'Spooky action at a distance' was Einstein's dismissive comment in response to the notion of 'entanglement': the suggestion that, in the quantum world, objects at a distance appear to directly influence one another. Decades on, the case for entanglement has gathered ground. Could this be akin to the tangible quality of togetherness we can experience, meditating with others online? What might this mean for us, in this time of Covid-19, when online gatherings have largely taken the place of in-person?
It can be a struggle to keep a meditation practice going on our own, even when we are convinced of the benefits. Opportunities to practice with others provide a welcome boost, both to our motivation and our enjoyment. As each individual in the group progressively settles, 'arrives' and focuses, we can relax into an atmosphere of meditative qualities which seems to go beyond our individual efforts. As each person both contributes to - and benefits from - a growing ambiance of quiet absorption, we directly sense our part as both active and receptive participators in the group. While some may enjoy solitary practice, in my experience most people who wish to meditate regularly tend to seek out a supportive context in which they can practice and share experiences with others.
Although I had taught meditation for over 20 years and practiced for over 30 years, at the start of lock-down I had little experience of meditating with others online and was skeptical about how it would work. Surely one would lose that wonderful sense of togetherness?
Not so! I have been amazed by how connected one can feel as part of an online group. Especially at this time when there may be feelings of isolation and restriction in human contact, the spirit in which people reach out and connect with one another is palpable. The fact that, when we are meditating, we relax back away from the screen into a heightened sense of our immediate, physical experience, means that we experience much less 'Zoom fatigue' than we might in a work situation. I have discovered that I actually love attending and leading online meditation!
Here are a few positives that I have heard from others:
"It makes it possible for me to join the class, because I can do it from home"
"I'm amazed by how tangible that feeling of meditating with others is!"
"A surprising feeling of closeness in the break-out rooms"
"I like having the option to turn off my mic or video camera if I feel the need"
"I've moved away from the area but this enables me to reconnect with you folks"
"The practice feels more integrated and less separate from my day-to-day life"
"I can hear the guidance better - I just turn the volume up!"
Of course there are down-sides to meeting online. There is less scope for the everyday moments of connection we'd naturally experience as we arrive in a building with others, or take a seat next to someone. We may not so readily pick up on someone's body language, perhaps missing significant information. There is probably no substitute for meeting in person. But I'd like to celebrate that we can still experience the huge benefits of practicing together, without the current complexities of meeting in a building. Gratitude to the tech wizards who have made all this possible!