Group Mind

locals regularly meditate together

Jessica Amaris

COMMUNAL INSPIRATION. Participants in the Eau Claire Buddhist Sangha, shown here in 2010, meditate together every week at the Yoga Center of Eau Claire.
COMMUNAL INSPIRATION. Participants in the Eau Claire Buddhist Sangha, shown here in 2010, meditate together every week at the Yoga Center of Eau Claire.

Sometimes the best way to escape the chaos in your mind is to get inside your head. For more than 10 years, the Eau Claire Buddhist Sangha, a local meditation group, has been inviting community members to join in their free meditation class, held once a week at the Yoga Center of Eau Claire (2524 Golf Road, Eau Claire).

“Meditation gives you the tools to break out of that zombie-like mindset.” – Robin Brauner

Traditionally, meditation is a solo practice designed to teach an individual to become mindful of his or her internal wisdom and the world around. So it’s a little out of the norm for a group to practice together.

However, group participant Robin Brauner says group meditation actually holds many benefits for people struggling to silence their minds on their own – people (ahem!) like me.

“Sitting together is really supportive, especially when you’re all dedicated to the same thing, at the same time,” Brauner said. “You’re holding space for one another to meditate, and sharing that energy.”

The group class begins with individuals choosing a comfortable position on a chair or a cushion on the floor. Next, simple meditation instructions are given … close your eyes … breathe deep breaths … and find your center ... Shoot was that my phone ringing? Oh wait, we’re breathing! From there on, participants are silent and free to practice the meditation techniques that work best for them. 

“We’re a very eclectic group and there are so many different types of meditation,” Brauner said. “We’re all supporting each other through the general meditation practice, but each of us may be practicing different meditation techniques.”

We all have different personalities and traits that can lead to unhealthy patterns, Brauner explains. Whether it’s self-judgment for one person or anger for another, these behaviors have attached themselves to the individual in a certain way, transpiring into conditioning of that person’s character.

Brauner said meditation is a great way for individuals to get out of their “autopilot patterns” and acknowledge their conditioned habits.

“There are so many layers of conditioning that happen, and oftentimes we are blindly going through life trapped in this condition,” Brauner said. “Meditation gives you the tools to break out of that zombie-like mindset.”

Once the group has finished its half-hour of meditation, they conclude the class by reading from the dharma (teachings of the Buddha), and allow for an opportunity of group reflection. 

Though the Eau Claire Buddhist Sangha is technically a Buddhist-derived group, they welcome people from all walks of life and encourage those interested in pursuing meditation to join. (The class is free, but free-will offerings are accepted.)
“Meditation has really given me the tools, and the courage, to do the hard work that it takes to create positive change in life,” Brauner said. “I look at my own behaviors and patterning, and make the decision to be better.”

Donna Wagner Backus, co-owner of the Yoga Center of Eau Claire, said meditation – or mindfulness – is also a key component of other meditative practices, including yoga.

“The mindfulness helps you to be more aware of your body,” Wagner Backus said. “It helps you to be present in the moment, rather than thinking about what you have to get at the grocery store later, and that’s critical for self-awareness.”

Backus said all yoga classes begin with practicing three mindfulness steps: grounding, a relaxed mouth and a full commitment exhale. Each step allows the individual to become more aware of his or her body and therefore more mindful of his or her internal thoughts and body.

“As you learn mindfulness and practice it in class, it starts to become a part of your daily life,” Backus said. “People who live hectic lives really need that grounding, and mindful meditation practice can help with being present in all life situations.”

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