In this group of peers without a teacher you will be stimulated to mobilize your inner teacher, this inner authority you never knew you had in you, this inner voice you are not used to trusting, this poignant intuition you tend to dismiss as lunacy.
15-20 years ago students who had taken the MBSR programs wondered about having a group available to go to for support and mutual enrichment. Dr. Treyvaud then decided to make the group room available for free for such a group to meet, under the condition that someone would take responsibility for the key, and that two simple instructions were followed: There would have to be first a one-hour mindfulness meditation, and then an hour of debriefing and discussion on issues related to people’s meditation practice. The group would be free of charge, and participants could attend whenever they could or wanted to without any kind of commitment. There would be no leader, but only a facilitator responsible for the key, for any other administrative matter, and for liaison with me whenever necessary.
After a short period, Heidy Steinback graciously accepted the responsibility of the key, as she now tells us both a gift and a curse. It was the gift of commitment to practice and presence and the curse of administrative duty. Week after week, month after month, year after year, Heidy was there on Wednesday nights from 7:00 – 9:00 pm, by rain, hail or snow, sunshine, full moon or storm, unwavering in her determination to presence. On my way home after work, a snowstorm in progress, I would sometimes see one pair of shoes placed there outside the suite door, and I knew Heidy was meditating here, alone, honoring her commitment not only to her administrative role, but to the group, to herself, to meditation and to presence. We express deep gratitude for her dedication, which has indeed become an inspiration to all.
Heidy has left this group a few years ago and new people have taken over her role as coordinator. Since COVID the group has now shifted to being held mostly online. The group continues to be a non-denominational, mindfulness meditation peer group. It will continue to be free of charge, with the exception of those evenings a teacher comes in to teach a topic. Access to the group is generally restricted to people who have taken our MBSRP or already have mindfulness meditation experience from elsewhere.
You don’t pay anything (except when a teacher comes in to teach), there is no external commitment or pressure. You can attend when you want and as frequently or infrequently as you want. Only very occasionally a teacher comes in and teaches; in other words, no authority is there to feed your need to be told what to do. In full freedom, everything is up to you. The success or failure of the group session is up to you. The level of commitment is up to you. All you find are like-minded fellow travelers on the path of mindfulness, all flawed and human, talented and questioning, sharing and learning. Where is the authority to guide when it is nowhere externally to be seen? That is exactly the group’s mission – to foster the strengthening of your resolve to mobilize the inner teacher, the archetypal teacher in all of us, the already present vast wisdom of the organism that we are, and to not constantly look outside ourselves for the solution. This group invites everyone to listen, to hone their attunement skills, to find their very own personal song to sing, and allow the inner teacher to begin to guide from the internal beyond. Its aim is not to find answers to your questions, but better questions to what you believe are your answers.
Participants are naturally interested in learning, and when one constructs the idea that nothing can be learned from a group, one will naturally not attend. This group offers the opportunity to challenge one’s view of what new learning entails by expanding a socially sanctioned and conditioned one-dimensional view of learning into a multi-dimensional one.
- The knowledge as commodity dimension: The tyrannically dominant left-brain imprints on us the view that learning is about acquiring new knowledge from a student’s perspective, or providing new knowledge from a teacher’s perspective. While this is one of the dimensions of learning, it is by no means the only one, yet routinely and quite unconsciously the only one driving people’s behaviour towards the expectation of learning. When this is the only dimension driving our search for knowledge, we remain impoverished, particularly because it restricts learning to a passive attitude. In other words, for successful learning 4 further dimensions of learning are essential and must be honed.
