Thank you for your interest in serving as a peer-leader. This article will help you successfully and effectively peer-lead a group meditation.
This article starts by showing you how peer-leading is an act of love for yourself and all life. Knowing this, you can let love motivate you while you prepare to peer-lead and then when you actually do it. If your actions come from love, then all of these activities will be peaceful, joyful experiences for you.
Next we define the five core principles that guide our group meditations. We intend for our group meditations to be friendly, welcoming, inclusive, nonsectarian, and skillful. The rest of the article explains what you can do as a peer-leader to make your group meditations embody these core principles. It also contains resources to help you prepare to peer-lead your first group meditation.
To start, we share how peer-leading is an act of love for yourself and others.
How Peer-Leading Benefits You and Others
Serving as a group meditation peer-leader benefits you in a variety of ways. Here are a few of them:
1. Serving as a peer-leader will help your mindfulness practice grow and develop. The best way to learn something is to teach it. Remaining calm, relaxed, peaceful, and meditative while leading a guided meditation is challenging. With practice, however, you will see progress. Skillfully and compassionately communicating mindfulness topics to others is also challenging. With experience, however, you will gain proficiency. As a result, peer-leading will deepen your understanding, mindfulness, and wisdom. In this way, peer-leading is an act of love for yourself.
2. Serving as a peer-leader will bring you much joy and satisfaction. Many people hunger to know their inner love, peace, compassion, and joy, which meditation can help them discover. As a peer-leader, you help all those you peer-lead nourish that hunger to connect with their inner wisdom and love. Seeing others benefit from the meditations, discussions, and talks you offer will bring you much joy and satisfaction, while also benefiting them. In this way, peer-leading is an act of love for others and for yourself.
3. Serving as a peer-leader trains you to become a mindfulness teacher. If you aspire to teach mindfulness, peer-leading is a wonderful step towards that worthy goal. Through your experience leading group meditations, you will become more competent and comfortable at leading meditation and speaking about mindfulness. Once you feel comfortable leading meditations, answering basic questions about meditation, and facilitating discussions, you will be ready to start meditation practice groups or initiatives where you live, work, volunteer, study, or worship. As a peer-leader, you may also help the Boundless Love Project with our mindfulness initiatives at interested groups, businesses, and institutions. In this way, peer-leading is an act of love for all life, yourself included.
You may come up with other more specific ways that peer-leading benefits yourself and others. We encourage you to do so. Then always remember that all that you do to prepare to peer-lead, and all of the peer-leading you do, is an act of love for yourself and all life.
Our Guiding Principles
Next we turn to our guiding principles for group meditation. There are five of them. In our group meditations, we seek to be:
Friendly: We treat all life (present or not) with respect, courtesy, and dignity.
Welcoming: We gladly receive all who are present.
Inclusive: We do our best to avoid prejudicial language and speak in a way that validates and affirms the value and worth of everyone.
Nonsectarian: We honor the wisdom found in all wisdom traditions, be they religious or secular, and share this wisdom in a manner that is applicable to all.
Skillful: We offer valuable, quality services in an open, honest, and kind manner.
The rest of this article will give you examples of how to put these principles into practice while you lead a group meditation.
The Basic Schedule
Part of being skillful, is honoring our attendees' time. To do this, we try to end our meetings on time so attendees can go home when they expect to.
To help do this, we have created a basic outline for an hour-and-a-half long group meditation. This schedule is based on the group meditation we offer in Dakota County, but can be adapted to whatever time you plan on offering your group meditation:
6:15 pm • Welcome and Intentions
6:18 pm • Intro Meditation
6:21 pm• Introductions and Check-In
6:30 pm• Main Meditation
7:05 pm• Activity
7:35 pm• Announcements
7:40 pm• Closing Meditation
7:43 pm • Speaker Evaluation forms
7:45 pm • All done!
This rough outline hopefully gives you a sense of the flow of the meeting. Some things may go longer, others may take less time. Also, if your activity is short, it is perfectly find to end the meeting early. I doubt you will hear any complaints. Haha!
