I was in group meditation some time ago when a teacher advised us not to tell our friends to meditate. His contention, people won’t be responsive.
There’s truth in that. People generally aren’t. I’ve tried it before with friends and family that have suffered a great deal. Their internal dialogue is helpless, angry, desperate or bitter. They see no way out. I’ve even offered to pay for sessions in hope that it would help and it’s generally not welcome.
Seeing people in their predicament is like watching a tense game show where the answer is so obvious to the audience (therefore, all of planet Earth) but not to the person under the pump for the cash prize. I want to yell from the bleachers, "Meditation! It's Meditation dammit!!!" Then go back to my zen state.
I’ve not taken their reluctance personally. Rather, empathetically I realised that (of course) suggesting something that is so out of the ordinary would be naturally rejected.
Imagine someone’s life being extremely busy with periods of stress, worries and at times, suffering. For a meditator reading this, that was likely your life before you meditated. That was mine.
What we usually hear from those who are distressed is a yearning of "what used to be" or "better days" that are well behind them. Sometimes they're convinced their situation is permanent. Or they're waiting on something out there in the future that will make them happy, like a new relationship, a better job. Which helps by the way, but its not everything.
To then suggest time to sit quietly is a too much of a contrast. Too frightening. Too foreign. Passive, even.
It's usually the big things like trauma, depression, anxiety, huge life or career transitions that make them seek change. Meditation is illuminated to them when they see no other solution to escape their stressed-out minds.
What's most important is to realise that the option to meditate has to be theirs. An autonomous one.
It’s only then, that I’ve found that the idea of mindfulness or meditation is a welcome conversation. Yet even so, our teacher suggested to discuss very little, to allow it to be a person’s own exploration, their discovery.
Just being the result of meditation is example enough. Being improved-from-your-old-self and perhaps a distinctively different person to many others in your loved one's orbit may make them curious to meditate.
I wrestled with this idea for a good year or so and now I'm convinced it's the best thing to do. Yet the goodwill to help and elevate people closest to me seems a responsibility I can't shake. Perhaps just compassionately listening, patiently being in one's company and not echoing their fears and doubts is enough.
I may still guide them to a helpful and autonomous decision. Hopefully meditation is one of them.