Our instructors are all volunteers who offer to facilitate classes because they themselves have experienced the benefits of meditation and they wish to share that with you. They have been practising meditation for many years and understand what helps you when you start, and what might challenge you as you continue. They create an atmosphere which gives students the confidence to ask questions and they offer individual guidance whenever needed. They have also attended many formal training sessions under the guidance of Sogyal Rinpoche, and they continue to develop their skills through regular feedback.
During the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago, Vera went to see a performance called The Tibetan Book of the Dead because it had Richard Gere’s name in the credits. She didn’t really understand the play but loved the costumes, and raved about them at work the next day. Her colleague, Kevin (see below), suddenly whipped out a poster for meditation classes in Edinburgh based on ‘The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying’. So she thought she’d give it a go, met some interesting, friendly people, and enjoyed the chat and the tea and biscuits. A few months later she was facing a particularly busy, stressful time at work and she started to notice that doing some meditation in the morning actually made a difference to how she coped during the day. This is what inspired her to do the instructor training, so that she could be useful to others in finding some benefit from meditation.
Ever since he first discovered a book about yoga in his local library as a teenager, Kevin has been interested in ‘Eastern’ ways of understanding the body and the mind. All those yoga and tai chi classes he went to over the years included some sort of meditation. In fact, meditation seemed to be at the heart of it all – the most effective way to cut through stress and mental chatter. The problem was that there seemed to be hundreds of different methods to choose from – gazing at a candle flame, visualising white light, chanting ‘om’, and so on. It was hard to know where to start and which direction to go. He feels lucky that he eventually wandered into a series of meditation classes in Edinburgh and discovered the clear, completely reliable teachings of the great Tibetan master, Sogyal Rinpoche. Twelve years later Kevin continues to be inspired and guided by the path of meditation that these teachings offer.
Mary’s first meditation retreat was in Australia, so a bit further than our Edinburgh meditation classes. She remembers being at Myall Lakes, near Brisbane, in a spectacular spot between the ocean and a flat calm lake. Sitting on cushions on the floor of a big tent was like floating in some other world, listening to Sogyal Rinpoche teaching about Natural Great Peace. What an experience! She was so inspired, she went to Germany the next New Year, and found that was considerably colder than Oz. Since then she has attended 11 retreats, but mostly in England, where it’s easier to get to and there are fewer language problems(!). She describes the benefits of regular meditation as creating space between herself and her emotions, but perhaps the best accolade comes from her family. Of course they love her dearly, but they say she used to ‘go off like a volcano’ for no apparent reason. They have noticed that now she just occasionally gives a little grumble, but there are no more eruptions.
Somehow Mukesh had never been quite satisfied with his life and in this space he discovered by ‘accident’ the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and this had an immense impact on him and gave him the inspiration and the confidence to explore the spiritual path. He started the Rigpa meditation courses around 1998 in London where he was working and soon after that he attended a 5 day retreat held by His Holiness Dalai Lama in the South of France. In 2000 he moved back to Edinburgh and started attending regular Rigpa courses here. The highlight of his year is the annual Easter Retreat with Sogyal Rinpoche, which is a real joyful experience. He says that it’s quite difficult to explain in words what all these courses have brought to him but this comes close – ‘there’s a deep satisfaction and from this there is less struggle within myself’.
Andrew started attending the meditation group in 1998 as a quiet/shy student, following an interest in Yoga and meditation in his teens. Speaking to his instructor many years later she told him she did not think he would come back after the first week. He realised that meditation was helping in his interaction with others at work. Feedback he received encouraged him to continue meditating as his anger was reducing – although he, of course, had never seen the anger in the first place. His study and practice continues and he feels he is learning more ALL the time – he now notices his feelings, hopefully before he reacts. That is his work in progress.
Gavin read ‘The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying’ by Sogyal Rinpoche about 20 years ago, and was immediately intrigued by the mediation methods described in it. He was also a little skeptical initially about some of the practices, for example chanting mantras, until he attended a Rigpa course a few months later. Then he discovered a sense of peace during the guided practices that has left him hooked ever since! Retreats with Sogyal Rinpoche followed, then instructor training with Rigpa. More recently, Gavin completed an MSc in Mindfulness Studies with the Mindfulness Association (Scotland) and Aberdeen University. This included training in secular mindfulness and compassion techniques which have become increasingly popular and are beginning to be used in mainstream healthcare settings. Gavin has also worked as a nurse since 1991 and has a special interest in compassion and the potential for mindfulness and compassion meditation training to help people who use healthcare services and those who work in them.