I am a sociologist by training. I love to think about culture, people, interactions, identity issues and patterns. Emile Durkheim, the famous French father of all things sociological, argued that one must treat ‘social facts as things’. These “facts” become the subject of study for sociologists. Further, Durkheim believed that collective phenomenon is not merely reducible to the individual actor. Society, he believed, is more than the sum of its many parts. It is a system formed by the association of individuals that come together to constitute a reality with its own distinctive characteristics. Let me think of an example: how about language? Language pre-exists our birth and it continues after our death. Perhaps some of us will have the honor of inventing some new recognizable slang (LOL, duh), however, most of us will go to our grave influencing language to a very limiting degree.
One of the many things I love about yoga and meditation is the feeling of community shared by the many practitioners of both. I love knowing that yoga long preceded my birth and will continue long after I am gone. I love knowing that practicing meditation will go on and on far into the future for my children and my children’s children. I love being a part of a community with shared values.
Like most sociologists, I believe that individual happiness depends on people finding a sense of meaning outside of themselves and connected to the larger society. Social integration is necessary for the maintenance of the social order. There is something so special about walking into a yoga studio and knowing that for one hour you will share a space with like minded people. There is something so profound about meditating with a friend and feeling the bliss of the shared experience. As any sociologist will confirm, we know ourselves through the mutually shared values, habits, routines and patterns of our culture. Building community at the yoga studio or meditation center sends a great message to the culture at large. It confirms the value of taking care of yourself and reminds you of the many people who hope to build a more peaceful, loving, health conscious society.