I recently joined a Facebook group about meditation. It is hosted by someone who repeatedly demonstrates a massive ego. He insults other people’s posts, belittling them. Not anything I have posted, thankfully, but that makes little difference. It makes the group a judgmental, unsafe place to express, share and grow. Besides, if he really knew something, if he were truly attempting to do someone else a favor with piercing truth instead of asserting his own delusions as an ultimate reality, wouldn’t he do it in a way that could be received instead of resisted?
But it has been very difficult for me not to leave the group because of this obvious power-tripping administrator. I haven’t left, though, because I’m learning some things about meditation people that is critical to knowing how I do and don’t want to approach meditation. It has also been difficult not to reply to his snide comments to others with my own snide comments, but I haven’t commented because I know battles with egos are never won. Besides, why stoop?
So what am I learning about who I am and “ain’t”? Well, for one, I no longer wish to identify with the term “meditation teacher”. I am not a meditation teacher nor wish to be one. I am purely, simply a meditation facilitator. A teacher is supposed to have all the answers, or at the very least, know where to find them.
No one has all the answers about meditation because meditation will always be a unique experience for the meditator. Yes, there are guidelines, techniques, etc. Those can be taught. But those aren’t the meditation. Herein lies a deep confusion among people who may have the nerve to call themselves “gurus”. That isn’t to say that there aren’t genuine gurus…or lightbearers and way-showers. They just aren’t as common as, for example, a Facebook group would have you believe or as an Amazon list of meditation books by random experts would suggest.
It is a tricky and slippery slope. How does one, such as myself, who loves and has received so much from the practice and feels compelled to share it with eager learners along with all the benefits of her personal experience keep her egoic self out of it as much as possible? I am the first to caution anyone regarding my own insights and experiences when it comes to meditating. I attribute the fact to three principles, the most important things I ever I learned from one of my own teachers, rightfully called:
Don’t believe me.
Don’t believe anybody else.
Don’t believe yourself.
I know how to apply these principles, and I know when I or someone else is or isn’t able. It is a safety net from an ego blown out of control. Without this net, any one of us is in danger of taking ourselves or others far too seriously.
Of course, unchecked, the three principles can eventually go too far the other direction, making me doubt my own experience. I made the somewhat big but enlightening mistake of asking a question of this Facebook group recently. It seems I sometimes assume others know at least as much as I do and probably more. I was seeking some practical advice to a common meditation trap faced by a couple of people I work with. I have been unsure of how to lead them into new territory. What I got was not the applicable expertise I was expecting, but a bunch of egoic posturing, projections, mysterious koans meant to reveal the author’s depth, and obviously-lacking-in-experience responses. I guess none of us know what we don’t know. Even fewer of us know enough to know we don’t. I have not commented much on the thread. I’m still waiting, still hopeful someone out there will actually be able to respond with something that hasn’t got some egoic slime attached to it. In fact, one reply was looking pretty good there, for about the first five or six sentences. The remaining 10, not so much.
So here’s the thing…the really frightening thing about meditation “teachers”. Many “teachers” are egos, not light-bearers. Only they don’t know that they are egos. That’s the most dangerous kind of ego. Rather, they think they are enlightened beings who know all, see all, and convey all…with authority. Turn to one, and you are likely to be conditioned into their belief system, one that strays far from your own true nature.
There is meditation…that which the mind knows, contorts, attempts to conform to and adulterates. And then there is meditation…the real deal. And for that, most of us just need to learn to (please excuse my French) shut the fuck up and trust the process.
As for me, yes, there is an ego here. I’m not trying to eradicate it, just tame it. And I haven’t done that to any level of real or imagined perfection yet. If that day should ever come, I will let you know, if that’s possible. But what I have done on my 17+ year walk on the path is gain some personal experience when it comes to how to tame that monster. I don’t know all of its tricks, but I can say with a great deal of confidence that I know more than most. This confidence is born from at least two things, 1) having more interest in this path that most people and 2) having the fortune of working with some of the best teachers.
As a meditation facilitator, I can happily say I don’t know everything, nor do I want to. Meditation isn’t about knowing stuff. It’s about unknowing. It’s about unraveling the ravenous mind to discover what lies deeper. I give to others the opportunities to practice turning their attention inward. Sometimes I share a few things…definitions, techniques, anecdotes, quotes. Sometimes I guide. I do not rigidly adhere to one particular school of thought, guru or text. Though I focus primarily on going beyond basic contemplative practice, sometimes contemplative practice has its place, so I don’t discount it. I use what is available to me to help those who come my way. I make mistakes. I’m still learning and growing myself. The day that is no longer true is the day I will be the worst meditation facilitator on the planet and just another teacher.