At the meeting, keep a watch or clock handy, and refer to it periodically, to aid you in flexibly following the schedule and ending on time.
Nest, we turn to sharing the top twelve tips to help you implement our guiding values and succeed as a peer-leader:
Top Tips for Peer-Leading a Group Meditation
1. Have the group meditation be inclusive.
We desire for everyone to feel welcomed, respected, and included at our group meditations. To this end, please:
· Be mindful to warmly greet and welcome all who arrive, especially those who might be showing up for the first time. Show through your actions that their presence is valued and appreciated.
· Explain our nonsectarian approach so people of all religious and secular wisdom traditions feel welcome and appreciated (see top tip number nine for more details).
· Use inclusive language throughout the meeting. Because language simplifies things, it naturally creates divisions where there are none. Despite this reality and challenge, we do our best to use inclusive language that reveals the inherent value, self-worth, and unity of all individuals, beings, and life forms. Please read the articles Why and How We Paraphrase Quotes and How We Handle Pronouns and Why We Handle Them This Way (You will find a link to both of these articles in the Next Steps section near the end of the article).
· Encourage people who want to, to share their preferred pronouns during introductions, especially when new people are present. We do this to help our transgender members feel welcomed, valued, and included. Transgender people don’t identify as the gender assigned to them at birth. As a common courtesy, and to make their lives more wonderful, we do our best to use the pronouns that they prefer we use for them. Asking people to share their preferred pronouns helps us do this.
· During discussions, invite those who haven’t spoken yet, to speak if they would like to. You can do this by saying, "Is there anyone who hasn't spoken yet that would like to share?" followed by a very long pause.
· Give sincere validation to all who share comments during discussions. This can be as simple as saying, “Thank you for sharing,” “Your words give us a lot to contemplate,” or “What a wonderful question.” Be mindful when you do this, to avoid using comparative language, “That’s the best question I’ve ever heard,” or “That’s a very good question.” (which may imply that questions other people asked were not as good).
· Do whatever else makes sense to help everyone feel safe, welcomed, comfortable, and appreciated at the event.
2. Keep the group meditation nonsectarian.
We welcome all people at the Boundless Love Project Group Meditations. Because people belong to different religious and secular wisdom traditions, we keep our meetings nonsectarian. This means we don't claim one specific wisdom tradition to be the best, true, or only one. Rather, we appreciate the wisdom found in all wisdom traditions, be they religious or secular. Our mindfulness trainings and group meditations can be thought of as a supplement to help people of all wisdom traditions go deeper into, and better appreciate, their own tradition.
We recognize that on a fundamental level, all wisdom traditions point to the same reality. This is the case even though each tradition uses different words to describe that reality, approaches that reality from different angles, and may emphasize different aspects of that reality.
When texts or quotes from a particular wisdom tradition do an excellent job explaining a reality, we happily appreciate and share that wisdom. At times, we may need to paraphrase or interpret it in a manner that allows it to be embraced more easily by people from all wisdom traditions. When possible, it is also helpful to show the similarities between various wisdom traditions.
In addition to reading our nonsectarian policies, here are tips to help maintain a nonsectarian meeting:
· When possible, avoid “God talk” and speak primarily in a secular manner.
· When “God” is mentioned, however, talk about the "God of your understanding" and invite people to substitute whatever word for that reality they prefer to use, being sure to point out both religious and secular alternatives. Other religious names for God include Allah, Jehovah, Y-hw-h, Brahman, Creator, Nirvana, Dao, and so forth. Secular names for God include universe, formlessness, life, source, love, being, and so on.
· When sharing quotes from a particular wisdom tradition, use quotes that speak to universal truths that will benefit everyone, even people not from that wisdom tradition. regardless of their wisdom tradition.
· Paraphrase quotes from wisdom traditions whenever necessary to make a quote inclusive, or to help make the wisdom of the quote more relevant to people from all wisdom traditions. For specifics on how we paraphrase, read our article Why and How We Paraphrase Quotes (You will find a link to it in the Next Steps section near the end of the article). Of course, when you paraphrase text, let people know you are doing this.
