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Some concerns and unanswered questions regarding learning Taoist Meditation with BK Frantzis The context of the following points is of my having practiced Taoist Meditation as taught by Bruce Frantzis for about fifteen years, with annual attendance at his meditation-related teachings and a practice schedule of one to two hours a day. Prior to that I had studied with senior EA instructors for nearly a decade, so I’m talking from a position of some experience, rather than hearsay or just having read some books. I have recently decided to take a break from the practices Bruce has taught me, and am re-evaluating my relationship to him as a teacher. Obviously I have got a lot from the practice of Taoist meditation or I wouldn’t have stuck with it for so long. However, the focus of this post is on the less positive aspects of my experience. · Bruce learned much of what he teaches studying one-on-one with his main Teacher Liu Hung Chieh for several hours a day over several years. He says in his books that personal feedback from a genuine master is essential for making progress and avoiding delusion. However, he doesn’t offer this kind of personal feedback. Instead, in my experience, he is not very approachable - in fact he can come across as very unfriendly. He will answer questions (in a manner that often comes across as reluctant and condescending), but in my experience he doesn’t always listen carefully or understand exactly what is being asked. The idea of having a relaxed, nuanced conversation with him about my practice seems impossible. This is in spite of the fact that in order to have the opportunity to talk to him I might have spent a lot of money and travelled a long way. · For some reason, there appears to be NO ONE else outside of China (excepting a few of his senior instructors) who teaches the method of Inner Dissolving from the tradition he claims to be part of. Perhaps when he started teaching, this was understandable what with the language barrier and general level of cultural exchange, but now, decades later, why are there no other representatives of the “Water Tradition” offering their teaching to westerners? · Whatever the reason for the last point, the situation is very unusual and prone to difficulties. After all, there is no realistic source of verification or alternative perspective or simply the opportunity to learn the same method from a teacher with a different personality. · Bruce is a student of Dzogchen master Wangdor Rimpoche, who has another student, Lama Lena, who offers much more support than Bruce. She told me that she only takes on as many students as she can maintain a personal connection with, and makes a point of always replying to emails written by students since she recognises how much effort and care has been put into writing them. Bruce has on a couple of occasions replied to messages from me on Facebook, for which I am grateful. However, one of these replies took over a year, and one message had no reply. · I understand that Bruce has many students and cannot be available to everyone. This seems fine for health practices, but when it comes to meditation, I find myself wondering if he is spreading himself too thin to make the path he teaches genuinely viable, in the absence of anyone else from his lineage available to offer guidance, feedback and support. · There sometimes seems to be a lack continuity or follow-up between mediation teachings. For example, one year in Oxford Bruce taught about how to dissolve the mind directly without going via the body, and another year he taught the use of sound to work with the first three energy bodies. Neither of these teaching had any follow-up as far as I know. There are also lots of audio and video resources available, which is great. However, without some guidance, it’s hard to know which of the many aspects and practices to work on at any given point. Bruce’s quote from Liu of “So, you’re a baby then, who needs to be told what to practice?” doesn’t quite sit right with me given the difference in learning contexts - ie intensive daily observation and input vs. annual workshops with many other students. · Maybe it’s a small deal, but why does Bruce feel the need to spend so much time talking about his achievements and just how amazing he is? For me it goes beyond instilling confidence in his credentials or the power of the practices and becomes somewhat grating. · The sense of always more - there is something about the way Bruce presents his teaching that I hear as implying that we as students are really complete beginners however long we might have been learning. Years ago a student of his who had left him said that it took meditation away from being a basic human activity everyone can do to something very elitist that you need special transmission in order to do properly. This a perspective shared by some Buddhist schools as well. It might well be the case, but there might also be an element of “the Emperor’s New Clothes” going on. It’s hard to say, and is a point of discernment. · Finally, in my recent research into alternative spiritual paths and teachers, I came across an article about Zen meditation in which the author wrote that to consider that someone is your teacher, you must see them in person a least once a year and they must KNOW YOUR NAME! Perhaps the crux of my whole experience here is that I predict a low probability that Bruce could remember my name unprompted, in spite of the time, effort and money I have put into learning from him. Of course one could argue that he has given me a great gift by sharing the teachings, and is in no way beholden to me, but regardless, there’s something about the totality as my experience which “doesn’t feel quite right.” The reason I’m going into so much detail and thinking and writing about all this is that it is actually a very big deal to move on from a mediation teacher and practice that has been a huge part of my life over such a long time. I think ideally I would not make this change, but with things as they are and not knowing how to address them, it feels more true to myself to cut myself adrift and see what else comes my way re spiritual guidance. It’s hard to measure the benefits I’ve received through my loyalty to this path, although I expect they are immense. I’d like to feel more at peace and have some resolution with Bruce around my experience, but maybe for now I need to allow myself to feel a bit angry and disillusioned in order to help me make the transition to the next stage of my journey. ***** I'm curious to read any constructive comments and/or feedback from what I've written. Has anyone here had similar experiences either with Bruce or any other teacher? I'm off to a weekend retreat on Mindfulness today. Should be interesting....