What is a sitting?
A sitting is a group gathering led by a teacher of Waking Down in Mutuality. It generally consists of these elements:
• Gazing meditation, in which the teacher makes eye contact for a brief period (up to several minutes) with each participant in turn
• Personal sharing time, in which the remaining time is divided among the participants, with each one having a time to talk about something currently important to them. Or, in larger sittings, those with the strongest impulse to share will ask questions or bring up issues to explore in group, while the rest of the group helps to hold the space
• Alternately, each person in the group has a shorter check-in time and one person is invited to have a more in-depth inquiry into a particular issue
That’s pretty much it. But there’s more going on under the surface than is readily apparent in this simple format.
“Transmission” is a word used to describe a subtle event whereby the awakened-and-embodied condition of the teacher is communicated non-verbally to the participant. The teacher is living in an effortless condition of knowing their true nature as infinite, unbounded Consciousness and also very finite, limited human being. This paradoxical condition is inexplicable to the rational mind—it simply can’t understand how both can be true. But the body and whole being can and do understand, intuitively. And it is this intuitive level that is being communicated with, body to body, during the gazing. It is not so much about something passing from the teacher to the participant as it is about a resonance effect—much like one tuning fork, when vibrating strongly, will activate and start a similar vibration in another similar fork without any physical contact. In gazing, the teacher’s confidence in Being is vibrating strongly, providing an opportunity for the participant to begin vibrating in a similar fashion. Over time this helps catalyze the participant’s own ability to experience and demonstrate this paradoxical mystery for themselves, as their own direct realization.
It is not necessary to do anything or have any particular attitude in order for gazing to be effective. And when not gazing, you can do any form of quiet meditation that you prefer, perhaps attending to your breath or inner body or just being present to whatever’s arising.
2) Seeing and being seen
Many, if not almost all, of us have a deep hunger to be really seen as who we are, in a loving and compassionate fashion that acknowledges our inner beauty and all the struggles we have faced—and currently face—simply trying to be here as a human being. Because we have encountered far more judgment and criticism than welcoming embrace of the totality that we are, we may also have a deep fear of being seen. Especially of being called out or revealed or publicly shamed.
The simple act of gazing with the teacher may bring up these conflicting feelings, and many more having to do with one’s past experiences, positive or negative, of having been seen or not seen by others. This is perfectly normal and there is nothing that needs to “be done” about it. New participants are invited to just let these sorts of feelings be as they are, and to participate in the gazing to whatever level they are comfortable. It is perfectly acceptable, for instance, to make brief contact and then close your eyes; not pushing yourself beyond what feels right in the moment.
Most people pretty quickly discover that gazing is a loving experience, which speaks to the deepest part of them, beyond the mind. And they may notice that something gets touched in a way that is rare and special, and that the shyest, most tender part of who they are is welcomed to come forth here, where it is most safe to do so, to be seen and recognized and nurtured into wholeness.
3) Speaking your truth
During the sharing, or check-in time, each person is invited to speak about anything that is currently “up” for them. This might be something that they are struggling with, personally, or an issue that they would like help with, to bring it into greater awareness. It might be something that they’re already quite aware of, or it might be something that is evoked by another person’s sharing. Or it might be a reaction to something someone else has said or done.
In sittings, participants are invited to speak things that might normally be difficult to express. This includes any doubts, skepticism, or disagreements they might have with the Waking Down teachings, for instance. Or the teacher. We have found that these “edges” of resistance or dislike are often very fruitful places to investigate together, freeing up energy and attention for ever deeper inquiries.
It can be challenging to speak this plainly in a group of people. Since it isn’t something that is very encouraged in our society, therefore not something most people have had much practice with, we understand and expect that sometimes things will just come out as they will—unpolished and messy. Not to worry! It is preferable to express in a rough way than to hold back. We ask only that, as much as possible, people speak in terms of what they are experiencing rather than putting blame on others for what they are feeling.
The practice of speaking what’s important and true for you will bring greater freedom and enlivenment over time, and helps to bring you into life in a new and deeper way. In sittings, we welcome the totality of who you are—including your edges, your so-called “negativities,” and your less-than-ideal parts, as well as your gifts and successes.
As you speak, you are being consciously listened to by the teacher and other participants. Your teacher will likely ask some clarifying questions, or reflect back to you what they are registering of what you are speaking. They will rarely, if ever, give specific advice, because discoveries that you make for yourself are far more powerful. But just being listened to, and really heard, can help bring new levels of clarity and awareness about whatever issue you are currently considering, even if no words are spoken.
Confidentiality: all participants in a sitting are requested to keep whatever anyone else shares completely confidential, for the safety and trust of the group.
4) Active Listening or “Holding”
Those who are not currently speaking are asked to participate by listening actively to the current speaker. By “active listening” we mean without agenda and without trying to find a solution or piece of advice to give the person. Listen as if you were going to be called on to repeat what the person has said.
Listen with your whole being, not just your ears and mind. Allow a portion of your awareness to be noticing how your body feels. Is it relaxed and open, or is it tense, sleepy, or agitated? These feelings can provide important clues to the deeper story behind the words the person is speaking, and will also help you become more sensitive to your body’s communications in general.
During a sitting, the teacher will be tracking the speaker closely, perhaps asking questions to help bring an issue to light. Do not interrupt this flow. However, if you feel a strong urge to ask a question or speak something that has come up in you, you may check in with the teacher to see if there is an appropriate time to speak. In some sittings, the other participants are invited to offer reflection to the speaker when (and if) they indicate they are open to receiving feedback.
5) Conscious feedback
If you are a newer participant, it would be best to observe a few times to get the feel for how this reflecting is done. Remember, we are not trying to fix anyone. A very fundamental premise of the waking down process is that you are already more than okay, you have not done anything wrong, and you do not need to be “fixed.” And we trust that you will be able to survive even very uncomfortable feelings, and do not need anyone to help you change how you feel. Even beyond that, we have discovered that it is the very act of allowing yourself to feel exactly how you feel that accelerates both the awakening process, and further integration beyond awakening.
If you have been invited to offer your reflections to the speaker, you can play a very important role of letting them know that they have been heard. Useful openers could be “I heard you say . . . . . .” or “while I was listening, I felt. . . .”
This simple process of speaking, listening, and reflecting, whether one is the speaker or listener, is a very powerful agency of deep healing. Just as gazing addresses our deep need to be seen, conscious sharing addresses our deep need to be heard in a nonjudgmental way. Every person has had wounding in this area, and as Sandra Glickman (a waking down teacher and therapist) has said, “wounds created in relationship, as so many of our deepest wounds are, can only be fully healed in, and by, relationship.”
A Waking Down sitting is a venue for exploring and creating conscious relationships, relationships that provide room for deep personal explorations, growth, and mutual support. Your participation in sittings will, over time, bring you many experiences that will enhance your ability to stay present with others no matter what they are experiencing. This, in turn, will greatly increase your ability to experience deep and real intimacy, in any and all of your personal relationships, within the group or otherwise.
A sitting cannot cover all the areas of what is called “Waking Down in Mutuality.” Your awakening is a multi-dimensional process that really needs more time and attention than sittings alone can provide. While you are welcome to bring any questions about your process to your teacher in a sitting, to really explore where you are at and receive assistance tailored to your unique situation and unfoldment into your full potentials, it is highly recommended that you engage a one-on-one relationship with a teacher with whom you resonate. Having one or more private sessions with your teacher every month, in addition to any sittings you attend, is ideal.