Buddha said that he gave 84,000 dharmas, for all the different kinds of people there are.
I believe it. In the 40 plus years I have been teaching, I have never seen anyone the same person twice. Over the decades, I have sat with maybe 4000 people, and I can honestly say that each person is different. I am grateful for the training I have had that has gifted me with the ability to perceive individuality.
Individuality is the jewel without price, the great mystery. I have been teaching meditation for my entire adult life. I am now 60, and I started working as a meditation instructor when I was 18, in 1968. No two people are the same in their inner world. The take-away from this is that you are not wrong if you are different from your friend, your teacher, or some ideal. You are just you.
During the 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s, I was blessed with superb teachers who lavished attention on me. Really, I am astonished that they were so generous. I was tutored, in detail, in what individuality is, in this mystery that goes so far beyond the generic. They just felt like giving to me. I was a college student, making $2 an hour. It would take me an entire week of work to afford an hour of their time. It was worth it. I paid when I could, everything I could, and they gave to me more than I could pay.
A meditation practice needs to fit with the you that you are now, and serve as a bridge to the person you want to become. There is an electricity that flows between body and soul, and that is the power source for meditation. Learning to meditate involves learning skills of cooperating with what your life force is doing, how it operates.
The failure rate of standardized meditation instruction is over 95%, according to all the people I have spoken to. Success means, if a sincere person takes a course, are they still meditating a year later? Have they learned what they need so that they can meditate daily, on their own? Less than 5% of students seem to have this experience, because co-incidentally, they share a typology with the teacher or the system being taught. Some people say the failure rate is over 95%. Studies need to be done.
When I was a teacher of Transcendental Meditation from 1970 to 1975, our follow-through rate was about 50%, which was unheard-of. This means that about half the people who took the 4-day course were still meditating every day a year later. But we worked at it. We studied every reason a person would quit meditating, and sought to prevent that from happening, in advance if possible, by giving them the information they needed. We never assumed people were “wrong” for being who they were. We never said, “You are undisciplined.” We never blamed the student at all. We looked at the practical things that happened – a change in job, a new child, the flu, or a misunderstanding in technique - and we sought to address that. We pooled our knowledge, and thus, even though I was a 20-something ignoramus, I had access to the collective experience of hundreds of other seasoned meditation teachers. It was great.
What I learned, over time, is that meditation techniques are not things from India or Tibet that you import, and then impose on your head. They emerge from within your essence, and lead you there.
People start meditating and quit after a few weeks or months, and they don't know why. Starting in 1975, I have spent considerable time interviewing people who quit. Even though people blame themselves, saying, "I am not disciplined enough," it appears that the person quit because the meditation technique did not fit. If the meditation don't fit, you must quit. The primary issue is individuality, not discipline. We are each very different in terms of what fits us in meditation. That is why Buddha gave "84,000 dharmas," for all the kinds of people there are. If you are doing the wrong technique, then it is good that you quit.
The next major reason for quitting has to do with skill – you might have approximately the right technique for you, but you are trying too hard, or making the wrong kind of effort. Meditation is invisible internal behavior. Very few people ever get any supervision on their technique, and consequently, do not learn the needed skills.
It often takes about 15 hours of close listening before we - meaning me and you - have a clear sense of who you are in your inner world, what you need from meditation to bless your path through the world, what is the best match of a meditation practice and your outer destiny, your life’s work. This is about three thousand dollars worth of my time, and only a few people can see the value of that. This is, however, a very good deal.
Mark Twain said, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. ...”
When you have the right technique for your type, and have good enough skills at doing your technique, then you are much more likely to enjoy meditating and find time for it in your everyday life.
And you are more likely to thrive physically, emotionally, mentally, and creatively.
Individual instruction and coaching in meditation is a process of discovery, in which we map out your learning styles and inner gateways, and design an approach for you so that you thrive in meditation.
One of the things we explore in sessions are your innate gateways into meditation. The things that work for you. The meditations that occur spontaneously. You can begin now, by journaling, or taking a walk and recalling the times in your life when you have had meditative-type experiences.
Some people learn to meditate on their own – it just comes naturally. That was the way it was for me. Then after several months, I received training, just in time – I was starting to develop bad habits. Over the next few years I was involved in a great deal of training, both individual and group, in many areas related to meditation: sensory awareness, yoga, Tai Chi, Psychosynthesis (as opposed to Psychoanalysis), Gestalt Therapy, and deep-tissue bodywork. All these have proven invaluable over the last 37 years in enriching my meditation practice and helping me to stay healthy. Meditators, like athletes, often get injured just from their training. In some sports, the athletes injure their shoulders; in others, their knees or elbows. Meditators can injure their chakras, their nervous systems, and their overall relationship to life.
Most of us need coaching, and the earlier in the learning curve it comes, the better. If you get some individualized coaching at the beginning, it may help you not get into bad habits that will interfere with your ability to meditate. The main reason people quit meditating is that their technique is slightly wrong – they are trying to force themselves to do something unnatural.
This is true of any skill – if you get into the right habits initially, your whole experience will be better. When people teach themselves a skill, sometimes they get "bad habits" going that are difficult to identify and erase later. Because meditation is invisible behavior – it is inner, with not much outward going on – almost no one gets any real coaching.
So if you can arrange it, get a couple hours a day of coaching for the first five days you are meditating, then every three days or so for the next week, then once a week for a few weeks, then once a month for the next few months.
You can start with just an hour of individual coaching on the phone and see how it works for you.
I often work with people who have been meditating for five, ten, twenty or more years. This is because when meditation works, we are transformed. We aren't the same person who began. So we need to come up with a fresh approach to meditation practice based in who we are now and who we want to become in the future.
