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 Tips on Starting & Running an AYP Meditation Group
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yogani

USA
5188 Posts

Posted - Sep 05 2007 :  3:37:50 PM  Show Profile  Visit yogani's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Message
Hi All:

The following comes from email interchanges with Meg on starting and running an AYP meditation group in New York City. It is hoped other meditation group leaders around the world will chime in here with their feedback as well.

Comments from anyone interested in starting or joining a meditation group are welcome also.

The guru is in you.
--------------------------

Meg wrote:

I'd like to get some advice on my meditation group. As you may know, I've started a med. group in my loft, but it's been pretty weak. A friend of mine who has a large penthouse office in midtown Manhattan is interested in learning to meditate, and has offered his space for free for me to start a group. It's a fantastic location, near the trains and buses, and I'm really excited to see what comes of it. I'm going to begin by advertising on Craig's List (which I didn't feel comfortable doing at my own place), and see where it goes.

We're going to start next week and I'm in the process of composing the ad. I could keep it generic ("Come meditate in a peaceful environment...discover inner silence...") The group would be more about building a spiritual community and less about the systematic cultivation of energy. It's a more predictable route to go, and for me, a beginner myself, probably the safer route. But I'm not so interested in predictability, and I feel pulled to move into the energy work. I'm not talking about diving in head first, but to follow the AYP book as a group, methodically building a platform of stillness through meditation, and adding to it very gradually. Slowly introducing new practices, cultivating energy, etc. This excites me...this is the route that I'd like to take. But I question my ability, since I consider myself to be only an advanced beginner. I also wonder what I'd do if someone had some serious energy overload issues. All I can do is stress the necessity of self-pacing, as Yogani does. But I've so much less experience than he that I do question if I'm out of my league, and should stick to a more solid and predictable platform of meditation and spinal breathing. Any thoughts on this?

Last question: since the location is so central, I'd like to let forum members know that we're there on Tuesday nights, in case anyone comes through the city and would like to drop in. How/where would I do this? Is it prudent for me to be so 'out there' with it? Craig's List and NYC are big pots, and I do think about some safety issues, but I'm more interested in meeting and meditating with interesting people than I am worried about attracting the deranged. There are always risks, right? Your thoughts appreciated.

I know that time will answer all the above questions, but I'd appreciate your wisdom while I'm in the planning stages. Thanks for your time! :)

Yogani wrote:

Go for it. :-)

You can put the word out to the AYP community in the "Member Announcements" forum, near the bottom of the list on the forums home page. Make sure to put an informative headline on it, Like "NYC Meditation Group Tuesday Nights," or similar.

Regarding your concerns about getting in over your head, there are all sorts of dynamics that occur in a meditation group, from kundalini cases walking in the door on day one, to folks overdoing with the AYP practices later on and having symptoms come up. Sooner or later, some issues will be there. But it is not your responsibility to solve everything for everyone. I can't do it. No one person can. But as a family of practitioners with a strong and growing written knowledge base, we can handle anything, regardless of our individual level of experience.

When issues come up, all you have to do is give your two cents and point people in the right direction for additional help. The AYP resources are becoming quite robust for handling just about anything that can come up. The forums are always there as a backstop for you (for group admin and practice issues) and for all practitioners. And I am there too.

One of the most important things about the AYP approach is that it is "self-directed." One of the fringe benefits of this is that no one (including me) has to stand up and pretend to be a know-it-all on practices and experiences. Anyone who learns how to refer people to the right resources will learn more themselves, while helping others. We are all working from the same core resources, and expanding on them as we go along. If you take that attitude in running a meditation group, you will do great and never be left holding anyone else's bag. It is an important point.

Of course, administration is needed, and someone has to take care of that. The knowledge on practices and the journey are something else, and we all share in that equally. If you are clear with everyone on that, the logical places people will go for help will be each other, the AYP writings, the AYP support forums, and to other sources of spiritual knowledge also. That is how it is designed to work, and it does work.

I suggest you contact Shweta, Louis and Sadhak, all who have experience running AYP meditation groups. Feel free to copy this email to them if you wish. I recommend it, since ideas on running AYP meditation groups are continuing to crystallize. It would also be appropriate to discuss it in the public forums, where more can contribute and benefit. I am not opposed to an epidemic of AYP meditation groups breaking out around the world. The more the merrier! :-)

The risk you are perceiving will be far outweighed by the rewards. A larger group will bring many benefits to you and everyone who attends. Just think admin -- the knowledge end of it is already taken care of.

Having this space come available in midtown Manhattan is a big break. Walk on through that door. There is a whole new world waiting for you.

As for the "energy cultivation," it will come naturally as everyone settles into inner silence, and that will be the right time for it. There is some admin associated with that too -- how to bring people at different levels of experience together fruitfully. There are various ways to handle it, but you don't have to worry about it now. Just go one step at a time. When the questions come up, the answers will be there. Inner silence will take care of it.

