Three Core Principles

by | Feb 22, 2023 | 4 comments

In the past few years, I’ve thought a lot about teaching. More specifically, I’ve thought a lot about what guides my teaching. What are the core principles shaping my presentation of meditation in the world?

While I don’t believe the following is a wholly complete articulation of this ongoing contemplation, I do find myself coming back to three main elements again and again. These are that the teacher is limited, the dharma is about our lives, and the clarity, tenderness, and responsiveness of our essential nature is alive and well in the sangha, the community.

The notion that the teacher is limited reminds me that my expertise is not absolute. I might know a little about meditation. I may also have some skill in communicating this with others. These are the basic parameters of my expertise. I don’t know much about Hakomi therapy, for instance. Nor do I know much about installing a kitchen sink. Sometimes it seems those sharing meditation with others forget such facts. Acknowledging the limits of the teacher counters this tendency.

The second core principle, that the dharma is about our lives, encourages me to always connect the material we are exploring with the stuff of everyday experience. If we are considering egolessness, for instance – a pretty big word, for me at least – a central question becomes, ‘How does this show up in the grocery store? In my home life?’ This reconnects me with the ordinariness of meditation, with it’s humble groundedness. It reconnects me with the fact that, from this perspective, the practice is not at all extraordinary.

My final core principle – if I may inaccurately use this term ‘final’ – is that the basic nature is alive and well in all of us. No one person corners the market on innate knowing, sensitivity, and engagement. These qualities are not limited to the most practiced or well-read among us. As a result, I am constantly watching for those moments in which our basic nature shines through like the sun does with passing clouds. Constantly watching for, engaging, and encouraging to the best of my limited ability.

As mentioned, while these three have been relatively constant in my contemplations through the last three or four years, they are by no means an exclusive articulation of what ignites and guides my work with meditation. That meditation allows us to manifest the best of who we are for the benefit of others, for example, is pretty central as well. As is the main implication in this: that meditation has much to offer this world.

Again and again, however, I keep coming back to these three as I sit down to prepare a talk or ready for another practice session. They have become almost constant companions for me in this regard. I appreciate the wisdom and protection they offer. I appreciate the humility they bring. I am so very grateful that they allow me to connect with the wonder of all of you – to be surprised and inspired and invigorated by this – in a more free and open manner.

– Neil


  1. Not only was that beautifully conveyed, it was also practically understood: teachers don’t know everything, meditation is in everyday life, and everyone has the spark of the divine.

    • I love the way you express this, Rebecca. So immediate. So direct. So clear. Thanks for sharing these words.

  2. Your three principles shine through whenever we gather, Neil. Although I don’t think you would put it in these words, I sense teaching is an avocation, a calling for you. And the way you quietly radiate humbleness, appreciation, gratitude, wonder & inspiration is part of why I keep showing up to join you & all our friends. Many thanks for all you offer.

    • Thanks for these words and this acknowledgement, Jules. You are very welcome. And thank you for being part of this journey.


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