“My mind spirals way less when I meditate with the group, even though none of you are actually “here”.”
My coworker sent me this message a few minutes after I finished leading our company’s weekly meditation call. As I sat at my desk in Brooklyn, and my coworker at hers in Seattle, I was blown away by her observation. I had experienced it too. Why would our minds be less likely to spiral into anxious depths when meditating with a group? This brief conversation became the catalyst for creating the first live group meditation app, Tap In. By offering a single, 10-minute, live meditation every day, we get people to sit together in a community.
As a digital designer, I’m all too familiar with the internet’s ability to connect us intimately. And as a Reiki and Akashic Record practitioner, I’ve learned that energy can indeed be felt—just like touch—without actual contact, or even proximity. But after 7 months of incubation, and two weeks post-launch, I am still entranced by this question—what is it that happens when we meditate in a group? And does it have a resonant effect on those in the group, and the environment around us?
I began looking for answers in my own experiences, and in my energy practice of Reiki. On a human level, we are creatures that have long belonged to tribes, largely as a survival mechanism. In the Chakra system, our first chakra, our ‘root’, is symbolically concerned with this very “belongingness.” Our emotional and spiritual bodies have shown that connecting and identifying with a tribe, family, or community is essential to our evolution as an individual. To sit together means finding kin. Do our spiritual bodies permit us to reach a more potent state of calm or self-exploration simply because we identify with our fellow meditators, all grounded by the same peaceful intent?
In one of Tap In’s recent sessions, one of our teachers, Chanel Durley, brought attention to the beauty in the very act of gathering together, and experiencing together. “There is a beauty in knowing there is no way to recreate this very moment, this moment in utmost self-care, with the very same people.” And it’s true, there is something “special” about a bunch of strangers gathering together in the midst of their busy days and holding space for each other to find calm, or joy.
But I still question, is our cognition really registering the fact that we are sitting with others, especially when we can’t see them (like in our app)? Or is it more energetic, more molecular than simply “knowing” we are together.
I turned to science.
In the 17th century, Christiaan Huygens noticed that the pendulums of his two grandfather clocks unexpectedly and consistently synced up, swinging in unison. He called this the theory of entrainment — and it suggests that we are not entirely separate beings. We’ve seen this tendency among humans as well — ‘interpersonal synchrony’. When spending extended amounts of time together, couples, groups of people, and larger communities will sync up—from their mannerisms to their heart beat.
Although still speculation, we could say that this ability to sync up with another vibration of energy (let’s say a teacher’s vibration or a group vibration) begins to explain why my coworker was able to tap into a deeper meditative state. What we haven’t explained is how this phenomena works digitally. How do we become “entrained” with each other across oceans? And does that mean that all of the “elements” between us become “entrained” as well?
Since the early 80s, there have been over 500 studies across cities in the US and the Middle East, initiated by the Transcendental Meditation (TM) community, asking this very question: Does meditation have a resonant effect on the communities around it? Furthermore, can meditation bring world peace? Despite the controversy around the TM organization itself, the body of research has repeatedly shown that consistent group practice of TM meditation shows drastic reduction of conflict and suffering. Coined as the Maharishi Effect, it’s been observed that groups of people experiencing internal peace have an effect on their surroundings; making their environment more “fertile” to peace, or less “fertile” to violence.
We’ve now entered into a larger dialogue, and a general fascination which many of our great philosophers, physiologists, quantum physicists, religions, and healers have explored: is there a single unifying force that joins us all together? Jung’s collective unconsciousness, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphère, Hindu’s “all is one,” and Edgar Cayce’s akashic records all explore this phenomena.
With Tap In, we too are exploring this underlying force that unifies and impacts us — in a way that’s built for the 21st century. We humbly offer a free app that can help people of all practice levels learn meditation, and are thrilled by the idea of people coming together to do so. If we find that our users do indeed have a more powerful experience, we’ve reached our goal. If we are positively impacting the world around us, even better.
So, where do we land? Our experience, and research suggests that yes, group meditation, can facilitate a deeper tapping in to oneself, and causes a ripple effect of ‘peace’ to surrounding areas. The Reiki Master in me is on board, completely. The designer in me….Let’s say she is satisfied with landing on the following thought… for now at least: the power in group meditation, whether in person, or through an app, is its ability to remove our separateness, which seems to be at the heart of the meditation practice itself.
“… I have become convinced that even if we were to forget every other instruction about meditation, we could never go wrong if we would just remember that whatever we experience is part of one great field of light, of energy, of consciousness.”
— Sally Kempton, Meditation for the Love Of it