Teaching Spiritual Practice
If the objective is to bring about balance and opening of the parts of people that are oppressed or shut down, there are different ways to achieve this.
One is that you can pick a practice that has worked for you, by opening something in you, and share the information required for people to be able to replicate this.
If it is simple and easy enough for people to understand, this has the benefits of being able to reach a lot of people really fast.
The disbenefits are that if it was really that easy – just a piece of information that people were missing – people probably would have already solved that.
The reality is that people need to understand and connect with themselves better and this is a delicate topic that requires a huge amount of care, refinement, patience, humility and grace to facilitate.
Ideally, you want to be able to meet people where they are, sense where there might be an imbalance and creatively offer a way for them to open up to a new way of being. Either by working with individuals, through sharing your own story in a way that might resonate, giving people explicit options or through offering relevant practices to a group.
This will only work if people trust you and feel safe with you – people won’t go out of their comfort zone in an environment that already doesn’t feel safe to them.
Large Goenka style retreats work by creating a very structured environment that is designed to invite a certain aspect of people’s being into it and helps people change the way they relate to that aspect. It works for some people, some people aren’t welcome in the environment and some people it affects very negatively.
One of the issues of focusing in so tightly on one aspect of experience, is that if a different part of someone’s experience starts opening up or coming out, the space suddenly becomes an unsafe and unwelcoming place for that person to be, which can be unproductive or unpleasant at best and catastrophic at worst.
The style of teaching that I most enjoy is the absolute opposite end of the spectrum to this. It is about welcoming the whole of a person or group of people and feeling in to the specifics of what wants to be brought back into balance with each individual or in the group dynamic.
The more you want your teaching to be like the latter, the more you have to truly embody what it is you are teaching. It can’t be things you have learned intellectually it must be something that you have integrated into who you are through all the different aspects of your being so that your behaviour, emotional responses and ideas all feel aligned around what it is you are communicating to someone.
When you are in an open state yourself and the practice is being taught from a joyful, friendly, compassionate and inclusive space then people will feel that and be more likely to be able to relax into it, to enjoy the practice and make positive changes really fast.