- The knowledge as hidden potential dimension: The student’s tendency is to believe she does not know enough. For most people this belief in one’s own ignorance is of the toxic, not of the healthy sort. The healthy belief in one’s own ignorance is exemplified by Socrates’ insight that the only thing he knew was that he did not know anything. This is in fact what wisdom is all about – the realization that knowledge is always tentative, complex, contextual, evolving and miniscule in comparison to what reality really is. Unfortunately, students mostly believe they are ignorant in the sense of being lacking, stupid, not very competent and woefully unauthoritative. This toxic form of feeling ignorant forgets that we always know more than we think, that the organism that we are is far wiser than we can ever imagine and that we have an implicit wealth of savvy and knowledge we routinely do not know how to tap into. What becomes essential here is to learn to understand education in the etymological sense of the word as not a process of ‘in-ducation’ (from Latin ‘leading stuff into someone’), but ‘e-ducation’, meaning ‘fostering stuff to come out of someone’. Practically this means to attend this group with the intent of tapping into what you already know but fail to gain access to.
- The knowledge as creation dimension: To learn also means to actively participate by taking the initiative to expose yourself, tapping into the courage of being a fool, and creating something new out of what you have. Only through this dimension can we activate new integrative neurofiring patterns that create new vistas, empower us to realize our own internal authority by mobilizing our internal archetypal teacher and ensure integrative growth.
- The knowledge as beginner’s mind dimension: Paradoxically, the student who believes to be ignorant and does not attend a group of peers because he believes he won’t learn anything from peers who are not more advanced than him, also unconsciously limits himself by believing only more knowledge in the form of a commodity can be helpful. This student is like a full cup of tea into which one would want to add more tea – it will only spill over and be wasted. One must empty oneself, realize that to be wise means to be the eternal beginner, and discover in every peer who knows the same or less than you a wealth of untapped wisdom, the way we enjoy the spontaneously creative, immensely inspiring kookiness of a child. To the extent you realize the untapped wisdom in your peers, you also realize it in yourself. Every teacher’s Buddha is his students, like every parents’ Buddha is his child.
- The knowledge as repetitive process dimension: Growth cannot occur through the acquisition of new knowledge alone. It must entail the dimension of practice and repetition. In the same way as memory retrieval is a memory modifier, repetition is never about the time-bound reoccurrence of sameness. Instead, it is about the timeless recreation of variations on an evolving theme. So we attend a group such as this also to repeat, repeat, repeat, discovering in every repetition a new dimension we never saw before.
The group decides on the structure of sessions. Typically, the group starts the meeting by listening to or watching a video teaching featuring various well-respected mindfulness meditation teachers for about 30 minutes. They then engage in a formal meditation practice that corresponds to the teaching that they just finished watching and listening to. The last part of the meeting is then dedicated to an open discussion about participants’ practice, the teaching that was just listened to, or suggestions about what to do in future meetings. Exposure to different mindfulness teachers is cultivated, and exploration of one’s own practice experience through dialogue and inquiry is encouraged. Dr. Treyvaud and his team are always available for any questions or challenges the group may face.
Dr. Treyvaud has asked me to write a little bit about our community, how we are organized online, and what cool things we are doing.
As with everything in life, our community is constantly evolving. The shift to meeting online with Zoom has presented us with many opportunities to adjust and learn. One of the coolest things we are doing is learning how to navigate communicating online. A large number of us are learning how to navigate with electronic devices in ways that we didn’t even know were possible last year at this time. There are many opportunities to practice COAL while we untangle whether the glitches that occur while we are communicating are due to malfunctioning equipment, equipment that is not compatible with what we would like it to do, general lack of technological expertise, or a moment of inattention. We are discovering that even when what we intended for our meditation practice does not materialize in the way we intended due to “glitches”; the practice can still be valuable. The insights that arise from the dialogue between community members while we share our experiences and untangle what happened can be very fruitful.
Even though the learning curve with electronic communication has been and continues to be somewhat messy, our options to be in touch with each other have in many ways improved from what they were before we went online.
We currently have 3 means of contact.
You have to have taken our MPSR programs or otherwise have an established mindfulness meditation practice learned elsewhere.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to join.
Every Wednesday night throughout the year from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Virtual room opens at 6:45
Free for normal community meetings among peers.
$75/person for special events with a teacher – will always be announced.
Please arrange for timely arrival as we are starting on time at 6:30pm sharp.
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