What is the Cost?
Sessions are $200 an hour. The best way to begin is usually to schedule two sessions, a few days to a week apart. Send an email talking about what you want out of meditation, and describe some of your prior experiences. I will write back, and we'll go from there.
What we focus on is the rhythm of your life and your individual nature and what you sense you need. Then we explore which type of meditation is likely to work best for you. I'll give you meditation exercises to play with and then report back on what you experience. In this way you start building skills that work for you in your daily life as it is.
A good way to get started is to email to set up a phone session, or call me at (310) 821 0620. Usually you will get the voice mail, so you may want to leave a specific time when I can call you back.
Individual sessions are usually booked two months in advance. It is now October, and there are some sessions available in December. To get ready for a session, it's really helpful to read Meditation 24/7 three or four times, and listen to all the guided meditations on the accompanying CD several dozen times. Also, abstain from any psychedelics for several months before coming for a session, and from marijuana for 5 weeks.
Classes, in which you get some individual instruction, are usually $30 for two hours, and are a good deal if you happen to be near a class or workshop. Retreats are also a great deal, costing about $20 an hour for the classes, in addition to the costs of housing and food. Esalen workshops are an incredible deal – the cost is about $200 a day, to stay in one of the most beautiful resorts on earth, including great food and a workshop.
If you have decided that you want to include meditation in your daily life, then it can be worth it to spend several thousand dollars on several weeks of individual instruction. This means that we spend several hours developing your individual meditation practice, then talk in person or on the phone every day as you get into the routine of meditating every day. It's quite a different universe of learning if you have immediate access to the information you need.
When we start meditating on our own or go to classes with no individualized instruction, the odds that we will get into a consistent practice are only about 5% or so. Some people think it's less. If we get good individual instruction, the follow-through rate is more like 50%.
People stop meditating for the same reason they stop wearing shoes that do not fit – it's hurting your foot. People stop meditating because inside yourself, in meditation, you are doing something that constricts yourself too much, or else you don't know how to handle some aspect of your emotional life, your sensations, or your thoughts. This is by far the greatest reason people stop meditating; it has little to do with discipline or making an effort. It does not take discipline to wear a shoe that fits – the shoe feels great.
What is Coaching?
Coaching or instructing is a totally separate skill from being good at something. People who are good at something don't necessarily know on a verbal level how they do what they do, and can't necessarily teach it.
This is true even in a visible external such as tennis. The best tennis player in the world won't necessarily be able to show you how to play tennis, with your body, your different muscle strength, your different way of walking and running. As a matter of fact, studying with a good player may teach you many bad habits, because you will be playing his or her game, not your game. In fact, many good players are also good teachers because they had thousands of hours of good coaching.
Meditation is invisible internal behavior and so there is not even the concept that there can be such a thing as coaching in the internal skills that are involved. Basically, everyone meditates in the dark with no real feedback, and somewhere in excess of 95% of the people who start give up in frustration.
In order to be able to do teach meditation effectively, I had to first learn to be good at meditation, then learn to be a meditation teacher. Before I was trained as a teacher I was a good meditator but a mediocre to bad teacher of meditation. I was a TM teacher from 1970 to 1975. Then over a period of years starting in 1975 I interviewed hundreds of meditators of all kinds to find out what they were doing that worked, what did not work, and why people gave up meditating. You can look over my CV and parts of my training history. I studied Gestalt therapy, Jungian thought, hypnosis, neurolinguistic programming, and other disciplines that attempt to decribe in some detail what goes on in the mostly invisible realm we call thinking and feeling. From 1978 to 1987 I was doing my Master's degree and Doctoral research into the nature of meditative experience, developing ways of modeling what goes on when people close their eyes. Through all of this, I have learned from many fields: anthropology and psychotherapy and learning theory. But the simplest analogy to what I do with meditators is what sports coaches do with athletes when they work with them to enhance their skills.
We Are All Beginners
If you have been meditating for awhile – months, years or decades – an hour or two of individual coaching can also be useful. I work with all types of meditators, of every tradition and every level of experience. This is because we are all beginners at meditation. Every day, we get up in the morning and we are a new person facing fresh challenges.
In sessions, we can just focus on your individuality, your needs, your daily life, and fine-tune your meditation practice so it becomes something you have time for and get rich benefits from. We explore what is happening with your individual body chemistry, your rhythms, your creativity, your relationships and your health.
How do you know what type and style of meditation to do? In India, many thousands of different yogas have evolved, each with their own series of meditation practices. Buddha said that he gave 84,000 different techniques for the different kids of people there are.
Why are there so many different techniques? Because inside, in their inner world, people are much more different from one another than they are in their faces, fingerprints, or bodies. This variety is to be celebrated.
When you find the meditation practice that suits you, it feels like a shoe that is built to fit your foot – comfortable and a joy to wear. Even more, meditation does not feel like something you are imposing on yourself, a foreign discipline. It's a relief to meditate. To help you get to this place, where meditation feels natural and you thrive, where you carry with you an inner peace and radiant vitality, I am happy to offer one-to-one coaching, in person and on the phone.
Meeting people who want to learn meditation, or want to refine their practice, is one of my favorite activities in the world – right up there with surfing and swimming. All my training over the past 38 years as a meditation teacher, as a researcher, as a clairvoyant, has been to equip me to help people find the meditation techniques and styles that work the best for them. It's one of the great joys of my life.
I work with people who have never meditated before, and with martial artists, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, therapists, Tai Chi and Chi Gung practitioners, writers, sculptors, actors, and every other type of meditator you can think of. Some people who come for coaching have been meditation for decades, others just a few years.