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practicing with others

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Research has shown that we learn 90% of what we teach and only 10% of what we are taught.  This basically means that the most effective way to learn anything is to share and practice it with others! 

I love to practice receptive presence with friends, usually one or two them, three at most.  It can be done with a lot more people, of course, but the introvert that I am prefers more intimate settings, and bringing larger numbers of people together can easily create logistical challenges that can deter from regular practice, or move us out of spontaneity and self-organization, and into strategy and control.  The whole point of practicing with others who are interested to do that intentionally, is to get better at being fully present with people who are not drawn or able to do that.  That’s often the case when we are having challenging conversations with strangers or family members.  Good days are when I remember to seize these difficult moments as opportunities to notice what sensations are being triggered in my body, and let myself fully feel them, rather than react.

So, to build these kinds of muscles, here is what I do, wherever I happen to be in the world…

  • I look for one or two people with whom I can practice regularly.  Just one person makes e a huge difference.  They do not actually need to be located in the same physical space as I am, just a compatible time zone!  I meditate regularly via phone or skype with friends who are all around the world: France, England, Thailand, Bali, Egypt, Sweden, Norway, and the United States.
  •  I invite whomever is open to ‘tuning in’ with me to settle in a comfortable receptive position.  I personally love to lie down on the floor because it’s the position that supports me to be most receptive.  Other people sometimes prefer to sit.  I also enjoy meditating while walking, but it’s harder to notice subtle sensations when one moves.  If we meditate while lying down in the same physical space, I usually suggest bringing our heads closer to each other because it is easier to hear one another without straining our voice.  Cozy, intimate spaces that facilitate deep listening work best, though with time, it becomes possible to practice it in any kind of space, including airports and conferences.
  • Then we tune in, and take spontaneous turn sharing what comes to our awareness.  We don’t have to speak.  Silence is perfectly ok, but speech can help keep us present and connected.  I try to speak only as fast as I am able to feel (in my body) whatever I am noticing and describing.  That often requires slowing down.  We stay focused on our bodily sensations and inner experience as we listen to each other.  The rules of ‘regular conversations’ are suspended.  There is usually no need to respond to each other unless we feel prompted from within to do so.  We are simply focused on allowing ourselves to receive what seeks our individual and collective awareness.
  • We watch that the ‘conversational’ space remains spacious and that we all stay anchored in our bodies.  If the conversation becomes overly busy or feels disconnected from direct in the moment experience, we invite silence or slowing down, and tuning back into the body.