Edited by Jerry Katz
Someone recently wrote and asked some questions about starting a meetup group that is not founded in, or revolving around, a single teacher or tradition. In other words, just a group of people talking about nonduality, awareness, living from taking a stand in awareness. Sure, many of the attendees will have their teachers and traditions, and some will have none, but such a group as a whole is unaffiliated.
I’ve had some success starting and growing such independent online groups, and over the last five years running an in-person group. Here are my responses. I’ve included some of the actual questions.
In my opinion it’s important to have a core group of at least two people. Anyone who shares your passion and vision could become part of your core group.You don’t have to look for those people. They will come to you and they’ll somehow let you know they want to be part of what you’re doing.
At least one person in the group has to be able to keep the focus on awareness itself, or however you wish to describe the nondual perspective. And that person, or those people, have to be able to keep discussion from turning into a psychological self-help session by reminding people that the focus of attention is, “Who is having these apparent psychological problems?”
The point about a main speaker brings up the topic of leadership. There are people who are natural leaders. They too will show up in your group. It’s hard to talk about the mechanics of how that happens but it depends on how welcoming your group is; more on that below.
Purpose, Truthfulness, Being-ness
“I am wondering how a meeting without a speaker who is willing (and moreover able) to address all questions can work. The danger I see is having a bunch of people who are having a conversation that might be interesting, but that will not help them resolve (and sometimes even dissolve) their question in an experiential way.”
You have to state in writing the purpose of your group and that purpose will consider the group’s limitations. It will also focus on why the group has been created. You need to be clear about those points. You want to make the group sound welcoming to everyone. At the same time you need to create boundaries. In that regard, something you can ask yourself is whether your group is about helping people. If people hear the word “help” they could bring all their psychological problems to a meeting.
In our group I don’t see us as helping anyone. All we are doing is holding a space in which questions and conflicts may dissolve or seen to be essentially nothing. It’s not up to anyone in our group to convince anyone of that truth or to help anyone see anything. I don’t feel anyone has to be “saved.” The whole idea or ideal of helping can be released. What has to valued in my view, is not helping but rather speaking truthfully, or confessing your own knowing and not-knowing truthfully. That’s all you have to do. Be honest, in other words.
While we think that speaking and saying something wisely nondual is the most important thing, it’s not. What’s primary is being-ness itsef, holding an open atmosphere, having moments of stillness that might last a few minutes without any instruction in how to be still. Value the silence and speak truthfully, that’s all. Good people will be attracted to those values and qualities and your group will grow and attract others.
Dealing with the Conceptual
So I would like to know how this works in your experience. I like the idea of different people doing a presentation as the introduction, but then how do we avoid simply discussing and remaining at a very conceptual level?
Be aware of moments when discussion is at the conceptual level and announce that it is happening. Everyone then has an opportunity to share your observation. Some time can be spent seeing how people are invested in concepts. The direction of the meeting can then go toward what is true. Maybe it would be appropriate to sit still for a couple of minutes. You have to be aware of what’s happening in the group.
I have a few more questions about how to get started with the group and make it survive long enough to reach a point where it meets its audience and starts to work organically. If you have more time for more questions I would love to ask them.
It can start growing organically almost at once. It depends on how you present your group and how welcoming you are to newcomers. I like using http://meetup.com There is a hosting fee which varies by country. In Canada we pay $72 every six months. In India it is $12 every six months! You might want to check out the descriptions and keywords of these groups:
Also I’m sure the organizers of the above groups would be glad to share their thoughts. Feel free to ask me more questions. They help me better understand what I’m doing!