If I lived in a cave, alone, with no human interaction, meditating alone would suffice. But I don’t. I live in a Venn diagram of overlapping community circles — family, work, neighborhood, political, Facebook, etc.
I find that meditating in a community, with a group, allows me to practice bringing kindness and compassion from that circle to all of my other circles.
Meditating in a group, it quickly becomes apparent how easily I become irritated and think, “I should do something about that!” Lozenges for the cougher, a private chat with the person who shows up late, or some instruction for the person who is moving noisily. But it’s only minute two of an hour of sitting so I can’t do anything for 58 minutes.
As I sit, it occurs to me that the person who coughs is much more likely to rouse me from an obsessive train of thought than nirvana. I can celebrate the courage of the person who knowingly showed up late to support me in my practice. And, in minute six, I have to adjust my posture, disturbing someone else.
I carry these revelations into my other circles. When something irritates me, I consider that what needs to be changed is not them, but my thinking, my relation to the world. Kindness and compassion for all of our irritations can lead to better, gentler interactions with the people we meet on a daily basis, and improve all of our communities.
— Paul Schatz