Giving and Getting

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Giving and Getting
MEDITATION: Don’t Know Mind
GROUP PRACTICE: Activate 1: What Does Activate Even Mean?

Beneath that secret contemplative circuit is, apparently, an equally secret dynamic hiding right in plain sight: giving is getting and getting is giving. Expressing your caring in action is, they say, a healing practice, and letting yourself receive someone’s concern with gratitude completes the exchange. We think it’s money we want, but when you ask folks on their deathbed about what matters, most of them don’t talk about their RRSPs – they talk about love and connection. Yet, because some version of this sentiment is on the cover of every freaking Hallmark card, we don’t take it as seriously as we might. It’s too easy, too … Pollyanna. Thus in our haste and our stress, we privilege other messages and other ethics. Is this true – is giving really getting? Or have I watched one too many Disney films? To kick-off Activation month, we’ll explore this apparent dynamic first-hand, and find out what activation means for each of us personally.

Into the Underworld!

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Challenge
MEDITATION: Into the Underworld!
GROUP PRACTICE:  These are all the ways I suck, and this is what it feels like to talk about my suckage with you.

This week we take our medicine. We learn how, in TS Elliot’s words, “to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.” It’s arguably the most important week of the month, where a lot of deep learning happens. You thought you meditated to feel good, and there is nothing wrong with that.  But meditation isn’t about feeling good. It’s about growing as a human being, and to do that you need to brave. You need to be willing to look at the hard, ugly stuff, your anger and your hurt and your pettiness and whatever else you don’t want people to see. Because what you don’t own eventually own you. So yeah! It’s happy happy time! It would be easy to make birdy chirp chip noises every week and sing kumbaya and say everything is awesome, but it ain’t and you ain’t (and I sure as shit ain’t) and since I’m motivated to try and actually help you guys, this is where we pull up our britches and charge into the underworld on our motorbikes with flames coming out of our eye-sockets.

Breakthrough

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Breakthrough
MEDITATION: Moving Ever-closer to The Now
GROUP PRACTICE:  Time bandits

So as I said, breakthrough is gonna look different depending on the person. For some, it might be a glimpse into the constructed nature of sensory reality, for others an energizing kundalini shock, for others still a sudden insight into who and how they are. All of these are “ah-ha” moments, although they may happen in different domains. For this meditation we’ll work with developing clarity with our immediate experience, see if we can edge closer to the real present. Neuroscience tells us there’s a delay in consciousness. We live a half-second or so in the past. What most neuroscientists don’t realize is human beings can actually learn to move their awareness forward in time, closer to actual Now. This is a classic meditative feat: as the meditator trains up their clarity, they seems to be able to boost the temporal resolution of attention and move into the initial 10 or 20 or 100 milliseconds of every moment. In this strange place, all sensory experience is unfixated, just the free flow of space expanding and contracting, to use a Shinzen-ism. The world has not yet hardened and congealed. From here come the mind-jarring insights into impermanence and so on. Imagine living from this place! That’s what we’ll explore in the group practice. I have no idea what this will look like.

Effort

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Effort
MEDITATION: Dog on a Bone Concentration
GROUP PRACTICE:  Lucid Dreaming mini-workshop

Everything starts with concentration. The ability to focus, to stay on task. In meditation you learn the things you once thought were boring – like breathing – are actually fas-ci-na-ting when you concentrate on them. That’s because when the discursive mind settles, there’s no real problem with anything. The “problem” is in the judgment about the experience, not the experience itself. This simple truth is one of the deepest lessons we can learn in practice and in life. What’s more, concentration is inherently pleasurable. That’s why we like to be in the zone at work and play and love. It’s blissful and rewarding and takes us outside of time, into the land of slushy happy drizzle breath, our faces collapsed inward like black holes. Then for the group practice we’ll go off-road and hit that mini lucid dreaming workshop I promised last week. Effort and concentration play a role here too, and the reward in this context is a fine double-stitching of nighttime reality.

Reality / Unreality

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Reality / Unreality
MEDITATION: Melting into the Dream of You
GROUP PRACTICE: Mini Lucid Dreaming workshop

In my other life I wrote a book about dreaming and waking, and, like many before me, I became enchanted with the alternate reality known as lucid dreaming. Excellent for celebrity sex and super power rehearsal, obviously, but oh so much more. Because at the heart of lucid dreaming lies a very interesting insight: just as you can wake up inside a dream and realize that everything around you is part of a single process dreamed by you, so too can you wake up inside waking and realize that everything around you is part of a single process dreamed by … well, by one awareness. I’m not sure where that awareness is sleeping – let’s hope no one wakes her up, otherwise we’re all screwed!

The Beat that My Heart Remixed

TEACHER: Jeff and James
THEME: The Beat that my Heart Remixed
MEDITATION:  Your body is a tuning fork for cosmic symphonies.
GROUP PRACTICE: We’ve done this before, and it is always good.

