One of the downsides of shared meditation – especially if you’re also sharing feedback of your experiences, is the pressure to have something important happen. In guided group pathworkings, and other guided visualisations the effect of being in a group can tend us towards wanting meaning and potent symbols. If the person next to you found the Holy Grail on their pathworking, if a wild boar came to them as their animal guide in a shamanic trance, if they saw their dead grandmother who said something important sounding… it’s not easy to sit there and say that nothing much happened to you.
All meditation work comes out of the mind – both the conscious and unconscious parts of it. If a group develops a culture of powerful, meaningful symbols, the odds are good that everyone will fall in naturally with that. If your meditation circle gets messages from angels, you will learn to talk to yourself with the faces and voices of angels. If it’s all about the Stone Age village, you’ll see the Stone Age village. If everyone else seems to be getting scenes from the tarot, you’ll get scenes from the tarot. There’s nothing wrong with this – the same thing happens (by all accounts) in dream sharing circles and psychotherapy. Humans have urges towards finding common language. What is language, in fact, but the deploying of shared symbols?
The trouble with everything being big, important and meaningful is that it is exhausting. Big meanings call for actions, for change, for re-envisioning your life. It’s a good thing to do – I would say it’s a good thing to do at reasonably regular intervals. But every week? That’s tiring. You can also suffer from inflation issues, because if you found the Holy Grail last week, what on earth can you find this week? And if you haven’t integrated that finding of the Holy Grail into your life in some meaningful way, that’s not any kind of comfortable. I know. That one happened to me. Years on, and I’m still profoundly uneasy about it. Like Parzival, I have seen the grail and had no bloody idea what to do about it, and am left to wander and be uncomfortable. Big dramatic symbols can as easily be a curse as a blessing.
These were not issues I was aware of back when writing Druidry and Meditation (I still think it holds up as a book, though). That’s the trouble with books – there’s always more to learn and more perspective to gain. These days the meditation circle I sit in does not talk much about personal experience. It’s taken me more than a year of doing that to notice what it changed for me. There can be a temptation to want to compete, when meditation sessions are shared. The desire to have a really profound experience so that you can tell everyone else about it. The longing for the best story. There’s always room for a bit of self importance or reassurance-seeking to sneak into any spiritual practice. In the absence of structured sharing, my inner performing seal no longer feels obliged to stick a ball on its nose and look charming. It makes meditation a more restful process for me. There was a glorious liberation in realising, this week, that if I sat there and nothing happened, that was totally fine.