddha said that you are freed only when you reject all help.

    1 hour of daily quiet meditation (for the development of serenity and insight) is superb practice...especially when done along with diligent/constant mindfulness practice, service (compassion and giving) and regular study. Keep it up, for the benefit of the many! :-)

    ..........

    Thank you, both of you, Rodolfo and Kris, for your time and help...I hope some of my words will be helpful, as well.

    With metta,

    Adam
    Last edited by Adam Gregg; 7th-June-2012 at 10:05 AM.

  5. #5
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    Dear Adam,

    From what I understand one needs to have strong Sila to meditate alone. The reason being when someone's Sila is strong, they have less fear and hence can meditate alone easily.

    One more thing for meditation to work better is the environment, if you meditate in a group in a secluded environment, you are bound to get much better meditation than inside the city. More the seclusion the better.

    With Metta.

  6. #6
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    Dear Adam,

    I am a illiterate at Buddhist vocabulary. What do you mean by Sila ?

    Thanks,

    With kindness

  7. #7
    Abhishek:

    That's my understanding, as well. (Similarly..."If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him." ~ The Buddha)

    In regard to your other point, I find that to be true also. Therefore, does anyone else want to join me in pursuing the monastic life? :-)

    Kris:

    No worries. Sorry for the jargon; it's just that the original Pali terms often seem to fit what is meant better than the English translations.

    Sila means virtue, morality or right conduct and is represented in the Noble Eightfold Path by right speech, right action and right livelihood.

    Also, samadhi means stillness (or tranquillity), vipassana means insight (or wisdom), dukkha means suffering (or dissatisfaction), annica means impermanence and anatta means "not-self".

    Hope that helps. :-)

    With metta,

    Adam

  8. #8
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    Dear Adam,

    I'm not just saying it from my understanding, I've read and heard about it many times When one keeps the Sila, one is free from fear and guilt hence the Buddha recommends Sila as a pre-requisite for Meditation.
    Also Sila has the power to protect one from dangers of life. I've read in a Sutta that, "When someone keeps the precepts, one gives limitless protection to other living beings and hence he himself gets a share of that limitless protection".

    Yes, I'm also interested in pursuing monastic life. But I'm going to be doing it on trial basis, i.e. I'm going to stay for around 6 months to 2 years as a monk and then decide if I want to take higher ordination or not. The future is uncertain, people can disrobe at any time irrespective of how confident they were when they wanted to ordain. Just wanted to add this, maybe you know about this already.

    With metta

  9. #9
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    "Physical seclusion causes mental seclusion from defilements" :- Ven. Sariputta

  10. #10
    Abhishek:

    Yes, I've read and heard it many times too. I refer to "my understanding" in the sense that one shouldn't just believe what they read or hear out of devotion, but should practice and experience the teaching (particular or general Dhamma) for themself and then believe, or know, out of both reason and personal experience. My own reason and personal experience validates what you and many others (including many monks and/or Noble Ones) have said on this matter...and that's why I agree. :-)

    A trial basis certainly isn't a bad idea. It's good to find out for sure whether it's what you want to do or not. I've been trying to live my life as close to the monastic life as I can, under the circumstances (still many differences, of course), and the closer I get to it in my practice, the more peaceful and happy I am. Indeed, people can disrobe at any time, even after being "certain" going in, which is why I think it's extremely important to inspect your motivations and expectations (or lack thereof) before Going Forth, because these, I think, will be crucial to whether one succeeds in the long-term or not. My circumstances are maybe a bit out of the norm for aspiring monks, so it's not as much an option for me to go forth on a trial basis. For me, in my situation, it sometimes seems like entering a marriage...one can always divorce, but it's something highly undesirable, especially when one has much to lose. I feel very confident that I want to take the plunge, but I am currently setting the groundwork in place for it to work out once I am finally able to take the plunge...because once I've gotten to that point, I'll already be very deep in (at the edge of the cliff, although not yet jumped in, it will be very difficult to turn around).

    I do have an unshakeable confidence in the road I'm going down, which is a very personal thing and hard to explain to others...all I can do is live the teachings to the best of my ability and others can judge based on that. The future is uncertain, yes, in that all things of the world are impermanent...but this does not apply to the heart or the original mind...so, if one's motivations are based in things of the world, one is in a precarious situation, surely...but, if one's motivations are based in a wholesome sense of nibbida cultivated through an intimate relationship with the unchanging heart, then one has no doubt and has nothing to fear. These aren't things I claim to fully understand, but these are the things that I am working on and this is the direction that I am trying to go.

    I wish you the best in your plans, Abhishek. It'll be nice to hear about your experience once you've started your trial, if possible. :-)

    With metta,

    Adam
    Last edited by Adam Gregg; 9th-June-2012 at 10:55 AM.

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