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Release the Amateurs!

One way to deepen a meditation practice is to share it. I don’t mean tell someone about it. I mean guide them.

We may panic at the thought. Get up in our heads, wonder if we’re doing it right, imagine we’re not worthy, as though guiding meditation were an esoteric mystery that required years of yogic cave-dwelling: “Only once I have purified the golden reaches of my True Self and defeated the demons of Mara can I come down from this mountain and share my wisdom with regular mortals.”

But you don’t need to be an expert meditation teacher to share a simple practice, any more than you need to be an expert cook to show someone how to boil an egg.

“In a light way, pay attention to X. If your mind wanders, come back.”

Most of the skill involved in guiding this instruction is not the skill of an expert, although an expert will also possess it. It is simply the skill of being present.

I host workshops and retreats that empower people to invent and share practice. I’m always moved by the personality and originality of what emerges. In groups of two or three, people take turns guiding each other in simple ten-minute practices.

At a past workshop, one fellow told his group to imagine sucking a lemon – making the full lemon sucking face – and then to relax. Back and forth they’d go: lemon face! relax, lemon face! relax. It was hilarious, and weirdly cathartic, and, yes, it was a practice. Another woman got people to wind a string very slowly around each of their fingers, honing their concentration and the delicacy of their attention. Some guides used physical movement, others art supplies, and still others used dialogue and interaction. All the practices were unique and personal and not easy to capture in words.

When we understand the core skills of practice, we can reconfigure meditation any number of different ways, across any number of different forms.

Practice is the ultimate creative medium, for it works directly on our in-the-moment experience of reality. Some practices involve a lot of shaping instruction. Others very little. Every practice is a mystery, in the sense that you never know how it will land, and it is never about you. Understanding how it is not about you is the guide’s primary learning!

For myself, sitting in the middle of the room, watching people take turns caring for each other in their own individual ways … I get choked up. I think: this is the democratization of mental health, right here.

Many people feel moved when they guide. The trust, the sense of responsibility and care – it’s humbling. This experience often ends up helping the guide as much as the person being guided. Giving is getting.

Separation falls away.

At this point, I can’t even tell where the creativity ends, and the healing begins. It’s like a wave around the room, a wave around the world. Each new guide a lineage in waiting.

Does this mean we don’t need experienced teachers?

Not at all. As we navigate specific challenges and techniques and traditions, we need them more than ever. Thank you teachers, thank you certification programs – we want more of you. We want all levels of professional. And, when it comes to connection and love and the capacity to be present with each other, we want everyone else too.

Healing and growth, self-regulation and self-understanding — these are too idiosyncratic, too personal, too fundamental to depend on specialists-only. We also need to depend on ourselves and one another.

In my mind, nothing will accelerate this more than recasting “teaching” as a creative social activity that any informed person can engage in.

Release the amateurs!

Reposted with permission from jeffwarren.org.