There is a story of a woman who went to visit the Buddha. Upon meeting him, she asked “I’ve been meditating every day, I sit alone under a tree for hours. Lately, I cannot find my purpose. I feel lost and lonely all the time. What should I do?”

To this, the Buddha said, “Go home and meditate in the same space that you have, this time however, focus with the knowledge that every member of your family, your friends, everyone you hold near to you, will eventually die.”

The woman found that her true meaning was rooted in love for those around her—that in recognizing the delicate nature of life, she was better able to connect with her own heart and the love of others.

We are a people meant for connection. Studies consistently show social isolation as one of the most damaging physiological and psychological experiences that a person can have.

Conversely, when surrounded by supportive people, our bodies reward us with increased immunity, strength, and resilience (and even weight loss!). Meditation, itself, is helpful but a meditation community of like-minded individuals can have fundamentally transformative effects on us.

Some people are hesitant to join in a practice of shared spirituality. It can seem threatening and scary or even just esoteric and new-agey. Finding a secular community is often the most comfortable place for people who are hesitant. In the case of MindSpace, gatherings are completely secular, grounded in simple meditation, but borrow some of the activities from other spiritual communities and allow people to connect in a safe and supportive manner.

Still, when our faith or beliefs get made public, there is a certain vulnerability that exists. We are sharing something deeply personal and exposing it to the scrutiny of others. This is okay; opening up in a community can be the first step at regaining trust in yourself and others.

A mindfulness community can present us with an enormous opportunity for healing and growth. It can allow us to form connections with like-minded people, to support a healthy lifestyle (difficult in modern urban life), to challenge our ideas and beliefs, to learn, and to find refuge in times of need. Within the context of mindfulness, community is a way of supporting our practice and keeping a sense of aliveness and vibrancy to the work that we are doing. This practice of meditation challenges us to open our hearts in new ways. Finding healing partners within the community gives us that very opportunity to explore the further bounds of our hearts. MindSpace is creating this very type of community.

It is said that meditation is practice for the rest of our day. In much the same way, mindfulness community is practice for our inhabitance in greater society. Or, at the very least, a mindfulness community encourages us to not check our cell phones in the middle of a meditation.

Timothy Eden, MSW is a Clinical Social Worker, Assistant to the Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, and a graduate of the Tulane School of Social Work.