Most people think meditation is a solitary activity, but there some mindfulness exercises that you can practice with another person. You can do these three meditations with a friend or in pairs with a large group.
Doing meditation exercises with another person really tests your ability to be present. It’s an increasingly lacking quality in today’s conversations, in which it’s normal to have your eyes glued to a smartphone or stop mid-sentence to pick up a call. In all of these exercises, you’ll notice very quickly if your focus is wandering and if you’re comfortable being present and open with the other person.
One note: at the end of any partner meditation exercise, say thank you. It’s a kind gesture as well as comforting closing ritual to any exercise.
Partner Meditation Exercise: Marina Abramovic Meditation
This is a meditation based on the performance art installation “The Artist is Present” by Marina Abramovic. The Serbian artist spent 8 hours a day for 65 days in a row staring into the eyes of strangers. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do this meditation that long!
1. Sit across from your partner
2. Set a timer for 20-30 minutes (or reduce the time to something you’re comfortable with)
3. Stare into the other person’s eyes. When you look into their eyes, try to be there for them, in the same way you would be if they were talking and you were listening.
4. When the timer goes off, discuss how you felt during the session.
Partner Meditation Exercise: I am aware
This is a mindfulness exercise used by Will Kabat-Zinn at the Medium.com office. It’s a great exercise for beginners and experienced meditators alike that hones in on the concept of being present.
1. Find a partner and sit across from them
2. Set a timer for 1-5 minutes
3. Alternate telling each other statements about what you are aware of around you: how you feel, what you see, hear or smell. You can say things such as, “I am aware of your blue eyes”, “I am aware of the man in a red shirt”, “I am aware of a tingling on my arm”, or “I am aware that I’m hungry.” The goal is to recognize and acknowledge something happening in the present moment. Make sure to start each sentence with “I am aware.”
An alternative option is for one person to say awareness statements for 1-3 minutes (with one person listening the whole time) and to then switch.
Partner Meditation Exercise: Share a mindful meal
Mindful eating is a technique that teaches you to pay attention to the food and drink that you’re putting into your body. The technique helps you slow down and relearn how to listen to your body’s natural hunger cues.
1. Ask a friend to go out for a mindful meal together.
2. Pick a healthy lunch spot where you’ll eat whole, healthy foods. Try to avoid greasy or processed foods.
3. During the meal, practice one or more of these techniques: put your fork down between each bite or chew your food 25 times. This will force you to eat more slowly.
4. Talk about what you notice about your food as you eat it: how does it taste, feel, smell. How do you feel before, as, and after you eat your food?
5. End the meal with a discussion around what you learned. Did you notice something about the meal that you hadn’t before? Did you eat more slowly? Did you feel more full, faster?