Avi: Philosophy was my first contemplative practice, long before I’d ever heard about mindfulness. A philosopher is somebody who seeks philos (deep friendship) with sophia (wisdom). The philosopher’s method is to ask questions and develop reasoned explanations about things like, what am I? What should we do? What is true and how do we know it? The philosopher is somebody who stubbornly keeps engaging with these questions long after most people grow bored of them. The original English meaning of “meditation” was, to think deeply about a topic, as in the title of Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy. For tonight’s sit we’ll experiment with meditation as a focused inner reflection on a topic of deep importance.
Jeff: What actually wants to emerge in each moment, before thinking jumps in? Inquiring minds want to know! As the saying goes, thinking is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. Many traditions argue that our actual default conditions – the factory settings, as it were – are wise and caring, but that we cover them up with our maddening stresses and schemes and agendas. In this meditation, we see what emerges when we practice not knowing.
Caitlin: Do you sometimes feel like your mind-body experience is a chaotic circus scene with multi-colored elephants parading around underneath clowns walking tightropes pushing screeching monkeys in wheelbarrows, all preventing you from deciphering the very important message your friend is trying to deliver – or is that just me? Focusing is a step-by-step meditative practice that help us access intuition and clarity around the confounding situations that sometimes arise in our lives. By tuning into our bodies and getting in touch with the felt sense of a situation, we can tap into the wisdom and innate sense of knowing that live deep within our experience. Instead of being swept up in the circus, focusing can help us become the circus master.
Jeff: In this first Monday of the month, we’ll set the stage with a classic bit of Hindu Vedanta-inspired self-inquiry. This particular version of the practice comes by way of my colleague Vince Horn, who runs the Buddhist Geeks podcast and offers many excellent courses with his partner Emily Horn over at meditate.io. Instead of asking “Who am I?”, we make it less personal, and ask “What IS this?” – as in, what is this whole existential boondoggle that we find ourselves running around inside? Not because we’re hoping to find an intellectual answer, but rather, because in the asking, we may find a new freshness and immediacy in our being here at all.
Jeff: For part one, we continue exploring concentration, this time with a master of concentration – my wife, Sarah Barmak! