I went to a workshop today called “The Way of the Consciousness Explorer.” It was the most playful, accessible, useful approach to meditation that I’ve encountered yet, and I can’t say enough good things about the instructor, Jeff Warren. He has a profoundly inviting sense of narrative and metaphor and depth of knowledge — encouraging us to locate our own individual senses of equanimity, he said something like “for dudes, this is like, I’m cool, I’m dignified, I can handle this.”
I think I learned more from this workshop about the possibilities of a real meditation practice for me than I have from any of my previous dabblings, but I learned even more from an unexpected moment of grace. Just as we were starting, sitting in a circle and talking about our experiences with meditation and why we had come today, a young guy came in looking a bit confused. He said he wasn’t sure if he was in the right room, and someone encouraged him to sit in one of the few empty spaces.
After everyone in the circle had finished checking in, he said again he wasn’t sure he was in the right place. “This is an all day meditation workshop,” said Jeff. “Oh,” said the guy. “I’m supposed to go somewhere and watch a three hour video about marijuana.” He started digging in his wallet for a card. “967? They said just to go upstairs?”
People started problem solving. Scottie — who teaches there — said “I think the person who gives out that information is dyslexic — this has happened in my classes before. I think that place is at 976.” Other people sort of gently ruffled, everyone slightly concerned. The young guy didn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave, looking a little perplexed. Most people sort of getting that this was probably some kind of court-ordered thing he was supposed to do. There was a subtle kind of othering — he was the youngest person by at least a decade, and the only person of colour in a room full of white people, mostly women whose workshop wear included jewellery, shawls and loose drapey clothing.
Jeff acted into what was in front of him, living into what he was teaching more fully than anything he said out loud. “I’m just about to describe the day,” he said. “Why don’t you stay and hear if this is something you want to do.”
The disruptive gap closed over, and the guy stayed, participated in all of the exercises. The woman on my right was partnered with him, and I noted a persistent, subtle othering, a gently critical comment that his slow responses might have limited her participation. Noted my own anxiety about whether he was fitting in.
Over lunch, there was chatter. Jeff handled that so well. That guy is incredibly brave — and this probably is much more helpful to him than sitting in a room watching a video. Do you think he’ll come back after lunch?
He came back. As he hung around our table, I found myself worrying about whether he’d had lunch, wanting to buy him a juice. Well meaning but patronizing, I observed of myself. The woman who’d been sitting on my left identified herself as working in crime prevention with young people at risk, guessed he probably needed a letter saying that he’d attended this video showing, got the details for his Crown and offered to write a letter saying he’d done development. In the afternoon, I was partnered with him, met my own bubbling internalized judgement with compassion — a gift from the day, from Jeff, what I’ll carry with me.
The most memorable sensation I had from the day was in a trio with this accidental participant and one other guy. In a three way shared observation, I felt a kind of spinning energy between the three of us, a sensation I’d never experienced before, some kind of actual, physical pull in the space between the three of us. (And even uttering that makes me feel like I’m speaking someone else’s new agey language, a particular “corner of the bookstore” as Jeff laughed). Pure gratitude at the inclusion created by Jeff’s invitation, other people’s openings, the inched-open space. Real humility at recognizing that my impulse would have been to help the guy find the place he was “supposed” to be, not the place he was supposed to be. Gratitude.