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Leading a Meditation Group at Work

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Leading a Meditation Group at Work
Answer
6/29/18 10:41 AM
I have been thinking of starting a weekly group meditation session at work and I would like to get the commuity's thoughts on any potential risks or concerns in doing so.

I have been meditating for about 10 years and I would like to start sharing what I have with other people so that they can benefit in many of that ways that I have. I was taught to meditate when I joined a group one of my teachers was running during university. It was very simple, teaching mostly focus of on the breath (anapana), with some slight variations (sometimes with some stretching first, a few minues of walking, doing a body scan before starting, etc.). I would like to do something similar as I found it a great and easy introduction that saw befinits immediately in my daily life.

However, I know that by leading a group meditation, I am taking on some form of a teacher role and with that comes a degree of responsibility to the people I will be guiding. I feel fairly confident that I am at a place where I can do this form of guidance and if people get more serious about it, I can refer them to a more skillful teacher. A bit more backgound of my path can be found here: https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/8376514 but I'm not sure it's necessary for this discussion. I have had some dark night experiences so I am fairly aware of what people may get themselves into but I think that the risks are fairly small for what I will be doing in the group sessions.

What do people think? Are there any risks I should watch out for? Anyone who thinks it's just an all around terrible idea? Any feedback is welcome.

All the best!

RE: Leading a Meditation Group at Work
Answer
6/29/18 12:04 PM as a reply to Simon Minelli.
The short answer: It depends on how much you care about, or depend on, this particular job (and perhaps your career in general). 

Doing this at work exposes you to risks that would seem to outweigh the potential benefits, given today's emotionally and legally charged workplace. At a minimum, you'll need to get HR to evaluate the risks and then officially endorse your program under the banner of "wellness." Better still, ask HR to hire an outside teacher whom you respect.

If HR is unwilling to sponsor such a program, ask them if they would at least set aside a dedicated office space for meditation and quiet reflection. Many companies already have similar facilities for physical exercise, breast feeding, etc. If people who use the space are attracted to you as a teacher/mentor, that's fine; just keep it unofficial.

RE: Leading a Meditation Group at Work
Answer
6/29/18 12:39 PM as a reply to Simon Minelli.
As much as I love meditation, am enthusiastic about it and like what it has done for my life I would not teach it to co-workers. It's just too risky for social, work-related and legal reasons. 

RE: Leading a Meditation Group at Work
Answer
6/29/18 12:49 PM as a reply to Ward Law.
I guess I'm naive but I had not considered the fact that there could be legal, or employement-based consequences. Our work is very supportive of employees creating clubs and groups so I honestly don't think they would give it a second thought if I suggested starting the group. I would like to learn more about what could possibly happen. Are you thinking of events like other employees blaming me for inflicting emotional stress on them? Do you know of any stories/precident for this, even anecdotal?

Our workplace does have a wellness room (just a small room with a bed and chair basically) but I don't think I have ever seen anyone use it.

Thanks a lot for the response.

RE: Leading a Meditation Group at Work
Answer
6/29/18 2:15 PM as a reply to Simon Minelli.
After my teacher told me that I was ready to teach, I asked her, "Well... where?". She said, "It will find you." 

I quickly realized that, as an employee at a university in California, I was surrounded by a large group of people that could benefit, but that there would be some obvious difficulties and constraints based on the location.

Happily, a friend of mine was the learning/training program manager on campus and we agreed to merely offer a non-secular "mindfulness" style course. The campus has a no religion/teaching policy on campus, but I quickly realized that it wasn't hard to keep it that way - even the Buddhas basic teachings are largely secular, or can be seen that way. One issue we were concerned about was: What if someone has a real breakthrough or crisis that require non-secular practices or help. It was agreed that any advising would have to happen off campus and in person.

I was warned from quite high up that this all needed to be on MY time, not during work, and that no work resources would be volunteered. Luckily I was partnered with someone who could easily make this all his, and there was quickly top-level campus buy-in from the health department on campus amongst others.

I would echo Ward Law's suggestions, though our small circle of dharm practitioners ended up being the leaders. With any luck you'll find, as we did, that there are far more like minded folks that are happy to enable your effort any way they can. We discovered that there were Deans, people who work directly with the Chancellor, internationally known faculty, and many other people who allocated space or resources that have helped us along the way. Everything went right for us, but it might have been smarter to have more of these things taken care of. 

I currently run both a discussion group of about 10 people, and a meditation group of between 10 and 20 people each week. It is immensely rewarding.

RE: Leading a Meditation Group at Work
Answer
6/29/18 2:29 PM as a reply to Simon Minelli.
Yes, a lot depends on the company and its "corporate culture." In any case, the small possibility that someone could become unhinged in some way needs to be acknowledged and planned for. As we know, meditation has a way of bringing stuff up.

RE: Leading a Meditation Group at Work
Answer
6/29/18 9:10 PM as a reply to Simon Minelli.
My feeling is that meditation often leads to dropping out of the rat race. When I used to go to the Zen center a few evenings a week after work, I thought the residents there were crazy when they would give talks about how they dropped out of the rat race to have more time to meditate. Then I dropped out of the rat race myself. And the personality changes caused by meditation can disrupt relationships when one person takes up meditation and the other does not. I would be hesitant to teach meditation to people with young children or newlyweds. If someone comes to you and asks for advice and you warn them about the risks, it is one thing. If you advertise great benefits and covince people to try it without warning of the risks, it is a very different situation. 

I have written about the dangers of meditation here: https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/meditation-1#meditation_danger

(The link at the end, to buddhistgeeks.com is broken and I can't find an archive, there is an excerpt here: http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threads/upcomming-interview-jeffery-martin-on-enlightenment.1596/page-3#post-51627)