ABC anchorman and meditation enthusiast Dan Harris calls me “the MacGyver of meditation,” no doubt because I channel the spirit of bad 80’s TV, but also, I think, because I enjoy meditative problem solving. I do this on my own, and with a team of teachers at the Consciousness Explorers Club in Toronto. I am often there on Monday nights – see the CEC website for details.
Below are a few public talks, workshops and offerings, for whomever wants to host me. They can be rolled out as experiential evening talks, as weekend workshops, or as lunchtime classes. All are scalable and can be customized to fit different needs and contexts. If you feel like coming to me, I also teach retreats around North and Central America. For online content, I have guided meditations and courses on the 10% Happier app, and a few on this website.
Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation
1 – 2 hour talk / workshop
Mindfulness in reasonable doses is good for most people. It helps reduce stress and trains the mind to be more easy-going, with benefits that can be applied to anything: your job, your family situation, your tennis game. In this workshop, I teach – in a fun and accessible way – the primary attentional skills involved in mindfulness: clarity, concentration, equanimity and friendliness. We’ll also explore how to “ride the wave” of our ridiculous and beautiful impulses so that we can begin to operate from a saner and roomier place. Features a mix of guided practice, discussion, and how to apply mindfulness skills in life.
Mindfulness, Meditation and Consciousness: An Explorer’s Curriculum
1 -2 day workshop / or x6-7 one-hour classes
This is a weekend version of my popular 7-week “Way of the Consciousness Explorer” course, which I offer every spring and fall in Toronto. It’s my favourite thing in the world to teach, and changes every year as my own insights and understanding deepen. In this workshop, we’ll explore different styles and “objects” of meditation, and unpack how the whole meditative thing seems to work. The curriculum is designed to help participants’ identify new ways of working and thriving and existentially-recalibrating to the world around them. More details here. An online version of this course is on the way.
Containment: Dealing with High-Sensitivity and Scattered Attention
2 – 4 hour talk / workshop
In this workshop I share everything I’ve learned about how to use mental and physical practice to stabilize the mind and develop thicker boundaries. There is so much I could write here – I have struggled my whole life with this. If you have a tendency to get blown-out and overwhelmed, if you feel everything, if you’re constantly being yanked around by other people’s shit and / or have the attention span of a goldfish, then this workshop is for you. You know who you are!
An Over-Thinker’s Guide to Sanity and Happiness
2 hour talk / workshop
This workshop is another personal specialty. You’re a smart person, an intellectual even. You always figured being smart is what it’s all about. That’s what your folks told you, your college friends, your teachers – no surprise there, it’s the default view of Western civilization. But guess what? You’re miserable. You’re so smart you’ve thought your way into an existential cul-de-sac, and now everything sounds like bullshit, including these words.
Fortunately, there’s hope. The catch is it comes in the direction you’d least expect: spirituality, the very birthplace of ostensibly witless magical thinking! In these two hours, I’ll try to teach you how to disengage from over-identification with thinking, and reorient to the experience of awareness itself. As part of this, we’ll explore a humanistic take on spiritual experience and understanding, one that doesn’t require you to abandon your reason and commitments and common sense. This is the way of the Twice-Born.
Insight and Behaviour Change
3-4 hour workshop
In this workshop we look at how mindfulness meditation can help us change. We’ll explore how to notice our own thinking and feeling and behaviour patterns more clearly – where they happen, how they chain together – and then we’ll explore how to use equanimity to open to and even begin to metabolize outdated conditioning. None of this is easy, and it does not happen overnight. My own teacher Shinzen Young has a nice line: “Meditation is not a quick fix – but it’s deep fix.” The depth part is important. Behaviour change is a complicated science, and no one method works for everyone. But it is also true that most takes on behaviour change are incomplete. That is, they leave out the experience of contemplatives, who for thousands of years have argued (in different traditions and in different ways) that it is possible for human beings to orient to what is “below” or “within” our conditioning, thus accelerating change and growth. I’ve written a bit about this here. We’ll try to explore this too, and frame the whole thing as a celebration of our hilarious shared neuroses.
Terrains of Life and Practice
1 – 2 hour talk / workshop
I’ve spent years interviewing practitioners and healers and teachers from many traditions and at all levels of experience. I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about and personally exploring the various maps of contemplative development, from Buddhism in particular, but also from mysticism more generally. In this workshop / talk, I share everything I’ve learned about what seem to be the main terrains: effort, breakthrough, challenge, and finally equanimity / integration – why they matter, and how they can be mapped onto our lives more generally. Includes a science journalist’s take on the reality of so-called “enlightenment” / “awakening.” Some thoughts here and here.
A Journalist’s Take on the Mystery of “Awakening”
2 hour talk / workshop
One challenge with accounts of inner experience is they’re not falsifiable. Until we have some external behavioural or neurological standard, anyone can say anything about the nature of their experience and how “realized” they are. Nevertheless, imagine you are a journalist with a speciality in consciousness. Now imagine that time and time again, seemingly honest people – many of them your friends – keep telling you that something important is happening to them as a consequence of meditation and spiritual practice. And now imagine that you begin to experience many of these same things yourself.
In this talk, I present a reasonable overview of where I think it all leads, the various facets of growth and insight, and how explicit and implicit practice seem to accelerate human maturation. Workshop is experiential, and includes the “pointing out” of various existential “directions” in our experience.
Exploding Happy Happy Love Time
1-4 hour talk / workshop
Saved the best for last. One excellent consequence of practice is I no longer consider loving-kindness practices to be embarrassingly saccharine and sentimental. It’s all in the delivery, and the reasonableness of the expectations. In this workshop, we’ll meditatively sample what in Theravada Buddhism are known as the four “immeasurables” or Brahma-viharas: metta (friendliness), karuna (compassion), mudita (rejoicing) and upekkha (equanimity). “Immeasurable”: because they make your life immeasurably better when you learn where to find them and how to generate them more frequently. Includes a discussion of how to tease apart compassion vs empathy (see this piece), and of course gives all participants permission to experience vengeful wrath should our inner demons make an appearance. Welcome to the party!