Giving advice on Buddhism / meditation
Okay, I'm just thinking out loud, but this is the situation I've encountered.
A co-worker's wife called me to ask for information on Buddhism and meditation. Odd and out of the blue. She told me she is very stressed and wanted a way to "clear her mind". She found a group locally that has meditation seminars for different things such as stress relief, reducing anger, coping with loss. Apparently they market it as Buddhist teachings.
It's rare that I even mention Buddhism to anyone other than my wife (and my fellow Treeleafers, obviously). And I'm not much for giving advice. But I spoke with her. She asked a little about Buddhism. I gave the most basic answers I possibly could and directed her to a book, "Buddhism Plain and Simple" (it lives up to it's title). I explained that the meditation I do isn't to "bliss out" or anything like that. In fact, it's the opposite. I'm pretty sure that she isn't looking to practice zazen, but I told her I could direct her to some basic instructions should she want to try it down the road.
I found it very hard to offer advice on the subject, even though it is my practice. Instead, I asked her about her concerns and thoughts about the meditation she planned to try. She was worried that she would have to convert to Buddhism, what she would tell her family, etc. I think I reassured her that she didn't have to be a Buddhist to meditate (and not to believe anyone who told her differently). I suggested getting more involved in her Christian faith, because some people find that prayer eases their minds. Also, it is something more familiar to her. She actually laughed at that.
Overall, I let her do most of the talking and answered her questions the best I could. She is going to read the book I suggested, and try out the seminar. I wished her well. She's going to let me know if she likes it.
Has anyone else ever encountered this sort of thing? Do you suppose I could have done something (or lots of things) differently? I know I came to Zen in a roundabout sort of way. I think if someone sat down with me from the get go and said, "hey, try this...sit with no purpose other than to sit.....and that's it," I would have steered clear of it. ;)