This course is agnostic
The course I have designed and am offering to you is NOT based on the teaching that derives from any one religion or spiritual tradition.
The meditation I practise is simple meditation and would not be classified as "Buddhist" or "Transcendental Meditation" or "Christian" or any other label.
The eight-week course I teach is appropriate for both for beginners and long-practising meditators. The objective for all of us during the course is to become more present at the moment, rather than stuck in the regret about the past or the anxiety of the future. We learn and practise how to do this through the breath, body, thoughts, beliefs, and observations of everyday life.
Having a weekly practice with a community you get to know over time as always been the most effective way to keep my daily meditation practice strong.
I hope the content of the course represents my passion for studying and practising the common principles of all religions and spiritual movements. The commonalities we find upon study and practice far outweigh the differences.
Throughout our history, we humans have tended to make each of our own particular philosophies "new, different and better" as years go by. It is alarming how much we keep forgetting the wisdom to which all of us have always had access.
I believe a regular meditation practice gives us the opportunity to catch a glimpse of that wisdom. For me, meditation has been an essential component for all sanity and growth.
A note: I have included a few photos from my Tibet trip in April 2018, which significantly strengthened my meditation practice, and I will always be grateful for the visit. These photos do not mean, however, that I am teaching Tibetan Buddhist meditation techniques.
The 8-Week Course Session Agenda
Session 1: What are Meditation and Mindfulness:
Introduction to the different types of meditation, including a short background the particular practice we will learn over the next 8 weeks, known as insight meditation or vipassana in Pali, the language of the original Buddhist teachings. This is a form of awareness, moment-to-moment mindfulness, aimed in developing wisdom and compassion.
Session 2: The Mindfulness of Breath: Establishing an Anchor
the first foundation of mindfulness, a means of helping us to become more fully into the present – how to steady attention starting with the breath, one of the most universal of all meditations
Session 3: The Mindfulness of the Body
The second foundation of mindfulness: Being in the body in order to be here and now, one of the ways we generate equanimity throughout the day – learning that “We are not our bodies”
Session 4: The Mindfulness of Emotions
the third foundation of mindfulness – being aware of the current types of feelings we are having at any one time, learning to witness the way we make meaning of them, creating space between us and our emotions – that “We are not our emotions”
Session 5: The Mindfulness of Thoughts and Beliefs
the fourth foundation of mindfulness, learning to observe our process of getting “lost in thought” and teaching our own mind to observe itself. We learn to become aware of the thoughts and beliefs that run our world and thus learning to question and to change them if we desire – “We are not our thoughts.”
Session 6: Mindfulness and the power of choice in everyday life
reflecting on the process of life itself, the concept of Dharma: meaning the way that life operates. Learning the power of choice between being caught by our fearful mind of automatic response and our mind of choice and freedom
Session 7: The concept of "Dharma" -- the teachings of truth
The concept of “Dharma” (the teachings of truth) in relation to Buddhism: learning to meditation on the Buddhist notions of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path of achieving these Truths
Session 8: Loving-kindness and Compassion for Self and Others
Known as “metta” in Pali, this is a meditation where we concentrate on the strong wish to the welfare and happiness of others and ourselves as we begin to understand the true nature of who we are
Which teachers and thoughts have influenced my meditation practice?
The people who have been my teachers of meditation:
I have been meditating for over 15 years and have learned from many amazing teachers, including:
Gnosis Sydney (which is a sacred philosophy and practice for me). "The word Gnosis is derived from the Greek language and means 'knowledge of an intuitive nature; the intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths.' Gnosis is a knowledge that cannot be arrived at through books or lectures, but rather through one’s own direct experience. This knowledge or wisdom, therefore, is not found outside of us, but within ourselves." Meditation is one of the three essential practices of Gnosis.
Angelika Knoerzer and her Ashtanga studio in North Sydney: Ashtanga is Sanskrit for "eight-limbed yoga" as was outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Not only do we practise asanas (physical poses), but we also practice (2) yama--moral codes; (3) niyama--self-purification and study; (4) pranayama--breath control; (5) pratyahara--sense control; (6) dharana--concentration; (7) dhyana-meditation; and (8) samadhi - absorption into the Universal. I am also grateful to Suze Plenkovich who got me started in Ashtanga for my first five years at the amazing Maroubra Beach Ashtanga Studio.
Barbara and Terry Tebo, two beautiful teachers who have taught thousands of people how to improve their relationship skills, better understand their emotional life and deepen their spirituality. They were my first teachers of meditation and trained me to teach their exquisite Free to Be Me seminars
Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield Two-Year Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification. I have been a student on this course for the last two years and will be formally accredited at the end of 2020
Petrea King's Quest for Life Foundation, both as a participant on their amazing Healing Your Life Program -- and now on the Board. Since 1985, Quest has been providing support and meditation groups for over 110,000 people living with cancer, grief, AIDS, depression, anxiety and other traumas.
Duke University, through my two honours theses from 1989 that laid the foundation for my passion for neuroscience and experiential education: My Honours Thesis in Biology was in anxiety, through psychoneuroendocrinology, inspiring me to study how neuroscience influences meditation as well as leadership. In my Honours Thesis in History, I chronicled the development of experiential education at Black Mountain College between 1933 and 1956. Both this thesis and my leadership of the university's Outward Bound-based program gave me my thirst for experiential education, a skill I use today daily in my teaching leadership and meditation.
Joey and Gemma, my two Jack Russells, for their expertise in Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose) and Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog). They have also been excellent meditation coaches.
And "For your reflection" (FYR) . . .
A sacred place that inspires my meditation practice
The Sacred Site of Mount Kailash, Western Tibet -- visited in April 2018
Mount Kailash-the Stairway to Heaven-is considered as the sacred mountain by many religions. Hindus believe it is the residence of Shiva and the centre of the world; Tibetan Buddhists think it represents endless happiness; Jains take it as the place where their ancestor was enlightened; Bons also believe it’s the centre of the universe. For centuries, Mount Kailash is the dreamland of pilgrims and adventurers and many of them come to circumambulate the mountain for good luck. However, in history, nobody dares to climb this holy mountain and no religions allow this. What a wonderful but challenging walk we were able to do around it -- difficult particularly because of the altitude.
In Tibetans’ hearts, Mt. Kailash kora (a trip around the mountain) is not only an act of accumulating merits but also purification for all the sins in their lives and 108 rounds would bring enlightenment for them.
For sincere Tibetan pilgrims, the circuit can be done within one day by getting up early at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and getting back to Darchen in the late afternoon or evening. But if they do the full-body prostrations, putting their hands together first and touching the head, the mouth and the heart in order, and then bending towards the ground with face down and arms stretching over the head, the kora would cost more than two weeks
Because the average altitude of the path around the mountain is 5000m and the highest part is 5600m, the circular trip takes at least three days for Westerners and is very dangerous if one does not acclimatise to the altitude. "Very high" altitude is defined at 5,500m (18,000 ft). I found it humbling to be passed regularly by Tibetan women carrying large loads who looked 75 years old -- and even performing full-body prostrations all around the mountain. This link takes you to an excellent article by the BBC about how the Tibetans' physiology is so different from ours -- and some interesting possibilities that they may have descended from a very different ancestor than did many of us.