Smoothness in the Sensorimotor System

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Smoothness in the Sensorimotor System
MEDITATION: The Empty Ground
GROUP PRACTICE: Authentic Movement.

OK, the ground that keeps on giving. In the meditation we’ll see if we can sort of sneak down into the subbasement of the mind, below all the spinning turbines, below the machinery. Just empty smoothness down here, which frees us up to … move our bodies like slithery freaks. We’ll explore an improvisational practice called “authentic movement,” developed by Mary Starks Whitehouse, a student of the dance pioneer Martha Graham. Whitehouse was interested in the therapeutic effects of moving through space entirely free from direction and expectation – just letting the body go where it wants to go, letting the empty ground dictate each whim instead or our terrified self-consciousness. Then we’ll communicate to each other using chicken noises.

The Secret Soft Space Songbook

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: The Secret Soft Space Songbook
MEDITATION: No Trace Listening
GROUP PRACTICE: Kirtan

Continuing on with our Summer of Love series, this week we explore the mystery of song. We’ll begin with smoothing out our listening circuits, then we’ll introduce a few cosmic overtones and investigate where and how they activate our body. All this to prime us for a new CEC exploration: special guest Lana Sugarman will lead us in a delicious Hindu practice called kirtan, the Sanskrit word for “praise” or “eulogy.” Prepare to be surprised.

Life is a Highway

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Life is a Highway
MEDITATION: I Wanna Ride it All Night Long
GROUP PRACTICE: Are You Going my Way?

CEC’s Emily Squirrell gave me this idea and I love it. All this talk of meditation-as-path. Well of course, in some ways EVERYONE is on a path, we just rarely take the time to look at it that way.  For this group practice, bring a pencil and paper. We’ll try to draw where we are in our journey through life – is there a secret trajectory you’ve never noticed, a set of territories, some pattern or patterns waiting to be found? We’ll do our best to take a snapshot of our current position in time, see what resolves when we take the Big Picture perspective and find out who else might be going our way (maybe they can pay for the gas). Thanks to Tom Cochrane for this week’s soundtrack.

Love, Sex and Awakening

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Love, Sex and Awakening
MEDITATION: Something juicy and embodied
GROUP PRACTICE: Collective Wonderment

Back in The Day, when the CEC was run out of my living room, the group practice was called “Collective Wonderment,” and the “practice” was basically jamming in a group about a particular theme, exploring ideas and emotions and whatever else, and sometimes it was revelatory and sometimes it was banal and whatever the case it was always an interesting learning process. I’m bringing back the Wonderment for this one, a group exploration of “Love, Sex and Awakening,” a title I stole from a talk that former Buddhist nun and uber-meditator Ajahn Thanasanti is giving in Toronto on Wednesday April 15 (see below for details). I can’t make this talk! Bummed. But hopefully some CECers will go, as I’m curious about what she’ll say. HOWEVER, since I am human, I know something about these things, and you do too, so let’s get naked (in our minds –you animal) and explore together this part of being human.

The Future

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: The Future
MEDITATION: The Present
GROUP PRACTICE: Activate 7: The Future of the CEC.

Our final activate session, at least for this round, this one is about the CEC itself. Based on what we learned last week, what can be integrated into how we do things at the CEC? Should we start new initiates, or refine and deepen exiting ones? If the CEC’s mandate is to improve the lives of everyone who moves through it, then how can we get better at this? In other words, what the hell do you guys want, and if it’s to punch yourself right in the face, then have you carefully placeda cushion behind you to protect your head? For the group practice, we will all stand in a long line and, to the sweet strains of some annoying Cat Stevens song, simultaneously punch ourselves in the face, thus ending this amazing experiment and keeping it real in a way I don’t pretend to understand.

Into the World

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Into the World
MEDITATION: Expand in Space, Ground in Sound
GROUP PRACTICE: Activate 6: Finding the Golden Thread

The poet William Stafford (“for it is important that awake people be awake”) used to talk about finding the golden thread in a poem, in a moment, in a life – the thread of meaning, the felt tug of it in your belly, or the vision of it swimming out from the canvas in front of you. That’s what we’re looking for today, the golden thread in each of the seven initiatives / themes of the past month, themes that have themselves bubbled to the surface from our collective in-seeing: community building, mental health, housing, consciousness and healing, self-discovery, women’s empowerment, and animal rights. What can be distilled from the wide range of ideas and insights that have been expressed? What might it mean for us personally, and how might some of this be realistically taken into the world?

Lighting in a Bottle

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Lighting in a Bottle
MEDITATION: Verve and Vitality
GROUP PRACTICE: Activate 5: Activating
This last week, we finalize the details of each initiative and share them with the larger group. We’ll explore how to energize the language of caring with an automatic writing exercise, empowering each other to unleash our store of voodoo love lightning. And then – blue bolts of electricity in our teeth – we’ll jump around like happy idiots and run off into the night to annoy friends and family with our virtuous plans. Later that week, XX new Activate posts will appear on the CEC website, regular initiatives with rotating committees that anyone can participate in.
Yeah, it’s ambitious. It’s also just the beginning. Hopefully this month we’ll learn some lessons about what works and what doesn’t, streamline our process so the next round of Activation can be even more effective and inclusive.

Hidden Assumptions

TEACHER: Jeff
THEME: Hidden Assumptions
MEDITATION: Patterns of Inner Activation
GROUP PRACTICE: Activate 4: Service is Edge-Riding

We’ll continue to flesh out the details of our potential new initiatives, but this week we’ll also mindfully explore what hidden assumptions we may be bringing to the table. One of the big lessons from the development scene over the past few years has been around clarifying paternalistic power imbalances and unexamined beliefs. What unconscious assumptions are we missing, and how can we approach making a difference without falling into some of the common traps? On the other hand, an even bigger trap is being so politically correct that all we do is talk about the idea of giving, and never actually do anything. Like meditation, service is edge riding: between sensitivity and awareness on the one-hand, and forward-moving effort and action on the other. This week we explore that edge.

The Big Picture

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: The Big Picture
MEDITATION: Grounding and Expanding.
GROUP PRACTICE: Activate 3: Choosing and Consolidating

Ok we’re starting to build some momentum here. We’ve shared stories and potentially identified some key areas to explore. Time to consolidate our creativity and focus in on a few concrete initiatives, either one you personally share with others, or one you’re inspired to learn more about. What can realistically be done, and what matches the skills and interests and experience of the group? Notice what kind of energy comes into the room when we start to talk in practical terms about the place, in Frederick Buechner’s words, “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

The Stories We Tell

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: The Stories We Tell
MEDITATION: Into the Heart
GROUP PRACTICE: Activate 2: Connecting to our Personal Motivation

To prepare for this session, try to think about a challenge you faced or an experience you had that really affected you and might hint at an activate direction you’d want to go. Maybe as a kid in the backseat of the family car you drove past a hideous clear-cut and ever since you’ve wanted to do something concrete to help the environment. Or maybe you have an autistic brother and have shared in his struggles. Or maybe you’ve worked with and through a screwed-up relationship and are inspired to help couples become better communicators. It’s ridiculously broad, but the idea is that the juice of our motivation to make a difference comes from our own lives, our own stories. As the great Harvard educator Marshall Ganz has said, “stories are what inspire us to act.” They communicate our values and show us a direction for – yes – our electric love.