· When sharing quotes from a Western religious tradition, share a quote or a concept from an Eastern tradition, and/or from a secular wisdom tradition that points to the same reality. In this way, we help build respect, appreciation, and understanding between the various wisdom traditions. Moreover, it helps reinforce the fact that we value and respect all wisdom traditions equally.
· When quoting or paraphrasing from one of the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible, point out that this text comes from the Judeo-Islamic-Christian traditions, to emphasize their commonalities. Similarly, when quoting or paraphrasing from the other parts of the Holy Bible, point out that the text comes from the Islamic-Christian tradition to again emphasize that this wisdom text is shared by both traditions.
3. Create a quiet, calm, comfortable, and safe environment for attendees.
As much as possible, help to create the ideal conditions for attendees to get the most out of their meditation and their time spent together. Ideal conditions include creating a quiet, calm, comfortable, and safe environment. Here are some ways to do this:
· Ask people to turn off and put away their phones at the beginning of the meeting.
· Facilitate people having a comfortable experience and feeling safe. Whatever their needs may be, show concern and offer possible solutions. Does their chair not work for them? Help them find another chair that does. If a chair doesn't work, ask if they might prefer sitting or lying on the floor. Offer them your coat to use as cushioning. Does seeing the library patrons though the window make someone feel anxious? Ask them to move so their back faces the window and see if that helps them.
· Although you will do your best to create and peaceful and quiet environment, you don't have full control over the situation. If disturbances arise during a meditation or other parts of the meeting, this can trigger aversive thoughts in attendees. Model appropriate mindfulness and acceptance of the disturbance. You may even take a few seconds to help guide them to peacefully accept the disturbance. For example, if loud and unpleasant noises happen and persist, offer instructions like, "Listen peacefully to the sounds. Can we simply let the sounds be sounds, without adding any judgment, blame, or aversion to them? Gently see if you can accept the sounds as they are."
· Research has found meditation to be beneficial for people suffering from posttraumatic stress syndrome. At the same time, meditation can trigger flashbacks for people who have endured trauma. Because we don’t know the history our attendees, before the long meditation, share these instructions:
Meditation is done as an act of love for ourselves and all life. If you experience something too challenging to sit with, or sense that you are about to experience a flashback of past traumas, then open your eyes and stop meditating immediately. Look around the room and silently label everything: window, wall, door, clock, and so on. This will help ground you in the present moment and remind you that you are in a safe space. Then get up, leave the room, and do whatever you need to do to feel safe and in control and take care of your wellbeing.
If something like this happens to you, please contact Freeman and let him know. He can help you plan how to move forward skillfully with your meditation practice.
For your convenience, this text is included in the Group Meditation Script which we will talk about next.
4. Plan your group meditation well in advance.
Another part of being skillful, is being well prepared. To make planning your group meditation easier, we have created a downloadable Group Meditation Script (You will find a link to it in the Next Steps section near the end of the article) which you can use as the basic skeleton script for your group meditation.
The script provides sample text for welcoming people, introducing the group, leading the opening and closing meditations, introducing the group meditation, and so on. This script is like a choose-your-own-adventure. It contains text for various options that you may choose to do for each part of the group meditation. For example, for the introductory meditation you can either play a recorded meditation, lead a silent one, or read a meditation script during it. All you need to do is choose which parts you will use and erase those sections that you won't.
Then all you need to do is prepare the longer meditation and activity.
For the longer meditation, you can play a recorded meditation, do a silent meditation, or guide the meditation by reading a meditation script. Freeman can give you a the script of whatever meditation you would like to do, if you would like to lead the meditation.
For the activity, you can do whatever you feel comfortable doing. Here are some possibilities. This list of options is listed roughly from the simplest options, to the more involved options. You may also feel free to blend these options together in whatever way makes sense. Your options are:
· Play a recorded mindfulness talk for people to listen to.
