Margaret had a question: “Why do you meet one-on-one with students?”
First of all, it’s totally optional; to participate in these meetings is a matter of personal choice and preference. I am happy to say that there is no charge for one-on-one meetings. Sometimes we call these meetings ‘interviews’—not like job interviews, but because in talking, we mix perspectives/views. We talk at the intersection of our views.
I meet with students one-on-one because my teacher did that and I found it enormously helpful. In the same way Lama Michael did, as I get to know a practitioner, we can get at the core of their understanding, mis-understand, habits and life in general.
In one-on-one meetings, we have no particular agenda, though after the first meeting, I will always and continuously direct the conversation back to dharma practice. I am not a therapist. Not a doctor. Not a shaman or a person looking for a new friend. I am a dharma teacher, so I’ll assume if you come to me, you are looking to get answers to your dharma questions or to see how to apply your practice to life’s many challenges and opportunities. I’ll assume you want to wake up, even if you have no idea where to start.
In public sessions, like our Monday night mediation and dialogue, you can also ask dharma questions. If we’ve met, I’ll tailor the answer to both your question and your situation a little bit, if I know something about you. But I’ll still spend most of the response time on ‘the middle’—the average person in that night’s group who might share your question. Others will also contribute their thoughts and experience, which is wonderful; in part because in that process you’ll gradually develop meaningful relationships with others in the community.
In one-on-one sessions the advice can be more specific to you. We can discuss concrete examples, based on your life at the moment and can explore specific uses of practice that will help with your most common habits and obstacles, while developing your strengths.
In a one-on-one meeting it’s possible that the ‘container’ feels more intimate—and therefore, for some, more safe. I can be more direct with questions and you can speak freely without having to direct energy towards the others in the room. I can ask more clarifying questions to be sure I have understood what it is you really want to know and do.
In one-on-one meetings, we can have a months’ long on-going discussion about key themes of your dharma interests and about your main practices. As your experience grows and your understanding develops, we can talk about more nuanced understandings and application of the dharma views, methods and activities.
We can also discuss how to work with your relationships in the community, with volunteering, with your vision and hopes for the community. And of course, we can talk freely about any challenges you might experience. When your sense of all those is clear, you can raise them skillfully in a more public setting, like sangha (community) meetings or our Monday night sits.
Some practice questions are quite person-specific—and general answers point in the right direction, but might not actually show you a meaningful path of application of your practice. You might not feel like raising certain questions in public, especially if you have trauma, or are new to the community. We try to make Dekeling an inclusive and safe place for all, but trusting that takes time. We want you to take all the time you need, and one-on-one meetings can be a good place to test your growing trust.
One-on-one meetings are a resource-intensive use of both the teacher’s and student’s time. But I find that people who learn to use them wisely often become community members who support the community in many ways. I think it’s worth it to invest in these meetings.
We do one-on-one meetings by Zoom and in person, socially distanced. Board members and assistant teachers are given first priority, but often need the least support. Those two volunteer groups can get one-on-one meetings on short notice and often. This helps them be resourced well enough to continue to offer work to the community. Access to the Lama is our way of appreciating their contributions to the community, since their work may take many hours from their life. People in urgent situations, even if they are new to the community, can also usually get a meeting. Generally, we do meetings at a time and place convenient to my schedule, but if someone is dying or in the hospital, or suddenly home-bound, I can and will travel. But everyone—even people who don’t come to Dekeling—are welcome to sign up for a meeting.
Meetings are scheduled for an hour, but we may finish early. No problem.
I always hope that students who participate in one-on-one meetings or any other of our free offerings will find a way to give back to the community. It takes a village to run even a small center like ours. There is always volunteering. Dana (offerings) are always useful to keep the lights on. Your meditation is always an offering to the whole world.
If you’d like a one-on-one meeting, this is the link to the calendar. If you set a meeting and can’t come for some reason, just let me know.
Happy practice. May beings benefit from your kind intentions.