Leading ISM

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Guidelines for Facilitating an ISM Session
by Ed Bastian

Following are the general guidelines for facilitating an InterSpiritual Meditation Session.  Mentors and Facilitators will cultivate these for working with individuals and groups.

  • The meditation facilitator creates a soft, compassionate and ‘contemplative container’ that honors the diversity of beliefs, styles and practices of the participants.  Out of respect for the spiritual and secular diversity of our participants, we are careful not to use a name for God or specific names of deities and truths that are associated with specific religions. 
  • The feeling tone of the meditation should be soft, inviting and not too ‘heady.’  An opening meditation session should establish a loving and contemplative foundation for follow-up group interactions.
  • Begin by stating the mission and purpose of ISM, reminding students that they should create their own personal focus for each step.
  • Invite participants to sit in a relaxed but symmetrical posture and to breathe gently.  Their hands folded in their laps or resting on their thighs.  Their lips softly touching, their tongues resting on the roof of their mouth, their muscles relaxed, their feet touching the ground or folded with crossed legs, their soft healing, subtle breath flowing from the tip of their nose into their lungs and their heart centers, then permeating throughout all the cells in their bodies.
  • Introduce each step by name and a very brief introductory sentence.
  • Use a gong or bell to separate each step 
    (If leading the meditation online or via a phone, the gong should have a deep (not high or shrill) resonance and be at least a foot away from the microphone.  An appropriate meditation gong App or simply you own voice intro to the next step might also be used.
  • A very short inspirational poem or stanza might be used to begin each step to help participants deepen into their personal practice. (The choice of a poem personalizes the meditation according to leader, but is not overtly directive or sectarian.)  The ISM verses composed by Ed for each step might also used to introduce each step.
  • Just before the silence, remind the participants to bring forth their own focus for each step.  Their focus might come from their choice of a specific spiritual or secular teaching or their personal formulation.
  • Singing the ISM mantra – song at the end, or beginning of the 7 steps.  (This will depend on the context, the quality of the Facilitator’s singing voice, and the time for the overall meditation.)
  • As a general rule, the verbal guidance should not exceed 1/3 of the allotted time for each step.  The leader should not feel compelled to over-lead or to fill up the silence with their own voice.
  • In a 20-minute meditation, the contemplative steps of 1,2,3,4 and 7 are about 2 minutes each. The meditation steps of 5 & 6 are about 4 minutes each with the beginning verbal guidance at a maximum of 30 – 40 seconds. 
  • We are guiding a process for participants of diverse styles and perspectives to engage in their own practice for each step. We are not dictating their specific focus or belief.  In unity with each other, we compassionately celebrate and harmonize our diversity.
Together we are nurturing a shared practice of InterSpiritual Meditation wherein we all “hold the container” for a sacred silence and an experience of InterSpiritual Consciousness.  It is meant to deepen our shared intention and presence as the foundation for our “conceptual sharing” during the following conversation.
When we offer ISM, our role is to help midwife the transition from the busy conceptual to the sacred contemplative consciousness.  We do so without emphasizing our personal version of ISM. Rather, we carefully offer a few carefully chosen introductory words, a poem or sacred verse and a reminder to create one’s own focus for each step.  
Steps 1 – 4 (2 minutes each)  
These steps are contemplative, meaning a refined conceptual consciousness. 
Timing: 100 words max. = approx 1/3 (30-40 sec.) are words. 2/3 is silence (1:20-30 sec.) silence.
Steps 5 – 6:  (4 minutes each) 
These steps are meditative, meaning a calm, nonconceptual focus on breath, a sacred syllable, prayer, image or primordial awareness. 
Timing: 100 words max. = approx 1/3 (30-40 sec.) are words. 2/3 is silence (2:20-30 sec.)
Step 7: 
This step is contemplative, meaning a refined conceptual consciousness. 
Timing: 100 words max. = approx 1/3 (30-40 sec.) are words. 2/3 is silence (1:20-30 sec.)
3 beats of the gong to begin and end the session. (Make sure it sounds restful online.  If not, use your voice.)
1 beat of the gong (or voice) between each step.
1. The name of the step.
2. A brief sentence about the step.
3. A brief poem or sacred stanza.
4. Invite others to create their own focus for this step of meditation.
5. Silence
(100 intro. words max for each step.)

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