Guidelines for Facilitating ISM
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.
Creating the Meditative Atmosphere
- 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 unwittingly impose our name for “God” or the 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.
- 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 offer a few carefully chosen introductory words, a poem or sacred verse followed by a reminder to create one’s own focus for each step.
Introducing the Seven Steps
- 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 can be 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 legs folded while sitting, their refined breath flowing from the tip of their nose into their lungs and their heart centers, then permeating throughout all the cells in their bodies. (Note: As practitioners become very familiar with the seven step process, they can also practice while moving or lying down. We will cover this in our course.)
Routine for Each of the Seven Steps
- Begin the session with three soft beats on a pleasant sounding gong. If there is no gong, use your voice.
- Introduce each step by name, e.g., “Motivation – May We Become Happy and Healthy through this Meditation.”
- Provide a brief poem, stanza or quote from a variety of spiritual and secular sources for the seven steps, so as not to imply a preference for any specific tradition.
- Invite participants into silence and to apply their own focus for each step, e.g., “please bring your own focus into the silence.” Their personal focus might come from a specific spiritual or secular teaching or their personal experience.
- A single stroke of the gong will end the silence and introduce the next step.
Timing for Each Step
These steps are more “contemplative,” meaning they engage a refined deep state of introspective consciousness.
Timing: approx. 100 words = 1/3 (30-40 sec.) followed by 2/3 is silence (1:20-30 sec.)
These steps are meditative, meaning a calm, nonconceptual focus on breath, a sacred syllable, prayer, image or primordial awareness.
Timing: approx. 100 words = 30-40 sec. Silence = approximately 3:20-30 sec.
Here, we imagine how we will apply this meditation into our daily lives.
Timing: 100 words max. = approx 1/3 (30-40 sec.) are words. 2/3 is silence (1:20-30 sec.)
- Possibly Singing the ISM mantra – song at the end. (This will depend on the context, the quality of the Facilitator’s singing voice, and the time for the overall meditation.)
- Provide a quiet space gradually open eyes and re-engage in the sensory, active world.
- In this ISM process, we don’t rely on a single leader or guru. Together, we help nurture a shared contemplative process 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 contemplative experience as the foundation for our following conversations.
- 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 honor, celebrate and harmonize our diversity.