This morning was our second morning sit (thanks for your dedication, early birds!), and last night was our second evening sit (this is where I remind you that “Brownstone Enlightenment,” our weekly sitting meditation, is every Monday evening at 8pm and Tuesday morning at 7:30am; the first Monday of each month is geared specifically for beginners, and we meet at the lovely Brooklyn Zen Center).
The creation of the Jewish Meditation Center of Brooklyn grew out of a desire to have a neighborhood space for Jewish contemplative practice, to have a regular sitting group grounded in the practice and teachings that we have been doing on our own. There’s something so special and beautiful and inspiring about practicing together. It’s unique, I think, to find spiritual community. I know it happens constantly, and has happened throughout all time, but when you feel connected, through practice, through silence, through your own spiritual path, it doesn’t feel so commonplace. Maybe that’s the nature of it, it’s banal and mind-blowing at the same exact moment.
Sitting together, in silence, in a group allows each of us to evolve and grow into ourselves in ways that just are not possible when you are alone. Rabbi Alan Lew used to say that a benefit of sitting together in a group is that you’d be too humiliated to get up and stop practicing after 10 minutes, because you’re bored… that by feeling that your presence is a necessary part of everyone else’s practice, just by showing up, your own practice grows roots. Not wanting to let other’s down, recognizing our personal responsibility in supporting community, works. It makes sense, but Rabbi Lew and many other teachers also point out that it goes much deeper.
Practicing as a community reminds us that we are all connected. When you sit together, breathe together, fill a silent room together, there is a palpable exchange of something- spirit, energy, intention, aspirations. When we connect deeply in this way, we are also connecting to every other being- knowing and acknowledging that others’ suffering is our suffering, our happiness is everyone else’s happiness, too. Not feeling the isolation that goes along with being a person, or maybe, more importantly, sitting with it fully, without fear, and feeling it together, as a community.