When people gather, the effect is greater than the sum of its parts. Mammals need each other. We are better as a "WE." Bruce Perry, a leading pediatric psychiatrist tells us, "We are built for love." This simple statement is a significant fact. We are indeed built for love. If humans were built for stress, we would all be thriving in our hectic modern age. We aren't. We are built for love. And connection. And yet, despite being tribal animals, it can be so challenging to know how to connect. Being with people can be draining.
For the past few years I have had the privilege to be a part of an experimental community that regularly practices body meditation together. We are a global group with participants gathering from far corners of the world. Body meditation lends itself to this type of communal practice, because it allows for vocally sharing. We drop in, direct our awareness inward, search out the energies in the body, then meditatively share we what we"hear."Our experiments have been exciting, frustrating, supportive, and divisive. The education in community engagement is teaching me to be real and to lean into challenges with great hope for positive outcome. And yet these experiments feel the merest scratched surface of what's possible with this practice. Thus, I want to encourage you to read further, take a risk, and try this out in your community. Perhaps I will get to learn from you!
Meditative communal experiments in following energy can focus on a dedicated theme, such as the political situation in America or the challenges of climate change. They can come together for a purpose, like the group supporting one member's individual creative project. Or, they can just be an open meditation to listen and follow whatever unfolds. Whatever the intention, paying attention makes for interesting journeys. When it is done right, these sessions are nourishing and energizing. But how is it done "right"?
Here are a few reflections on what works and what doesn't. First, it is essential to have a personal practice established. If you want to know how, read my blog post: "Tuning In: A Simple Practice." If you have a small group interested in practicing together, you can gather live, or even easier, on a conference call (see resources below). When you are all together, follow the same steps outlined in "Tuning In: A Simple Practice. Drop in for a few minutes, pay attention, look for the predominant physical sensation, and then--if and only if you feel moved--name it out loud. Listen to what you hear from each other, and watch how the energies shift and change. Then, repeat.
A Few Fine Tuning Tips:
Take it slow. Energy is best heard when there is spaciousness. Energy can be dense or subtle. Dense energies are easy to hear. Pain, constriction, heart palpitations, heat--these sensations easily grab our attention. Subtle energies speak more softly. Think of them as the introverts of the energetic realm. Spaciousness is an invitational state into which the more subtle energies might nudge themselves forward. Be generous and keep it spacious. Speak slowly and allow listening to continue in between your words. When space is given, you might be amazed at what these more refined and quiet energies have to say.
Wait until your are moved. Resist any internal pressure to speak. Following energy means just that, you are following something and allowing it to lead you. You do not need to be afraid of long silences, unlike in social conversation. In fact, practicing trust in this mediative container will likely strengthen your empowered silence muscle to allow more generative spaces to arise within more typical social interactions.
Lean into authenticity. Phew. This a big one. In familiar, habitual social interactions saying what you authentically feel can seem taboo. Either we censor ourselves, our the culture does it for us. However, I urge you to consider the space you are creating together as a community in a special way. Understand that in the meditative listening space we are following energy. We are listening with awareness and reporting what we observe. It is the epitome of "owning" our experience, and it is not the same as expressing an opinion. If the intention of listening and respecting what we hear is approached with commitment, the exchanges are often extraordinarily enlivening.
I have experienced irritation and anger being reported and watched a deeply nourishing exchange ensue. I have also experienced extremely "kind and nice" body meditation circles and observed the energy wither away into deadness. I have one particular memory of a meditation call where everyone was sitting in silence, and for an unknown reason to me, I began to feel aggression. It was a tight, vibrating sensation in my chest. I reported this simply, "I am noticing this tight, vibration in my chest and it feels like aggression." I was baffled, because I had not felt this sensation before getting on to the call. One of the participants, who is a very kind woman, expressed amazement, because it was what she had been struggling with that day, but she was also not inclined to mention it on the call. (The censor had prevailed!) What followed was a powerful energetic exploration of aggression that could have never happened in a chat over tea. Or at a silent meditation retreat for that matter.
There is much more to share about our communal body broadcasts, but for now, this a good beginning. Good luck and please contact me if you need further support. I would love hear any "reports" from the field, if you happen to jump in and try this in your community.
To easily create a global body meditation virtual circle, try www.freeconferencecall.com. You will be given a call-in number with a passcode that everyone can use. These call-in numbers will belong to your group permanently.