Meditating Together – Virtually


Over the past year we have seen an increase in the number of community-led events that have connected passage meditators from around the world and created spaces in which they can deepen their practice. One great example from earlier this year is the New Year’s Mantram Relay for Peace

We’re pleased to highlight another community-led event: weekly virtual meditations. Each Saturday, passage meditators from around the world use a video platform to spend 40 minutes together – 30 minutes of passage meditation and then closing with a brief spiritual reading to get inspiration from Easwaran. Read on to see what Easwaran wrote on the importance of meditating together, find out about the experience of participants, and learn how you can join in if you’re interested!

The Need for Sustained Enthusiasm 

Easwaran has written many times about the need for sustained enthusiasm, especially over the long haul as passage meditators continue to practice day after day, year after year. In the first chapter of Passage Meditation he says plainly, “It helps to know at the outset that you will be running a marathon in this program, not simply jogging once or twice around a track.”

Knowing that we’re in for a marathon, it’s helpful to have many different ways in which we can keep our enthusiasm strong. We’ve heard from our friends over the years that one of the most effective ways is to meditate with others on a regular basis.

Here’s an excerpt from Easwaran from his book, Like a Thousand Suns: The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living Vol. 2:

Many years ago I was taken to the library of someone who had collected almost all the books ever published on meditation in any language. I had never seen so many books on meditation in my life, and I told my host, “You must meditate regularly.”

He coughed apologetically. “Actually,” he explained, “what with all these books to study, I don’t have time for meditation.” Then he asked politely, “You must be familiar with most of these titles?”

I, too, coughed apologetically. “No,” I said, “I don’t have time to read many books on meditation. I use the time to meditate.”

It is not enough to read about meditation, or talk about meditation, or do research on meditation; if you want Self-realization, you have to learn to meditate. And there is only one way to learn to meditate – through trying to meditate. Wasn’t there someone who said he would never get into water unless he had learned to swim?

Meditation is often presented as a pleasant experience in which you hear birds singing and see flowers blooming while you float along in a wonderland. Actually, floating in a wonderland is just the opposite of meditation. In order to learn to meditate, you have to put in a great deal of work. For a month or two the person who has just taken to meditation will tell you all about how grand it is. But it is only fair to point out that, once you really get started, this initial surge of enthusiasm is going to wane. To guard against such ups and downs, I would make several suggestions. 

First, it is very helpful to meditate with others. A group of friends meditating along the same lines can meditate together and draw support from one another. As Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am present in the midst of them.”

Meditate With Others 

This need to meditate with others for sustained enthusiasm is so central that it led to the formation of the BMCM Satsang (fellowship) groups, some of which have been meeting and meditating together for decades.

It’s a treat to meditate with others, but many passage meditators don’t have a local satsang, and if they do they usually meet just once a week. The yearning to meditate with others has been growing in the passage meditation community, and members of the BMCM Living & Learning Facebook Group began to wonder – what would it be like to meditate together virtually?

In October 2017 the group held its first experiment, using video software to meditate together. It’s been such a success that the group meditation now occurs every week on Saturday morning. There are usually around 15 attendees from all over the world.

Each session begins with someone reading a passage from God Makes the Rivers to Flow followed by 30 minutes of passage meditation, and ends with someone reading Easwaran’s Thought for the Day from his book Words to Live By. Even though many of these participants haven’t ever met in person, it’s been inspiring to hear how they’ve felt they’ve grown closer through these sessions and how it’s helped their practice. 

“It Helps to Keep Me Motivated” 

Here are some reflections from participants in the virtual meditations:

From Myron in California:

Meditation with others is one of the joys of practice. All of us know how hard it is to keep up the daily, routine practice of meditation; it is that way because it is very hard to bring our selfishness and self-will to heel. Teresa of Avila, one of Easwaran's favorite mystics, explains this beautifully: "I would counsel those who practice prayer to seek friendship and association with other persons having the same interest. This is important even though the association may be to help one another with prayers...  The more of these prayers there are, the greater the gain." Sitting with others one morning a week allows me to know others are trying their best also, keeping up with the daily routine of meditation. Our gathering together in a group to support each other, to see friendly faces, and then to spend that half an hour meditating gives me strength and courage for my own practice for the coming week.

Myron's meditation nook.

 From Lucy in the UK:

I am quite new to the virtual meditation group but I am enjoying it. I joined up after doing a six-week online Passage Meditation course. I had really enjoyed the sense of community while doing the course, and I was glad to find a way to continue that a bit with the virtual meditation group.  

There is something lovely about meditation with the group, and I am getting to know the faces and names of the other guys – they've been very welcoming. It helps to keep me motivated to go on with my daily practice. It's helpful to see there are other people making the effort to meditate every day.

Because 6.30am Pacific Time is mid-afternoon in the UK, it is my second slot for meditation in the day, and I find that interesting. It feels different to meditating first thing in the morning - although sometimes after a busy morning I get quite close to falling asleep...  

From Bob in Indiana:

Having meditated with various in-person groups for nearly 30 years, I was intrigued when I learned about the online version being started by the Blue Mountain community. I know the many benefits of sitting regularly with a group and yet wondered whether the same could be generated online.

The answer is yes. I experience a genuine intimacy, a growing bond and that all-so-important motivation to keep returning week after week.

Having a group to meditate with deepens my practice and my commitment to the eight-point program in a world that is so often at odds with and yet so in need of those values. 

Bob and a rescued friend.

 From Elizabeth in Colorado:

I normally use an app on my phone which shows me who is meditating at the same time as me, but there is something extra special in the Virtual Meditation about being able to see everyone “in real time” (not just a picture) before we begin meditating. There also is something special about having the whole group begin and end meditation together at the same time. I enjoy seeing some familiar faces from retreats, and also meeting fellow passage meditators who are new to me. I really like the ritual of having someone read from a passage before we meditate together, and someone else read from Words to Live By after we are done. It helps bring more different passages into my awareness, and it is lovely to hear how different people read. I also find that I have more motivation to sit still (keep from fidgeting) during our Virtual Meditation than I do when I’m meditating on my own.

Elizabeth enjoying Colorado's outdoors.

From Susan in Victoria, B.C., Canada:

As someone who meditates alone except in Tuesday night satsangs, this virtual meditation group weaves me deeper into the world-wide BMCM community in a gratifying way.

Greetings from the Saturday virtual meditation group.

Creating Enthusiasm

This virtual meditation is just one of the many ways in which passage meditators are creatively finding ways to meditate together. We’re eager to hear about your experiences meditating with other passage meditators – how have you found ways to connect? Don’t hesitate to share your experiences with us in the comments below.

If you’re interested in finding out more or joining this and other community-led events, we invite you to join the Facebook Group BMCM Living & Learning which serves as the hub for communication.

BMCM Living & Learning Facebook Group

Of course, another way to keep our enthusiasm high is to continue to read Easwaran, so we’ll end with this quote from him:

Meditation is the basis of a life of splendid health, untiring energy, unfailing love, and abiding wisdom. It is the very foundation of that deep inner peace for which every one of us longs. No human being can ever find lasting satisfaction in money or success or prestige or anything else the world can offer. What we are really searching for is not something that satisfies us temporarily, but a permanent state of joy.