After focusing your sensitive little heart, we’ll pull out the blankets and bolsters and spill onto the floor as James and Jeff guide you through the sonic contours of your Litebrite (TM) soul, with a carefully curated DJ set designed to make your heart explode. Since the holidays are here, and with it, more faces of people we love, more party time, more couch time, more thank you time, more reflection time about what parts of life we most sincerely love, we are going to even make more of an effort to fill your cockles (TM) with crispy goodness.  There could be singing.  And we may go for beers after.

Punching Right Through the Gates of Your Face

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Punching Right Through the Gates of Your Face
MEDITATION: Silent Illumination
GROUP PRACTICE: Dharma Combat

Oh yes this will be good. Already I am so happy about this that I may not even show up. So for the meditation we’ll do a dead-simple Chan (Chinese Zen) practice called Silent Illumination where we’ll get all steeped in foreverness. Then what? We fight. Yeah, that’s right. In the meditation hall. Unfortunately Pat and Scott won’t allow paintball, so we’ll go it at like the the epic Zen dharma combatantsof yesteryear. I’m not even fooling. Get in a small group, one person is the challenger, one the defender. The challenger shouts some baffling koan-like questions to the defender, who must respond instantly and without deliberation. The challenger is then judged by the rest of the group on how spontaneous and appropriate their answer is. And then the battle continues. Sound intimidating? That’s nothing – had you lived in 8th century China, you might have come up against the fearsome Línjì Yìxuán, who once opened this can of Tang Dynasty whoop-ass on an unsuspecting monk:

  • The master said: “Upon the lump of red flesh there is a True Man of no Status who ceaselessly goes out and in    through the gates of your face. Those who have not yet recognized him, look out, look out!” A monk came forward and asked: “What is the True Man of no Status?” The master descended from the meditation cushion, grabbed the monk and said: “Speak, speak!” The monk hesitated. The master released him and said: “What a shit-stick this True Man of no Status is!” Then he withdrew to his quarters.

Hell yeah! That shit is on Wikipedia – check it out.

Gettin’ Rigour

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Gettin’ Rigour
MEDITATION: Vipassana-style noting
GROUP PRACTICE: Partner Noting

We start the month with a bit of disciplined practice. Basic insight noting. Object: the breath – a fine object with an auspicious lineage, for under the Bodhi tree the Buddha apparently rode his breath all the way to enlightenment, whatever that means. Of course this was only after a pitched psychic battle with the armies of Mara – ie. sloth, torpor, itchy neck, BORED – what’s the point?, I wish to sensual pleasure myself, snack attack! ‘OMIGOD is that a butter chicken roti I smell? – but Hindu dietary laws forbid such indulgences, oh vibrating-empty-void-not-remotely-personifed-as-a-God, give me the strength to keep meditating!’ And so he did, and so Mara was vanquished, and forever after the veggie roti became a reliable staple of Indian cuisine. You’re welcome for the history lesson.

Devotion 4: Ye Gods!

TEACHER: Jeff Warren and Avi
THEME: Devotion 4: Ye Gods!
MEDITATION: Deity Yoga
GROUP PRACTICE: Inter-Personal Adventure

Psyched to welcome my new friend Avi Craimer, a smart and rigorous Toronto-based meditation teacher with an interest in the devotional side of practice. This is rare in the West, where there is much more emphasis on dry “attentional skill” training. Check out Avi’s fascinating article on five flavours of “bhakti” or devotional love. He carefully charts how devotion-minded practitioners slowly evolve their relationship with God, that is, with reality personified as a divine Other. For the group practice, Avi will guide us in an inter-personal adventure, as we experiment with reframing how we experience each other – not as random schmucks, but as candy-haloed Happyland Olympians. Then we’ll scream AC/DC songs at each other.

This is one of the Dalai Lama’s go to practices. Involves merging with some desired attribute (patience, compassion, etc), or representative of that attribute, until you become the very thing. Speaks to the amazing plasticity of the self-identificatiion process – Tibetan practices in particular help us see that, in a way, we are our own works of art.

Devotion 3: Giving Up

TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Devotion 3: Giving Up
MEDITATION: Stop Trying
GROUP PRACTICE: Let’s All Surrender

So much to explore on the interconnected themes of devotion, love and surrender. For the group practice, we’ll go inside using a form of contemplative inquiry designed to activate our intuition-rich anti-search engines. As the cliche goes, this one is about accessing your own inner guru, so you can give him / her all your money and then go down in a blaze of glory when the Texan state troopers bust the compound.

All this time you’ve tried so hard – to be good, to say the right thing, to secure all circumstances, to prove you’re allowed to be here. Well you don’t need to try anymore. In this sit we practice belonging, with one of my favourite meditation techniques: the Zen-inspired 60s Christian mystic remix known as Centering Prayer