Years ago I was playing at a club in Burlington, Vermont on a Monday night. There were only a few people there, and I said into the microphone, "Since nobody's here, I'll play this song." Someone called out, "We're here!" That was a big lesson for me. Performers (and dharma teachers) like an audience--the bigger the better, so as to feed our egos--and our bellys. How many people would have had to be there for me to say that someone was there? I learned something that night. Partly I learned not to dismiss people or be rude to them in that way.
A few years ago I went to teach in Mill Valley, CA and only 2 people showed up. I was disappointed, but we wound up having a great evening where I could work closely with these individuals and guide their practices.
Last night, at the John Muir Medical Center in Concord, CA, the same thing happened. I was grateful for my experience because I didn't have to worry about how many people were there. We had a good evening, the three of us, discussing practice, and they were grateful for the opportunity to ask questions and have a conversation that we wouldn't normally have had.
It's easy to get caught up in "the numbers game," and think that it's a reflection on me or that it's not worth it to teach or perform for a small group of people. Realistically, it would be hard to make a living if my usual group were only 2 people, but that's unusual, so I've learned to enjoy it. One more opportunity to see the way my beliefs are contradicted by the reality of my experience.