For many of us, deep satisfaction with our lives seems elusive. When we feel dissatisfied with some aspect of our lives, we usually feel dissatisfied with something outside of ourselves: our circumstances, our relationships, or the state of some aspect of the world. Take a moment to reflect on this. Do you feel dissatisfied with anything in your life? Are any (or perhaps all) objects of dissatisfaction outside of you? Have you ever gotten something that you wanted, only to find that you were less satisfied than you thought you would be?
Throughout history, in all wisdom traditions, it has been taught that our feelings of dissatisfaction arise not from circumstances outside of ourselves, but from relating to our circumstances in ways that generate negative states of mind—primarily desire (or craving), anger (or aversion) and ignorance. All wisdom traditions teach ways to reduce these negative states of mind and cultivate positive states of mind such as generosity, compassion and wisdom. One such way is the practice of meditation. Meditation can help us to wake up and see reality as it actually is, with equanimity unclouded by longing and aversion. It can help us to create less needless suffering. It can help us to live lives of great freedom, unhindered by our objections to reality as it is. This does not mean that we don’t work to address problems in our circumstances, relationships, and the world—quite the contrary, meditation helps us to respond to problems in a profoundly more effective way. But don’t accept these statements because wisdom traditions have said so, or because you are reading them here. Try it and see for yourself.
Why meditate with others?
While the presence of others is not required in order to meditate—all you need is your breath, your attention, and your intention—most of us find that it is much easier to keep up a consistent meditation practice if we sit regularly with others. Seeing others earnestly engaged in meditation inspires us to uphold our own practice. Knowing that our presence will inspire others helps us to cultivate generosity and compassion. Since the thoughts, emotions, and desires that our minds produce when we are with others are often quite different from those that arise when we are alone, sitting with others helps us to see ourselves more fully. In all of these ways, when we gather as a sangha (community), we support and sustain each other’s practice and lives by our presence together. But again, don’t believe this because of the words on this page. Try it and see for yourself.