All the best!

Meg wrote:

I love your answer. :) I"m going to go for it. Will keep you posted - we're gearing up to start in a week.

On placing an ad:

I plagiarized your text book. Please consider this a first draft, and let me know if there are any corrections or suggestions. Thanks! I'm really excited - hope it floats.

New Meditation Group: Advanced Yoga Practices

The premise of yoga is simple. There is an outer reality and an inner one, and our nervous system is the doorway between them. Advanced Yoga Practices (AYP) stimulate and open that doorway. The result? Peace, creativity, happiness, and a steady rise of ecstatic bliss radiating from within.

AYP brings together the ancient methods of Yoga in a system that can easily be learned. Come join us on Tuesday nights and find the peace and joy that are your birthright. The teachings are non-sectarian: all belief systems are embraced and all methods of meditation are welcome. We'll build a solid platform of meditation, then gradually add the Advanced Yoga Practices. Classes are free. AYP books are available by donation.

Tuesday nights beginning September 11.
Instruction is from 7:00-7:30 p.m.
Pranayama and meditation are from 7:30 8:00.
Please bring your own pillow or mat.
(address and phone omitted in this post)

Yogani wrote:

Looks good. However, I would not start anyone in deep meditation without back support, unless they have experience and choose it. It will be a big obstacle for many people -- immediately cuts out most folks we'd like to invite to learn deep meditation. So I do not recommend advertising "bring floor mat or pillow."

The chair is a great invention, and most people know how to use one. :-)

I don't think seating should be mentioned in the ad. In fact, mentioning "comfortable seating available" would draw more people. Seating will work itself out over time. Some will go for the floor (or wall), and others will be happy in a chair. The instructional preference in the AYP lessons is for back support. Reason: No back support is a much bigger obstacle to beginning deep meditation than a help. To put any preference or peer pressure on no back support will surely reduce participation in the meditation group, and it isn't AYP.

Comfort, comfort, comfort.

I am copying the other meditation group leaders on this for a heads up. There have been occasional discussions in the forums on using no back support, and it is nearly always problematic for beginners. Nowhere in the AYP lessons is a preference for no back support expressed. There is good reason for it. 98% of the people on the planet will find it to be a major distraction, and that is the 98% we are interested in inspiring to take up daily practices. The other 2% can take care of themselves -- they tend to gobble up AYP in big bites, sometimes getting a little indigestion. :-)

You know, if these meditation group planning discussions were in the public forums, many may be inspired to chime in and start meditation groups. We ought to think about taking it public. Would you mind if I post our interchange in the forums?

The guru is in you.

Meg wrote:

Great points, Yogani. No, I don't mind - feel free to post whatever
you want on the forum. I'm not sure what kind of accommodations I'm
going to be getting - for sure there'll be walls, but I don't know
about any more than that. I'll check it out.

matangi

USA
53 Posts

Posted - Sep 05 2007 :  4:41:53 PM  Show Profile  Visit matangi's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Wow! This is so good to hear Yogani and Meg. After my ecstatic experience this past weekend, I had a strong desire to offer a class....I'll hold quiet the various titles :) for now!

Meg, you mentioned that you consider yourself an advanced beginner....if you don't mind my asking, how long have you been meditating with AYP? I have not even finished reading the the Lesson book yet so I have obvious first steps to clear, but I do not feel the need to be expert.

As you stated Yogani, " The AYP resources are becoming quite robust for handling just about anything that can come up. The forums are always there as a backstop for you (for group admin and practice issues) and for all practitioners. And I am there too."

Yogani, given all of available resources, what is a practical amount of time with the practices before considering offering a class? I would see myself more as someone who is inviting a group of kindred spirits to join in the journey....learning together as we go...etc. I would serve as a resource point and certainly offer what I can....

Fwiw, this stepping out, even verbally, isn't necessarily common for me. I simply feel the heart for it. My inner guru says "have no fear." My reasonable dose of common sense is also vying for attention, so.....any thoughts or considerations are greatly appreciated.

Kathy
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Manipura

USA
870 Posts

Posted - Sep 05 2007 :  8:28:08 PM  Show Profile  Visit Manipura's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi Kathy. I've been meditating with AYP for 2 years. Before that my meditation was pretty spotty, with no consistency. I'm not being humble by calling myself a beginner - I truly am one. If I was trying to start a group based on my own knowledge and experience, I'd be cooked. But I'll be leaning heavily on Yogani's books and the AYP method, so it's not as tho I'm making this stuff up as I go, and I can always defer to him or the forum if some stuff comes up that I simply don't have answers for. The forums are a very strong support system, as anyone knows who has turned to it for help. So even though the information or support that I can offer may be limited, there's a wealth to draw upon from some of the more seasoned meditators here on the forum.

