Last Sunday I taught my very first meditation class at the local domestic violence shelter I volunteer at. This is a pretty big deal for me because I’ve been talking about starting my own meditation group for the past couple of years. Technically, I am still a newbie in the practice. I’ve only been Buddhist for about three years and there is a lot that I am still learning. My desire to teach is largely motivated by the lack of people of color in leadership positions within the (Western) Buddhist community. In addition to that, I felt that the residents housed at the shelter could greatly benefit from the weekly sits. So shrugging off my inexperience I decided that I would take on the responsibility of leading the class, figuring it out as I go along. A person has got to start somewhere.
I was extremely nervous that first day. I had no idea what I was doing and had never lead a meditation session before. I didn’t want to come off as some ass who didn’t know what she was talking about. But I realized that no matter how much I didn’t know, I still knew a heck of a lot more than the group I was teaching and that, in a situation such as the one I was in, it was important for me to focus on what my purpose was and not so much on what the class thought of me. I also understood the importance of keeping things simple and fun. So that’s exactly what I did and it went surprisingly well. The residents really enjoyed the class and I enjoyed teaching it.
I’m realizing that I have entered into a new stage of my spiritual practice that will do so much for my spiritual growth. For one, it will make me a lot more disciplined that I have ever been. It’s all too easy to take a rain check on a sit when you don’t have a group of people waiting on you to lead it. And this is coming from the person whose good for missing her Sunday sangha meetings. I also notice that having to explain the practice to others often deepens my own understanding of what it is I do, and why I do it. But, most importantly, being a meditation instructor throws me out of my comfort zone. I’m not one for getting in front of people and speaking, let alone teaching. It’s not as though I have stage fright or can’t speak in public, I just don’t like to be the center of attention. But sooner or later I must get over this silly aversion. Especially when doing so will allow me to be a positive influence in the lives of others.
I have just as much to learn from this experience as the class I am teaching and knowing that makes this opportunity pretty damn awesome. At the very least, it keeps me humble.