Premature Enlightenment: How Embarrassing!

TEACHER: Jeff Warren and Sarah McCarthy
THEME: Premature Enlightenment: How Embarrassing!
MEDITATION: Preparing the Body
INTERACTIVE: Repellent Spiritual Speed Dating

For this special edition of CEC, I will be joined by my pal Sarah McCarthy, a smart Gestalt psychotherapist, who will lead the group in a delightful exploration of all that is most nauseatingly precious and sanctimonious and authoritarian about spirituality, such as, ahem, the finger-wagging moral uptightness, the desperate amphetamine-fueled seeking, not to mention the endless oppressive injunctions to “be mindful,” all of which lay like hidden traps in the jungle of our collective psyches, traps lined with bloody spikes and surrounded by the vacant-eyed skulls of the dead. And then my friends we shall bake a cake and make merry, for such are the joys of spirited jungle living.

Oh and there really will be a speed dating exercise with a most repellent and diabolical twist.

Awareness: The Nondual Ideal

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Awareness: The Nondual Ideal
MEDITATION: Unhooking
INTERACTIVE: Pointing Out Guidance and Interaction

If you don’t know what “nonduality” is, I’ve written a short overview here, and provided some simple pointing out instructions here. Nowadays it’s used as shorthand for a particular approach to spiritual practice that involves orienting to awareness itself, and then trying to live from that place. It’s a good approach, although the downside is every nondual wanker out there seems to think it’s more robust and/or more fundamental that other approaches. So it goes with fundamentalists. This week we take it all with a grain of salt as we “unhook” from thinking – to use the excellent nondual teacher Loch Kelly’sphrase – and drop into the spacious timeless empty original nature of mind with a big wet farty noise. Then we see what happens when we try to maintain this awareness while playing a pitiless game of musical chairs, with cushions, to the thrilling carnival strains of Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Taxi. You think I am joking but I am so not.

The Belief Effect

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: The Belief Effect
MEDITATION: Powers of Ten
INTERACTIVE: How Beliefs Shape Experience

We already did this one and it was awesome. Dug into whatever secret beliefs may be guiding people’s understanding of reality and their place in it, brought them out of the shadowy subconscious and into the light of open-hearted intellectual inquiry, and then replaced them with cardboard cut-outs of the entire cast of Star Trek: New Generation. Man, people were so screwed up!

The Challenge of Feeling

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: The Challenge of Feeling
MEDITATION: Sensitized
INTERACTIVE PRACTICE: The Shadow

The inner tracking gets juicier this week, more embodied, into the primordial soup of our emotions. Once we see and feel some tough pattern, what then? One way out is through: we open, we accept. In contemplative lingo, we trickle equanimity down into the interstices of our body-mind, making space for things to move. In this gradual way we begin to shift the material, paving the way for new and more adaptive permutations. Then for part two, we’ll get out the art supplies and explore – via our secret projections and half-acknowledged biases – what Carl Jung famously called The Shadow. “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows” bwahaahahahhahahahaahahahha!

The Habit of Looking

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: The Habit of Looking
MEDITATION: Insight into The Inner World
INTERACTIVE PRACTICE: Walkabout

In the beginning, all is dark. We act and we react. The notion that we may have some choice in the matter – that we don’t actually have to go along with our pinball conditioning – never occurs to us. Why should it? But then one day – call it insight – a light goes on. Patterns rise into awareness and we begin to understand the breadth and depth of our previous trance, and the giddy potential of our freedom. The work of a practice begins with looking. This Monday we’ll explore the curious world of thinking, and in part two continue on with a signature CEC social practice: walk stop move start, Devo robot-style electrocutions around the meditation hall, interacting with other humanoids, exploring our activations in real time.

The Trouble with Peak Experiences

TEACHER:  Jeff Warren
THEME: The Trouble with Peak Experiences
MEDITATION: Technology of Bliss
INTERACTIVE: Feeling a bit Peaked

Peak experiences are excellent. I mean, they’re called peak experiences – what do you expect? They’re fun and rapturous and connected and whatever other adjective qualifies as “peak” for you. There’s nothing worse than finger-wagging spiritual scolds telling you practice can’t be exciting. We are all for peak experiences at the CEC. For our main meditation we’ll explore exactly this: the technology of bliss. The “trouble” comes when we start to conflate temporary effects with achievable long-term results. This leads to a classic trap: we end up trying to stabilize a permanent high, getting ever more disappointed at the inevitable comedown. In the interactive practice, we’ll explore what part of our highs we can realistically hold on to, and what parts are best to let come and go.

Upwelling

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Upwelling
MEDITATION: Transverberation
INTERACTIVE PRACTICE: Gratitude Letter

In the autobiography of 16th century Saint Teresa of Avila, a cherub flies through the window of her convent and jabs a blazing spear into her heart. This  “transverberation” – a superb word that must be resuscitated – apparently ushered in a new state of mystical consciousness for Teresa, and went on to inspire generations of self-sacrificing, God-loving Catholic party animals (if by “party” you mean founding convents, and by “animal” you mean founding convents). This Monday evening, we’ll dodge the cherub but explore the real heart of the experience: total body surrender. Because it turns out when you open yourself wide enough, reality comes transverberating through. Then, for part two, we’ll investigate a sweet little Positive Psychology practice called the Gratitude Letter, briefly described by Martin Seligman here.

Intentionality

TEACHER: Jeff Warren and Christine Pountney
THEME: Intentionality
MEDITATION: Setting Our Own Agenda
INTERACTIVE PRACTICE: Layers of Intention, Layers of Self

There are many mysteries in consciousness. One of them has to do with the curious power of our intentions to frame and order our experience. Intentions run like underground rivers through our lives; they determine, to a surprising degree, where and how we flow. And yet, for many of us, these intentions are completely unconscious. We aren’t taught to clearly articulate how we want to be, and where we want to go. This Monday, in preparation for the New Year, we’ll do two things. 1: We’ll explore the different layers of who we are and how the different parts of us may be clamouring for different things. And then, hopefully a little wiser (and more integrated), we’ll 2: create an intention-setting ceremony to raise our underground rivers into the light of day.

Giving

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Giving
MEDITATION: Silent Illumination
INTERACTIVE PRACTICE: The Natural Generosity of Presence

The television told me the holidays are a time of giving; who am I to argue? There are at least two interesting and related questions here. The first: what do we want to give? I mean, beyond the stocking stuffers and the Chapters-Indigo Gift Certificates, what non-material thing do we want to give to the people in our lives and, perhaps, the people beyond them? And a second question: what do we need in order to be able to give these things? Obviously we’re not just talking about coupons and bank balances here. Today we explore our inner resources – presence, not presents.

Balance

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Balance
MEDITATION: The Seven Factors of Enlightenment
INTERACTIVE PRACTICE: Mapping a Balanced Practice, Part 2

The first Monday of every month we explicitly explore challenges and questions related to practice and meditation. This Monday we’ll begin with a guided tour through the qualities known as the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. Although they sound grandiose, all of us have experienced each of these qualities in different ways at different times. We’ll tick along the spiritual express lane and then, for part two, get out the arts and crafts and each create a customized map of our consciousness – of what it feels like when we’re both beautifully steady, and tottering recklessly over life’s drinks table.