· Read a short text on a mindfulness topic and facilitate a discussion about it.
· Show a short video on a mindfulness topic and facilitate a discussion about it.
· Share some examples of how mindfulness has helped you in your life.
· Share how a specific slogan or agape arsenal technique has benefitted your life.
· Lead attendees through a journaling assignment.
· Share the story of a person who has done great acts of selfless love. More often than not, share the stories of people who traditionally have been excluded from the halls of power: women, people of color, disabled people, LGBTQ+ people, and so on.
· Read a mindfulness book, share some of the key points, and tell how you have applied this knowledge in your life.
· Lead a mindfulness activity such as described in book Mindful Games by Susan Kaiser Greenland or from similar books.
Because of the many options, you can let your own schedule, experience, and interest determine how much you time and energy you invest in this. The beauty is that no matter how you plan to peer-lead a group meditation, you will gain skill, confidence, and competence in your abilities.
Figure out your plan well in advance. This will give you time to gather any needed materials (meditation scripts, books to read an excerpt from, and so forth); prepare your talk, reading, or discussion questions; and practice leading a guided meditation, if you choose to do that. Being prepared well in advance will help you feel more confident, calm, and ready on the day of.
If you have questions or our unsure how to proceed, feel free to contact Freeman.
As you gain experience peer-leading, your competence, understanding, and confidence will grow. As this happens, feel free to adapt and modify the script as you see fit.
Practice leading the opening and closing meditation.
If you will be offering a guided meditation, practice doing this at home by yourself. Run through it several times. Use a script, and do your best to remain mindful as you read the script in a calm, peaceful, steady manner.
If you will be chanting, practice chanting so you feel comfortable chanting the text. Read the article Intro to Chanting (You will find a link to it in the Next Steps section near the end of the article) for more details on chanting.
If you will be giving a talk, practice giving the talk to yourself in a mirror. Use the mirror to monitor that you are making good eye contact with your audience (who in this case, is you.) Make sure the talk can be given in the time allowed. If it is too long, make cuts as necessary.
Practice will build your skill, confidence, and preparedness so that you will be successful when you lead the group meditation.
6. Create a checklist of what to bring and use it when you pack.
List all of the items you may need at the group meditation. This may include:
· The script you will use for the meeting.
· The script you will use for the meditation.
· Any audio or visual equipment necessary to play recorded meditations, talks, or videos on.
· A chime or bell to start and end meditations with.
· Email signup sheet and clipboard.
· Evaluation forms, writing utensils, and an envelope to collect the evaluation forms.
· A stopwatch or timer to time the meditation, and keep the meeting on schedule.
· Any handouts you want to give to those who attend.
· Anything else you think would be helpful.
At the top of the Group Meditation Script, we have a list of items you may need to bring. Delete those you won’t need from the list, and add to the list any unmentioned items that you will need. Then, when you pack for the meeting, be sure to use the checklist to make sure you bring everything.
7. Arrive at least 15 to 30 minutes early.
Expect unforeseen difficulties to arise. A skillful way to address unforeseen difficulties is by planning to arrive early. Planning to arrive early helps address delays due to heavier-than-usual traffic, the detour you need to take because of road construction, or the time it takes to stop and fill up for gas when you find out your car’s tank is empty.
When the unexpected happens, arriving early also gives you time to problem-solve, figure our creative work-arounds, ask for help from library staff or other group members, and figure out your new plan of action so you can do your best with the resources you have. Because we can expect the unexpected, plan to arrive early. It will help you deal with the unexpected, and feel more prepared and confident during the group meditation.
You will also want to arrive early to set up the room, materials, and audio-visual equipment how you need them to be. If tables and chairs need moving, move them into whatever configuration will best facilitate the meeting.
Once the tables and chairs are arranged, choose a seat that will allow you to see anyone who may enter the meeting late. You want such a vantage point so that in instances when it wouldn’t be wise to verbally acknowledge them (such as when leading a mediation), you may still warmly welcome and acknowledge them with your eye contact, a friendly smile, and head nod as they enter.
