Two people holding left hands

Photo By National Cancer Institute

So much has been written around how mindfulness practice helps us cope: how we learn to use our attention more wisely, accept things more fully, and become more resilient under stress. This is all true and a wonderful thing.  When I practice and lead others in practice I often feel a sense of awe that something so simple can have such amazing properties.

Then yesterday as I was leading a session of Mindful Self-Compassion I realized something else about practicing mindfulness together: it can also bring a deep sense of comfort – especially when practicing with others.

Sometimes more resilience and tools and resources aren’t what we need. Sometimes we’re just bottomed out. It feels like we have nothing left to give: nothing left to give others and nothing left to give ourselves.

But even when we’re upset and overwhelmed, grieving for ourselves, for our world, I saw that it’s possible to show up and sit together. To show up and breathe together. To show up and feel what we’re feeling, even if it can be very difficult – so very difficult.

Word 'Together' on splash paint

Photo by Ads Goldstein

One of the people in my online session named that she’d almost skipped class after a very difficult day. But she thought of our classroom community and the way she’d felt after previous sessions and thought to herself, “Well, why not? I could always log out again. Maybe it’ll help.”

And then someone else named the very difficult days she’d had since the Supreme Court ruling and how she too had barely made it to class. How much she’d been struggling, raging, upset.

And so we talked a little about the practice of being present in whatever this is, even when it’s not what you want, even when it feels like it shouldn’t be happening, even when there’s a part of us that truly wants to hide or rage or refuse to accept it. And yet it’s possible for us people – ordinary people – to do something else: to show up and be present together.

Man holding 4 cutout people

Photo by Aaron Burden

What I felt most deeply that evening was comforted. We’re in this together. We don’t agree on all of the particulars of how this or that should go. We come from a diversity of backgrounds and values. And yet, to our great benefit, we’re in this together. I could feel the comfort of this deep kind of connectedness that comes from practicing together.
When we did another practice later, we reflected on ways we can learn and grow from stressful and difficult experiences.  I invited everyone to share a little about what they’ve learned from past times of suffering and challenge. What people shared had a strong common theme expressed in several different ways: “I learned that I matter; I learned that it’s okay to focus more on taking care of myself; I learned that new possibilities open up when I see how stuck I was in the old ways of being.”

This last reflection of the evening is certainly one any of us could have done on our own. But I don’t think we would have seen as clearly without the support of the others even though we were each sitting quietly, each in our own inner space, as I led the exploration. Our togetherness mattered.

And then I realized that practicing together brings a second treasure forward: insight. Seeing our lives and our world in new ways.

Comfort and insight from practicing mindfulness together.

May we all meet whatever’s coming next, together. Let’s take comfort in our connection, noticing the insight and clarity that arise even when things are at their darkest.

Do take care,



Two children walking away down a path

Photo by Annie Spratt

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