Introduction to Trillium Awakening Sittings
By CC Leigh
What is a sitting?
Sittings are group gatherings led by Trillium Awakening teachers, and are often assisted by mentors of this work. The format is flexible and may include meditation, teacher presentations, conversations about awakening, and open discussion. Sittings generally always include:
- Gazing meditation, in which the teacher (and perhaps the mentor) makes eye contact with participants;
- Personal sharing time for individual participants to explore issues currently relevant to their process while the rest of the group helps hold the space.
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 simultaneously 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 resonance—much like one tuning fork, when vibrating strongly, will activate vibrations 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.
In some sittings, participants are invited to do “mutual gazing” among themselves in addition to gazing with the teacher and mentor. This is up to the discretion of the teacher leading the sitting, and when it is offered, is always optional.
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. If we have encountered 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 participate in the gazing to whatever level they are comfortable. It is perfectly acceptable, for instance, to make brief eye 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 that speaks to the deepest part of them beyond their mind. They notice that something gets touched in a way that is rare and special. And they find that the shyest, most tender part of who they are is welcomed to come forth here, 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 to bring 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 Trillium 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 unpolished and messy. Not to worry! It is preferable to express in a rough way than to hold back (as long as you’re not “dumping” or venting rage directly at anyone). We ask that, as much as possible, people speak courteously 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 greenlight 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 deeply listened to by the teacher and other participants. Teachers offer guidance and reflection while honoring your inner wisdom and unique awakening process. They may ask some clarifying questions, or reflect back to you what they are registering of what you are speaking. They may offer suggestions but 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 bring new levels of clarity and life-forward movement in regard to whatever issue you are currently considering, even if few 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.
No “fixing” allowed: We have learned that advice-giving can undermine the sense of safe space that is so important for awakening and embodiment. Please refrain from offering suggestions or advice.
5) Conscious feedback
If you are a newer participant, it would be best to observe a few times to get the feel for how reflecting is done before jumping in. Remember, we are not trying to fix anyone. A fundamental premise of the Trillium process is that you are already more than okay, you have not done anything wrong, and you do not need to be “fixed.” 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 by letting them know that they have been heard. Useful openers could be “I heard you say . . . . . .” or “while I was listening, I felt. . . .” (Further suggestions for offering reflections can be found in Guidelines for Practicing Mutuality.)
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 long-term Trillium Awakening teacher, Sandra Glickman, has said, “Wounds created in relationship, as so many of our deepest wounds are, are most fully healed in, and by, relationship.”
A Trillium Awakening 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.
Receiving greenlighting and holding in mutuality, along with the transmission of embodied consciousness, causes your body-mind to relax, which then activates and enlivens your core Being. A sitting cannot, however, cover all areas of the Trillium journey. 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 and receive assistance tailored to your unique situation and potential, it is highly recommended that you engage a one-on-one relationship with a teacher, and possibly a mentor, with whom you resonate. Having one or more private sessions with your teacher every month, in addition to any sittings you attend, is ideal.
© CC Leigh, 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Guidelines for Conflict Resolution
Trillium Awakening educational offerings and coaching services comprise a spiritual path and community of practice that includes teachers, mentors, area coordinators, community leaders, and many wonderful people with a wide range of skills and personalities. And wherever people gather, conflicts will arise in due course—it’s just part of being human, and especially so when you are engaging in mutuality.
If you are experiencing conflict with someone on the Trillium path, we suggest the following steps:
1) First, see if you can simply speak your concerns to the other party. You might let them know that you’re feeling upset, concerned, or hurt about something, and would like an opportunity to be heard by them. The vast majority of issues can be handled by this simple step (though it is not unusual for it to take several back-and-forth passes before being fully resolved).
If you are on the receiving end of such feedback, do your best to simply listen. Hold your reactivity for the moment, and make sure you understand what they are bringing to your attention. You can repeat it back: “Am I hearing you correctly, that thus and such happened and you felt thus and such?” And see if you can find some degree of regret for the other party’s distress, even if you didn’t do what they said you did, or didn’t intend any harm. Let them know you are sorry they are in pain.
Wait until the person giving the feedback feels heard before asking for an opportunity to present your side of the issue. (See the Guidelines for Coconut Yoga for more details.)
2) If you feel too much charge to approach the other person directly as in Step 1, or if that step failed to assuage your distress (perhaps because you do not feel heard or understood by them), bring the issue to your next session with your teacher or mentor and seek their support. If the conflict is with your teacher or mentor, speak with another member of your support team, or with the mentor’s supervising teacher. Often, once you’ve had an opportunity to discharge some of the raw feelings with a sympathetic listener, you can then use Step 1 to resolve the conflict.
3) If it feels too difficult to go to the person directly without a neutral party present, you can ask any teacher who is acceptable to both parties to be present at an in-person meeting, or on a conference call with you both. Sometimes having a third party present makes all the difference, because they can help you understand what the other person is saying and meaning, and thereby resolve your issues. In this situation, both parties would ideally split the fee for the teacher’s time.
4) With real thorny situations, or where the previous steps haven’t brought the desired resolution, you can seek the help of a Trillium Awakening mediator. Mediation is a formal process that will require some advance preparation by both (or all of the) parties, followed by a carefully-structured conference call where both sides will have equal time to present their side of the issue and be heard. Typically both parties will invite a support person of their choosing to be a silent observer on the call, who can help them debrief afterward. As in Step 3, the cost of the mediation should be shared by both parties.
Note: If the other person does not agree to move forward with conflict resolution, it’s best to give them some space and time. You can check back in a few months to see if he or she feels differently. If not, it is best to honor the other person’s choice. It can be very difficult to hold this kind of tension, so be sure to get support from a teacher or other members of your support team.
Special situations: Communications via email and text seem especially prone to misunderstandings due to the difficulty of conveying subtle feelings through this medium, or expressing care and concern for the other person as you would naturally do in an in-person situation. We recommend, at the earliest opportunity, getting on the phone or meeting in person to address any such misunderstandings before they get blown all out of proportion.
And, naturally, “flaming” or making disparaging or demeaning remarks about another person has no place in this work. Please refrain from engaging in such behavior.
In the Trillium path, our preferred modality to resolve differences is to follow the steps above in all cases except where violations of our ethics policy are the issue needing attention. If you think your situation might be of that nature, please read the section below, and consult a teacher you trust for further guidance.
A note about the Trillium Awakening Grievance Process
Members of the Trillium Awakening Teachers Circle (TATC) have all agreed to abide by an ethics policy with real consequences for violating it. In the event of infringements, a teacher’s colleagues and/or members of their current mutuality group first attempt to counsel that party about how to make amends, if appropriate, or possibly do some deep personal work to address the issues underlying the behavior that is out of integrity.
In cases of substantial violation, or when attempts at offering support and coaching have proven insufficient to bring about a change in behavior, a Grievance Committee must be convened by the Trillium Awakening Operations Circle. The Grievance Committee is tasked with investigating the issue at hand, and determining what course of action is necessary and appropriate. The goal is for a teacher’s trust to be restored among his or her colleagues, and, after following a prescribed remedial course of action, to continue serving as a “teacher in good standing”.
With severe ethical violations, the Grievance Committee has the power to immediately remove the offending teacher from membership in the Trillium Awakening Teachers Circle.
The Grievance Process is a formal undertaking that is required only rarely, and a Grievance Committee is convened only when sufficient evidence warrants it.