Having chosen a seat, lay out your scripts, timer, bell, handouts, and other materials in a way that facilitates the smooth flow of the meeting.
If you plan to use audio or visual equipment, plan to arrive 30 minutes early to set up and test the equipment to make sure it works properly. There are often technical glitches that will need to be worked out before the meeting starts.
Set out a sign-up sheet so any new people can fill it out and be added to our email list. Download a PDF of our sign-up sheet (A link to the PDF can be found in our Next Steps section near the end of this article), print it out, and bring it to the group meditation on a clipboard if you have one.
Once the room and materials are set out, and the audio-visual equipment is working properly, take a few minutes to center and ground yourself in mindful present moment awareness. Set some loving intentions for your time at the meeting. Bless the meeting space that it may help all who enter feel peaceful, calm, welcomed, and loved.
When people arrive, verbally greet them and welcome them warmly with a handshake, bow, or other appropriate gesture. Invite new people to sign up for the email list. Do what you can to make everyone feel welcomed and comfortable.
8. Introduce yourself as a peer-leader.
During your introduction, share how long you have been meditating for and say something like, “I facilitate this group meditation as a peer-leader. Like you, I am learning to be more mindful and working to integrate mindfulness into my life that I may live with more love, peace, joy, and skillfulness.” (For your convenience, this text is included in the Group Meditation Script)
Identifying yourself as a peer-leader clarifies to others that you are not an expert. It helps people understand you serve as a facilitator, rather than a teacher. Clarifying your role benefits you in several ways. It helps remove the pressure to know more than you do, allows you to respond to questions with, “I don’t know, does anyone want to share their answer to this question?,” and it gives you more freedom to make mistakes.
9. If new people arrive, share the Boundless Love Project’s mission statement and our inclusive and nonsectarian approach to teaching mindfulness.
To help new people get oriented to our program, and to help people from all wisdom traditions feel welcomed and appreciated, share the Boundless Love Project’s mission statement and our nonsectarian approach to teaching mindfulness. This is especially important to do whenever new people arrive, or when you, or a guest speaker, will be sharing quotes from a particular religious wisdom tradition.
Here is sample script text to do that:
The Boundless Love Project seeks to peacefully create a global beloved community where all life thrives. To this end we teach mindfulness in an inclusive, nonsectarian manner to help individuals and groups overcome delusion with truth, cruelty with compassion, greed with peace, and hatred with love.
We are nonsectarian and welcome people from all religious and secular wisdom traditions to attend our events. Our mindfulness trainings and group meditations can be thought of as a supplement to help people of all wisdom traditions go deeper into, and better appreciate, their own tradition.
Our non-sectarianism means we appreciate the wisdom found in all wisdom traditions. When we share quotes from texts or believers of various wisdom traditions, it is because they make a good point that will benefit you, regardless of the wisdom tradition you belong to. At other times we share such quotes to show the similarities between the various wisdom traditions.
We do our best to make everyone feel welcomed, safe, and appreciated here. If at any point we fail in this intention, please let me know so we may make appropriate changes to better serve you.
For your convenience, this text is included in the Group Meditation Script. If a new person who has never been to group meditation shows up after this has been read, be sure to summarize this information for them.
10. When peer-leading, do your best to be mindful, present, and grounded in your senses.
At group meditations, we try to establish a safe, peaceful, loving, and mindful space. When you are mindful, present, and grounded in your senses, you will be calm and peaceful. When you hold a calm, peaceful, mindful mental state, it will help others entrain to that state, and find their own inner peace and mindfulness. Therefore, do your best to remain calm, peaceful, and mindful as you lead.
Top tips to help you be mindful and present while facilitating include:
· Meditate for a few minutes prior to the event, to boost your mindfulness, presence, and to feel your inner body.
· Set some loving intentions to mindfully do your best for the benefit of all who attend, all who don’t attend, and for all beings and all life everywhere.
