The past few weeks I’ve had the great fortune of leading visitors to Satchidananda Ashram Yogaville in guided meditation.
Here are a few things I’ve learned:
- God help us if the ego gets involved! The ego loves attention, the spiritual ego loves taking credit for leading people in spiritual practices like meditation, hatha yoga, spiritual study, group sharing, etc. It is important to be vigilant and ensure the ego relaxes and surrenders its attachments and aversions to God. To protect against the ego taking over and feeling puffed up, the key is to offer up the entire practice in service to God, Humanity, All of Life – whatever resonates. As long as the intention is pure and there is a sense of a higher dedication and devotion – it is like we are handing the reins of our chariot over to God, opening ourselves to serve as channels for Divine Love, rather than trying to be that love ourselves. As best we can, no matter what we’re doing or however we’re serving, if we can acknowledge that all of the Power is God’s and that we are here to simple be servants of God, then we’ve already taken great steps to ensuring successful, humble, ego-free service where true peace and joy can flourish.
- A short introduction to meditation and the nature of the mind is valuable, but saying too much is just another opportunity for the ego to slip in. With our words, we don’t need to sell our students on anything. We can gently plant a simple seed, but then the sprouting of the seed and the direct experience of Reality comes to them during the meditation, not through the words. Saying less is valuable and demonstrates a trust in the process. Meditation, after all, is about the direct experience – not intellectual learning via listening to a teacher. So, allow the experience to teach as it is meant to be 🙂
- It is much easier to lead a guided meditation or offer teachings with which you are directly familiar with. If you are not “practicing what you are preaching” then that will reveal itself through the teaching, one way or another. If you have practiced and directly experienced the benefits of whatever you are offering, then that sincerity and earnestness will come through in the teaching, and all the students will benefit from it. Especially with a highly conscious practice like meditation, students are present and can feel the presence of sincerity or not. When you teach with a sincere energy and from your own direct experience, you inspire on many levels and gain the trust of your students.
- When both a regular meditation and a guided meditation are offered, it is safe to say that those who choose the guided meditation have a sense of curiosity about the meditative process and are likely newer to meditation. With the understanding that they are closer to beginners than advanced practitioners, it is valuable to guide the students through several different techniques in a 30 minute period, offering around 5 minutes of silence to practice with each technique. An ideal outcome for the guided meditation is that the student leaves with a technique/spiritual tool that they feel inspired to use on a daily basis – so the more you present them with a variety of tools and an opportunity to practice – the better. If, instead you only offer one technique over a span of 30 minutes, there is a chance the student doesn’t connect with that technique at all and develops an aversion to meditation overall. Better for the teacher to share a variety of practices in a respectful way, hoping that one of the techniques resonates deeply with the student and inspires them to practice and inquire more about meditation.
- This is more of a general comment, but it is good to be on the same energy level of the students. This will help tune the teacher with the students and protect against a superiority or inferiority. As an example, the meditation this morning began at 6:40, and I woke up around 5:45, meditated for 15 minutes, drank a cup of peppermint water, and walked over to the ashram. I had a pretty simple morning ritual before leading the meditation. I could have done some pride-inflating morning ritual like waking up at 5 AM, practicing 30 minutes of stretching and hatha yoga, 30 minutes meditation, even eat some fruit and drink some tea, and then lead the meditation, but that would have created oceans between me and the students. It is valuable to be aware of the energy and recent activity of the students. If the students are just waking up and arriving at guided meditation, chances are their minds are already relatively calm since they haven’t been over-stimulated, and less introduction is necessary. In contrast, if the meditation is at 6 pm and they just drove 4 hours to arrive at the ashram, the students would likely benefit more from a centering process and formal introduction to the practice. So, by all means – meet the students where they are at! The Buddhist word for this is upaya: skillful means.
- Remind yourself that you’re not doing anything. You are just a channel for the teachings. Stay humble. Remember and trust in God. Don’t be attached to the students experience or your own experience – know that whatever happens is God’s Will and for the Best. Trust completely. From this place of total trust, you can relax deeply and allow the Divine Love to flow freely and effortlessly. Be totally present with the ever-present Love of God and fear nothing. If nothing else, take refuge in the purity of your intention – to love and to serve – and know that you are doing the best you can – and in doing the best you can – there is nothing more for you to do. So, just relax 🙂
- Whatever you’re about to teach, be it meditation or something else, be familiar if not in a state of mastery with the material. You want to appear well-prepared and professional so that the students trust you. Rest well, dress well, study, practice, and perform. Prior to leading the meditations this weekend, I regularly listened to audio clips on the practice of meditation as well as read for several hours from various books on the topics of meditation. Even though much of what I absorbed was not shared directly, the energy of that commitment to leading the meditation came through in the teaching. Steeping the consciousness in the teachings builds confidence and also affirms that one is truly aligned with the teaching being offered.
- As much as studying the material is valuable, and practicing delivering the material is valuable, the most valuable aspect is living the teachings oneself; in this case, meaning – practicing meditation! Whatever there is to teach, first, live it. Living it is the primary way we teach.
- Arrive early and go within. Set an example right from the beginning about what meditation looks and feels like. Even if they don’t directly feel what you are feeling when you meditate, you can know that your consciousness radiates and on a subtle level they can know what you’re experiencing. Ultimately, none of it is about you anyway. You are not doing anything, anyway. All the Power is God’s and it is all for fun. 🙂
Gloria in Excelsis Deo!