It is worth saying, that no amount of awakening will remove all human suffering or replace the need to be seen, loved and respected by your fellow humans.
I’ve seen this misunderstanding (and sometimes misrepresentation) of spirituality lead to confusion and disappointment for those following the path. Maintaining this illusion can lead to abuse by people in positions of power.
It is also worth saying that the conditions of people’s lives aren’t entirely within their control – there are plenty of factors like systemic oppression, poverty and personal challenges – that will make it more difficult or impossible for individuals to cultivate the space for gaining the benefits of practice in their life.
Sometimes what is needed most is practical support or just the acknowledgement that life can be really hard.
It is also worth pointing out that you can be especially incompatible to silent meditation if you have trauma, if you are sensitive, if you feel things very deeply or if you are someone with a lot of life force in you.
In the house I grew up in, ‘sensitive’ was pretty much the worse thing you could call someone. It has a lot of negative valence attached to it in our culture, but if you can create the right conditions for it, sensitivity is actually a huge gift that allows you to pick up on subtle forms of beauty, magic and connection in life.
My general approach to suffering in practice is that the way out of it is through. It is not through trying to bypass or short-circuit our systems that we are going to reduce our suffering, but by showing up and facing our pain and difficulties with a deep sense of embodied compassion that we are then able to integrate that part of our being and let go of resistance to experience as it is.
Approaching practice with a sense of fierce love – being compassionate towards ourselves but not being afraid to face our stuff and do the hard work – is basically the best thing you can do for your practice and life.
It’s also important to be up front about the risks and potential benefits of practice so that people know what they are getting into.
All of my guides come from a place of approaching practice with a radical sense of compassion – a combination of respect for our body wisdom and deep care for our wellbeing. This minimises the risk of practice going wildly out of control, as we are listening to the queues within us, like fear, and respecting our body’s natural limitations, but it doesn’t completely extinguish it.
Sometimes practice gets out of control and causes difficulties that we have trouble moving past. If this happens for you, try to approach this with a sense of compassion too – acknowledging how painful and difficult it can be – and reach out for help where you can.
One of the things I am passionate about is shared practice.
It becomes infinitely easier to open to new aspects of experience and accept ourselves when other people are modelling this to us.
When we are in an environment where we are allowed or even encouraged to access the parts of ourselves that are normally hidden, doorways can effortlessly slide open for us that we could have spent our entire lives banging our heads against.
Having fun practicing together is also part of the joy of life and there’s no way of separating ourselves off from the rest of the world. If we only practice by isolating ourselves off from other people, the second we go back into the world our practice is no longer relevant.
Creating spaces where we can practice together will help us connect with each other in a more authentic way and make space for people to express their true selves in, which is ultimately how we all get home.
With this in mind I have created a separate part of the website with some tools for facilitating shared practice. You can find that here.