· Offer blessings for yourself and the space. Examples of blessings for yourself include: “May I be peaceful, calm, and loving. May I model mindfulness, patience, and skillfulness. May I also model forgiveness towards myself when I do not meet these high standards.” And so on. Examples of blessings for the space include: “May this building be filled with love, light, peace, and joy. May this building protect all who enter from all dangers, be they physical, mental, or spiritual. May this space aid us in connecting with our fundamental nature of unconditional, infinite love.” And so on.
· Stay out of your head, by focusing most of your attention on doing what needs doing, and the rest of your attention on the sensations you feel within the body. For many of us, public speaking triggers anxiety, fear, nervousness, and stress to arise. Compassionately feel whatever arises. Remember these sensations are impersonal and temporary. Allow the feelings to stay in your body for as long as they would like to, knowing that they will go away on their own as is their nature to do.
· Hold all thoughts loosely and lightly, assuming them all to be false. For many of us, public speaking triggers delusional judgments about our performance, fears of what others think of us, futuring thoughts about what might go wrong, and so on. Because public speaking often triggers many delusional thoughts, set a skillful intention to assume all such discursive thinking to be false. This will better allow you to hold all thoughts mindfully, loosely, and lightly. More importantly, you can focus your attention on what you are doing as well as on feeling the sensations of your inner body.
· Prepare and practice. In general, the more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel, and the easier it will be to remain grounded in a mindful, peaceful state.
11. Have attendees evaluate your performance.
Feedback from the audience can help inspire confidence in our abilities, alert us to where we can grow and improve, and help us better serve our audiences in the future. At the end of the group meditation, pass out evaluations for people to anonymously complete. Their comments may give you insights that will help you grow as a group meditation peer-leader. A PDF of the evaluation form can be found in the Next Steps section at the end of the article.
12. Do your best, and love yourself no matter what happens.
Trying new things can be scary. It's unlikely we will be the virtuoso of our dreams when we first try something new. Thus, plan, prepare, and practice. Then simply do your best and let go of needing the results to be a certain way. If you make mistakes, that's life. It happens. Learn from them. It's no big deal. We don't expect you to be perfect, and you should not expect yourself to be perfect either.
Experience is always the best teacher. By stepping outside of your comfort zone, you grow. By getting experience leading group meditations, you learn how to be more proficient at leading group meditations. Get the experience and love yourself no matter what happens.
Now that you have a good overview of what you are trying to accomplish, here are your next steps:
1. Read Why and How We Paraphrase Quotes to help ensure your group meditations are friendly, welcoming, inclusive, and nonsectarian.
2. Read How We Handle Pronouns and Why We Handle Them This Way to help ensure your group meditations are friendly, welcoming, and inclusive.
3. If you plan to offer the chanting, read Intro to Chanting to help you prepare for that.
4. Download and print a PDF of our sign-up sheet. Bring this to the group meditation.
5. Download a PDF of our evaluation form, print several of them, and cut them four to a page. Bring these to the group meditation.
6. Review the Group Meditation Script. As you read it, choose which option you will do for each part of the meeting and delete the other options. By the end of the script you will have the group meditation fairly well mapped out.
NOTE: GROUP MEDITATION SCRIPT COMING SOON. PLEASE CHECK AGAIN ANOTHER TIME.
You may also click here for a web version of the Group Meditation Script. COMING SOON.
7. Decide and prepare your longer meditation and activity.
Let your preparations and your peer-leading be an act of love for yourself and all life. Peer-leading will deepen your mindfulness practice, bring you joy, and help you serve and benefit all life. Remembering that all of your actions are an act of love will help the work you do be done with peace, ease, and joy.
We hope this article makes you feel more confident in your ability to peer-lead a group meditation that is friendly, welcoming, inclusive, nonsectarian, and skillful. This article covered a lot of information, so feel free to review it as necessary.
Do your best. We are here to support you. Contact Freeman if you have questions. Be OK with whatever happens, and love yourself no matter what.
We hope you found this article helpful. If you have any questions or concerns, please be sure to share them with us in the comments section below, or by using this feedback form. We wish you much peace, joy, and success!