Reflections on the development of the Essential Teaching Weekend

Approximately 15 years ago I volunteered to organize an Essential Teaching Workshop (then called “The School for Teachers”) to be held here in Houston. As often happens in volunteer organizations, you do something once and it is yours forever. So it has been for me and the School. The School has evolved in those 15 years, the focus now more on sharing than teaching, our venue has changed several times, different members of the community have pitched in to help with the various roles, but the experience has essentially remained the same, that of a spirit filled time of community.

The School for Teachers came into being in Florence, Italy in 1997. It was developed to address the problem of a growing demand/interest throughout the world in contemplative prayer and the limited number of teachers within the World Community. Fr. John had died in 1982 and Fr. Laurence, though highly gifted, could only cover so much territory. The group in Florence made the wise decision to address this shortage by choosing to train our own teachers from within, perhaps recalling Fr. John’s often stated advice “The best teacher is your own experience”.

The next problem they faced, given that Fr. John had said “that everything you need to know about meditation can be written on the back of a postage stamp” was what to teach. Here, I think, the authors showed their genius by designing a curriculum fitted to a weekend retreat setting that respected the simplicity of the teaching while providing the essential aspects of that teaching. The School has evolved over the years but those four key elements: the basics of the teaching passed on by John Main, an overview of the mystical Christian tradition, a survey of the personal, psychological stages of the journey and the role of the meditation group, are still the foundation of the curriculum.

Matched with the talks on the four elements mentioned above are periods of meditation, group discussion, sharing of experiences, and an exchange of ideas about spreading the practice of meditation.During these sessions community is formed and spiritual friendships begun. Meditators naturally thrive on time with other meditators. On Saturday evening there is a social time. In Houston, this means snacks, wine, and a game of some kind, last year it was CatchPhrase.

I have truly been blessed by my participation in these many workshops. It is a time to reinvigorate your practice, to learn about Fr. John and his predecessors in our Christian contemplative tradition, and to relax and grow in the community of other meditators. I encourage all who have not attended the School to reward themselves with the experience and those who have, to return as often as they can.
- Pat King, Co-coordinator, School of Meditation in the United States