Teaching Nothing

A couple of months ago, I met a man who runs an executive recruitment agency and on the side  occasionally teaches meditation. Since I've recently considered teaching people how to meditate, he was delighted to give me a few pointers which I promptly disregarded.

First of all, you must write yourself a script. If you're going to lead people through a guided meditation, it's very important you know exactly what you're going to say, that you never stumble over a word, that you don't forget to tell them something important.

Nah, that won't work for me.

He looked horrified. 

In order to transport people to another level of consciousness, your delivery must be flawless.

Another level of consciousness? Tall order, buddy. (If there's such a thing as a good pun, this was it.)

After all, he explained, I've found enlightenment three times.  

Whoa. Who'd want that brand of pain? I'm being flip, but if you don't think enlightenment comes with a big price tag, you're being naive. I did not say this out loud. I may not be enlightened, but I am polite.

What makes you think you can teach people to meditate?

 I teach an essay writing class and my students seem to enjoy it. And I've taught  meditation to a few people here and there. They've been pleased, even surprised.

What exactly do you do? 

I explain diaphragmatic breathing. We take some deep breaths, then sit in a comfortable position, backs supported. I ask them to relax all parts of their body-- eyes, ears, mouth, head, neck, belly, arms, legs and then to imagine an empty colorless spaceless space in their chest and draw their thoughts to that void as if there were a magnet. Use a mantra to help the thoughts float away. Most important, I encourage  them to treat themselves as they would a small child. Say: it's okay. You can do it. Try again. 

And here's my idea. I could do a meditation workshop where the participants keep a journal to record their challenges and accomplishments. They'll share with each other. Learning to meditate is simple, but it's important to have support to keep at it.

So.... what types of meditation have you studied? 

None, although I have been meditating for three years and it has profoundly changed my life.

 What do you think qualifies you to teach?

I paused, but not for long.

Meditation is not about competition or achievement. When I meditate, I can get my mind to go blank for a second or two. Then I sit in stillness for a moment with nothing. 

I have never attained a state of enlightenment.  Nothing qualifies me. In fact, I am as anxious and stressed out and nervous as anyone. But I have an ability to remain nonreactive when it counts and I think I may someday find a way to accept the chaos around me in a constructive way. This is optimistic and optimism is something that does not come to me naturally.

So, what qualifies me to teach? Nothing. Exactly nothing.

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