The other night I went to a Spirit Rock affiliated Buddhist meditation sitting. An incredible woman named Martine Batchelor was the guest speaker. I could have curled up and listened to her stories all nght long.
She won our hearts immediately, when a few minutes into the sitting she said, “We’re not trying to do anything special here, or be anything special. We’re just watching.” Matt and I, who have never meditated before, breathed a sigh of relief. We were already trying to be “good” meditators, ones that have insights and don’t fall asleep.
Nevertheless, I dozed off repeatedly, only catching myself as my body teetered forward almost hitting the person in front of me. I thought way to much about sex (maybe because it was inappropriate?), made mental lists of things I needed to do once it was over, obsessed about whether I had turned my cell phone off, and was just generally thinking way too much. I tried to “come back to my breath”, and found myself starting to hyperventilate. Every once in a while, I would open my eyes and look around the room (bad meditator!) to see if anyone else had their eyes open (we could share a friendly thumbs up) but I was the only one. I imagined I was in the Matrix and everyone in the room was frozen in time but me.
The dharma talk was about teachers, and she described different types: the guru, the master/disciple relationship, and guides.
She told a story about a teacher she had when she was a nun in Korea for 10 years. He was the master teacher in the temple and the nuns rarely saw him. His teachings were not that direct. When she did, she would ask a question like, “How can I improve my meditation practice?” He would pause, not say a word, look at her. Maybe he didn’t hear me, she thought, and repeated the question. Again, he paused, silent, and finally said, “You know what to do.”
And of course, she discovered that she did.
She said that when he died, an enormous light went out in the temple. Even though they rarely saw him, they all found themselves lost. Martine realized that what he had done was hold a space for them. His teaching came from having enough faith in them to say, “You know what to do,” and not from having all the answers.
Maybe some of our greatest teachers are the ones that simply give us the gift of faith, and believe in us.