I haven't finished the lessons book either. :) I know as much as I need to for now, and will continue when I need to add on more practices. If your heart is pulled toward starting a group but you're having some doubts, just sit with it until you know. There's no rush.
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sadhak

India
604 Posts

Posted - Sep 05 2007 :  11:33:21 PM  Show Profile  Visit sadhak's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
quote:
Originally posted by matangi
I would see myself more as someone who is inviting a group of kindred spirits to join in the journey....learning together as we go...etc. I would serve as a resource point and certainly offer what I can....
Kathy


Hi Kathy,
You already have the key. I began a group too, sometime mid-2006. For me the transition from instructor figure to 'a participant like you' figure ought to have been difficult, because I'd been instructing almost the same group of people in another stream of yogic practices which was heavily instruction driven. But moving out of that role was surprisingly easy, and the assumption of responsibility for each one in the group did not take as long as I thought it would.

Where you are in the practices is irrelevant. The group comes together to provide more strength and direction to all the parts of its whole. So go right ahead. In fact, if everyone began a group or became part of one or more, I'm sure each one will benefit from the greater support and energies generated.
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yogani

USA
5188 Posts

Posted - Sep 05 2007 :  11:51:36 PM  Show Profile  Visit yogani's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
quote:
Originally posted by matangi

Yogani, given all of available resources, what is a practical amount of time with the practices before considering offering a class? I would see myself more as someone who is inviting a group of kindred spirits to join in the journey....learning together as we go...etc. I would serve as a resource point and certainly offer what I can....


Hi Kathy:

That is good advice from Meg and Sadhak. It is not necessary to take it on in a "teaching" role. The "kindred spirit" approach you mention is a good one (pretty much how we do things around here), and only when you feel ready, as suggested. If you put in your two cents, it will be enough, and the rest of AYP is there to back you up. In time, your two cents will become a quarter, and finally a few dollars -- so much the better for everyone. It takes very little to get started -- only a desire ... and it grows from there.

Btw, there is no need to digest the entire AYP Easy Lessons book in one fell swoop. It represents decades of knowledge accumulation and application, and it will likely take years to absorb and apply it all. And there is a Volume 2 coming down the road too. It will be good to read these a bit at a time as you are so inclined, but keep in mind that they are references for the long term.

A good way to introduce folks to the main practices in AYP is through the small Enlightenment Series books, and in some cases (especially for open-minded Christians), the Secrets of Wilder novel. These books are much easier to digest than the big book -- they are designed to be easy doorways leading inward toward integrated practices according to individual interests. For an AYP meditation group, pointing beginners to the little Deep Meditation book would be ideal. It can also be discussed in the group. Then, later on, the little Spinal Breathing Pranayama book, and so on.

Very happy to hear about your new openings. Keep in mind that there will be ups and downs along the way. That's why we favor the practice over the experience, enjoying ourselves along the way, of course.

All the best!

The guru is in you.
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sadhak

India
604 Posts

Posted - Sep 06 2007 :  06:30:34 AM  Show Profile  Visit sadhak's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi Kathy,

Meg, Shweta, Louis, and I have been sharing some 'group' views with Yogani, and we all agreed that we should bring it to the forum.

I'm listing a few things I learnt about beginning and running a group, and would be delighted if others chipped in here with their views, counter-views so that we can put our heads together on 'the principles of ayp group meditation' ... and we all learn from each other as always.

a) No one person is the leader of the group, and we will pass around initiative, responsibility and authority equally

b) We have a discussion at the end of each session that is centred around the practices but not anyone's experiences DURING meditation (avoiding such discussions, except as an exception keeps out ego, comparisions, performance anxiety, etc)

c) Some people will inevitably overdo, combine other things they have read about, heard of, or picked from elsewhere, and this is not my responsibilty. Some will overdo it to the point of ultimately having to leave the group because of excessive symptoms. They need not be judged. We just have to keep up the gentle self pacing reminders regularly.

d) Timers, etc can be used... but each new member's time will be different and they should be warned about sticking to their own short time. Less is more needs to be emphasised frequently, because in groups people tend to have sheep like behaviour at times.

e) Often people passing by or guests of members might want to attend, and they should be encouraged to, because it enriches the experience of everyone involved

f) Time and day should generally not be altered to accomodate anyone. There will be times when someone or the other is unable to make it, and that is OK. We have done our group at times with only three people.

g) the person hosting the session in his or her home should not overdo hospitality to begin with as it becomes difficult to sustain over a long period of time. But water/ a herbed tea waiting in a kettle/and biscuits are a fine way to get everyone to mingle well after the meditation, rest and discussion are over. But this depends on time availability etc...

