I’m gathering thoughts, feelings and ideas here about how we can best meditate online together in this current crisis. I have now run two weeks of online live meditation sessions and can see the potential in these continuing weekly for the foreseeable future.
I miss my face-to-face classes. I miss all the participants. In some cases, some participants and I have been meditating together weekly for over five years now. And then there are the newbies who come out of a deep meditation with that look in their eyes and their bodies that simply says, “whoa, this stuff really works!”
All around the world people are experiencing this great missing – all the different ways of being in our old world that have been taken away for now. The missing I write about above is minor compared to the sacrifices many are making to stay separated from family and loved ones, especially health workers who do not have the luxury of safe couches. Whatever our situations, we are replacing the old with new ways to stay connected. One of my offerings to myself and others is to facilitate some online meditation groups. Like the reality of our lives, these sessions are a work in progress but here is what seems to have worked over the past fortnight and what I think we can develop together.
The structure of the sessions will include a brief check-in, a 30 minute meditation, a reading from one of the masters, followed by discussion (in small group break out rooms when/if the group is large). Please note that there is no cost for these sessions while the world is upside down! Your contribution is your participation and also feedback about what you’d like from these sessions.
Session times: the sessions are still every Thursday at 6pm and Friday at 10am. This respects the continuity of the classes that we had previously established together. As always, I recommend being punctual at the start and also staying for the hour. But, hey, these are tough days so please feel free to improvise exactly as you need. The opportunity, commitment and discipline to set times each week to meditate can really support your practice, add some structure to your current days, and create more focus and less distraction. That said, each of us needs to get through these days with as much kindness and compassion as possible so you will be doing whatever works best for you in these times. May you stay safe and well!
Your home retreat: I suggest that when we meditate together, we can turn our videos off. In a way, this can represent the going inside and remove the added distractions of extra visual (and technological) stimulus. I also recommend sitting upright for your spine in a very supportive but firm chair. As Tara Brach suggests, set up in a comfortable sitting posture that is both alert and relaxed. If you’d prefer to lie down, please set up your space for that too. As the weather cools, have blankets nearby. This can also facilitate a nice, cosy, snug feeling emotionally. Basically, set up a space that is yours for meditation. As a practice space becomes regular, you are supported by your environment where you drop into “a room of one’s own”.
Discussion about practices: having an opportunity to share experiences and ask questions about practices can be inspiring. When we share and realise that so many of our challenges in meditation are to be expected, we can soften further into the practices. I’d also like to facilitate a space where we can share in real time about meditation, as well as generally check in with a regular group of people and add another source of connection during our days of physical isolation.
Variety of practices: As was the case in my regular face-to-face classes, I will be offering a range of practices from week to week. These include: breath awareness, body awareness, visualisation, contemplating gratitude, compassion practices such as Tonglen, Loving-kindness/Metta, the five senses, Vipassana Goenka-style body scanning, standing meditation, moving meditation and more.
You will probably resonate more with some practices than others and some weeks you might get “into the zone” more than others. Certain meditation techniques will “work better or worse” for you depending on a range of factors, including personality and learning styles and I have written about this elsewhere – (see: Yes, you can meditate). But here is the thing – there actually is no “zone” or “better or worse”. In mindfulness meditation, we can find the relief of tenderly meeting ourselves wherever we are. Like materials used for cooking or art making, we might have our preferred materials, media or ways to practise but when we step outside our knowns we can gain even further grounding, mastery and support from the practices. In fact, in these times the Zen mantra of “don’t know mind” could not be more applicable!
Trauma-informed: Please take care with all practices and cease practice if things become too triggering. We all have a window of tolerance and while meditation practice is absolutely about learning to manage discomfort and witness experiences in new and/or non-reactive ways, there are times when practice might not be suitable for you. These are extraordinary times we are living in and so while I am offering this space to journey together please look after yourself and go gentle. I have written about some trauma-informed principles here – (see: Staying safe in meditation).
Further resources: Here are some pandemic resources that might also be helpful during these times.
Jack Kornfield – https://jackkornfield.com/pandemic-resources/
Tara Brach -https://www.tarabrach.com/
Dumbo Feather magazine – Beyond Overwhelm into Refuge.
Coronavirus Courage and Calm by Catherine Ingram – weekly podcast on iTunes and Stitcher