I studied meditation with a variety of Catholic and Buddhist teachers. Catholic Centering Prayer and Buddhist Vipassana meditation are the forms of meditation I studied the most.To a lessor extent I am familiar with Hindu, Greek Orthodox, and Sufi traditions as well. I have also known quite a few people in various recovery or 12 step programs who had strong views on spirituality.
Most of the teachers and lay people who had developed their views on spirituality had at least one trait in common. They tended, not so surprisingly, to believe that their beliefs were correct and they were not interested much one way or the other in my doubts or questions.
For example those following traditional or Orthodox Christianity would invariably say that the suffering and violence of the world was not God’s fault. When faced with the inevitable question, “How could an all powerful, all seeing, all knowing God allow the violence, suffering and natural disasters in the world?” They would say, ” God created the world and humanity perfectly. Humans defied God’s will and law out of sin and rebellious disobedience. It is this sin and rebellion that caused the fall of man and ushered in evil, violence, suffering, disease and the rest.
Indeed this view permeates all of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim views on this most important question, ” What is the relationship between divine love and power and human suffering?”
When I consistently voice my concerns that this core teaching never made any sense to me, most would add something like, ” God has a plan for every life, we often cannot see what that plan is?” So I thought if a woman is raped and murdered this is somehow part of God’s plan for her life?
What I never felt happened regardless of who I was speaking to is this: my views, my questions, my doubts, were not important or somehow missed the point. In short if I did not agree with them the fault was with me not in their teachings.
What I learned from these countless experiences is this. Find out what are the most important doubts and unanswered questions a person who is studying meditation may have. Help them to articulate their doubts and questions more clearly and to refine their questions.
Assuming that a person is asking their questions not as some intellectual game or some way or avoiding any real searching, help them to honor their doubts and give them ways to explore how they can find answers they are looking for.
Honor your doubts and unanswered questions. They are among the most important resouces you have to work with.
The same goes for your truths. Honor your truths with the integrity with which you live your life.
By honoring the truths you have found and the doubts and unasnwered questions you have, this is a powerful set of tools that will help you find the way forward to whatever is the next level of understanding and peace that is available to you.
What is important in all of this, is to resist the temptation to try to control the answers people will come to in their search. Rather, the work as a meditation teachers is to help people search for truth, in ways that are true for them.
It is to support this approach to teaching meditation that I wrote, “The Simple Path of Holiness.”
Will Raymond email@example.com