h) Sometimes discussions can get stuck on somebody's ailments or problems, or someone repeatedly hogs all the talk. While that is OK, one needs to steer it adroitly towards the quieter members and a system can be evolved for doing this.

i)Each group has its own dynamics and evolves naturally. I think it is like a body with its own past karmas too. So don't worry too much and flow with the tide.

j)It is a good idea for all the groups to post frequently at the forum and exchange modus operandis and activities.

k)... will someone fill in?
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Shanti

USA
4854 Posts

Posted - Sep 06 2007 :  08:20:36 AM  Show Profile  Visit Shanti's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Awesome Meg. Just go ahead and start a group and everything else will just fall in place.
Start off with meditation and introduce them to the AYP website, forum and/or the AYP big book (I also hand out the AYP Enlightenment series Deep Meditation book) and let them know there are other practices available and they can add things as and when they want and you can sorta kinda guide them. Also, it is not your job to tell them what to do or actually make them self pace or add on a new practice.. all you do is introduce them to / suggest new practices and let them decide if they want to continue.

And like Yogani said, if someone has problems (practice related).. you can guide them to the forum or to Yogani.. and if they are not web oriented people, you could ask the question for them. So you have a good support system at your disposal really.. I think you will do great..

Like Yogani said.. "Go for it".. I think you will enjoy it :).

Hi Kathy,
Everyone here has given you great advice. You don't have to be at any level to start a group. Just start one and enjoy the energy. :)
Wish you all the best.
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matangi

USA
53 Posts

Posted - Sep 06 2007 :  11:00:33 AM  Show Profile  Visit matangi's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply

Thank you Yogani, Meg, Sadak, and Shanti for the resounding support and encouragement!

Sadak, your list of pointers is GREATLY appreciated. It falls in line quite a bit with guidelines I've applied with another group I offered from my home. (If I can work it out though, I hope to work something out with using some space of a friend's bookstore as my first option for this group.)

Note "b)" is especially appreciated! I like how it reinforces through experience the essential message of practice is what gets us anywhere. Practice/meditation is the reliable, comforting, constant regardless of the scenery.

Meg and all, thanks for blazing this trail. My intent has been released. Now I simply stay tuned in and act in accordance with my inner guru. It is a most reliable system!
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sadhak

India
604 Posts

Posted - Sep 11 2007 :  08:23:28 AM  Show Profile  Visit sadhak's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi Kathy,
If you do begin a group, do post in here.... we'd all be keen to know how it goes!
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matangi

USA
53 Posts

Posted - Sep 11 2007 :  09:32:14 AM  Show Profile  Visit matangi's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi Sadhak,

I will definitely post here once my group starts. There have been several openings regarding the group that I will share as soon as a few more details are firmed up. I don't want to get in the way of the energy flow :) I just need to stay open and follow the energy for now.

Thanks for the interest and support!

Kathy
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Sparkle

Ireland
1457 Posts

Posted - Sep 11 2007 :  12:35:07 PM  Show Profile  Visit Sparkle's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi
Great to see this discussion on AYP groups and great views by everyone.

Sadhak said:
quote:
a) No one person is the leader of the group, and we will pass around initiative, responsibility and authority equally

This probably would not work for me. When we started our group there were some conflicting views on how it should be run. Like introducing variations that were not AYP. Eventually the person involved left but there was some tension around it for everyone.
It was actually requested by the other group members that I take a firmer role in leading the group.
At the moment things have settled down so I would see value in passing the lead role to those that would not be disturbed by keeping the time etc., obviously not for raw beginners.

What I say in this regard is that although I might be leading the group I am not a teacher figure or it doesn't mean I know any more than anyone else, I just happen to be facilitating at the moment. Then remind them that the Guru is in each of us and each of us takes responsibility for their own practice.

quote:
b) We have a discussion at the end of each session that is centred around the practices but not anyone's experiences DURING meditation (avoiding such discussions, except as an exception keeps out ego, comparisions, performance anxiety, etc)
I think this is a tricky one. I like to hear what people are experiencing, especially those new to the practice. It can point to adjustments in their practice or a caution not to overdo it etc..
It also gives the opportunity to establish that all the experiences are just scenary along the way, they can be enjoyed for what they are and left go by. Also that some people feel a lot and other very little, and to say: it does not necessarily mean much in terms of being more or less advanced.

I think all the other points are well made and would agree.

k)... will someone fill in?
What brought me through my first ackward period was "surrender". I just surrendered the whole thing to "life", to God, to "what is", whatever you want to call it. I had no idea at times if anyone would turn up, if the whole thing would collapse, but did not fret, if it was meant to happen it would, simple as that.
Also, in explaining this to the group members it seemed to help the process because lets face it, that's what meditation is all about anyway - complete surrender.


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