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You are about to embark on sharing the teaching of meditation with others. This booklet offers you resources for this, drawn from many people's experience of introducing meditation in the Christian tradition. You will also become more aware of what our Community is called to be.
Every great teacher leaves a school behind him or her and as Christians we are in the School of Christ, learning to put on Christ as St Paul said. St Benedict left his Rule to Christians in all walks of life and called the monastery a school of the Lord's service.
John Main is the founder of a school within the greater context of the School of Christ and of Christian Prayer. Through his inspiration many find a way to get back to the essentials of the Christian experience, to the prayer of the heart, to the experience of Christ within, to the indwelling Spirit. John Main knew as well as anyone that the teaching of meditation is ‘caught’ rather than ‘taught’ and yet he warmly encouraged people to work hard to pass it on, to teach it, to share it with others, whether in small groups, one-to-one, or just by their silent example. He understood very clearly that it is a personal communication and that each of us meditates because at some point in our life we had this gift communicated to us personally. Like any gift from the Spirit it demands to be shared.
Learning is always about learning to learn and in a spiritual school, above all, the teachers are students and the students are teachers. Ideal teachers are people who have enough humility, enough past experience, enough knowledge and learning to be able to go into a situation and really be open to the present moment. With any group you are with you are in a quite unique relationship. Whether you are giving a talk for an evening or for a day, you are in a very close relationship with your audience. They are listening to you and it may be a bit frightening, it may make you nervous, but you can turn that nervousness to your advantage by showing it to the audience, not trying to hide it, and finding in that weakness the sense of the Spirit. You will learn something from this experience of vulnerability. It is, to some degree, like going on stage. An actor who is going to play Hamlet six nights a week, probably feels he knows the lines but at the same time, his performance will be quite different each night, a different audience, a different place perhaps, etc. The play that he is performing has infinite meaning and ramifications that one can always learn from. But we are not acting or reading someone else's lines, in fact. We are being ourselves and speaking from our own experience within a tradition and a community.
The other thing is that if you can do that, if you can approach it in this way, (with enough preparation but also with enough spontaneity and risk) then the teaching is really enriching to you. Somehow you yourself are taught something each time. It may be something you are saying that you didn't know you knew or connection that you are making, an insight of something from Scripture. It may be a question that someone raises or just the uniqueness of that group somehow incarnates an aspect of mystery that you haven't been conscious of before.
It is important to see that the giving of the talk is a very creative work, very prayerful, a very real experience of the presence of Christ in and among all the people.
Introducing meditation to an audience of strangers takes a leap of faith; every single time we do it. As a teacher, you will find that there is no easy way through it. It takes a lot of preparation and more than a little confidence. It is always a leap of faith. If you can approach it in that way every time you give a teaching, you grow. Every act of faith deepens your own faith.
By now, you must have asked yourself why you want to teach meditation. You should want to do it. It should be something you have a hunger to do. But you should also have a healthy insecurity about it. You should want to do it but, at the same time, you should not be over-confident. On the other hand, you shouldn't feel that you don't know enough, either. There is a lot of faith, a little bit of experience, and then they cross over. You are then not quite sure, which is the faith and which is the experience. You just know that this is something you must do.
Every time that you make that leap of faith in sharing the teaching you deepen your own understanding of it. Think of it every time as a moment of innocence with the group you are with. It is certainly a moment of equality. You are with them; they are with you. There are moments in life like this: birth and death, marriages and vows of commitment, where we somehow touch in together as human beings to a primal innocence. This is what sharing a spiritual path is like. This School experience that you are about to undertake will help you to travel further along your spiritual path. Approach the School with joy, anticipation, and as one of those moments of grace and innocence.
Laurence Freeman OSB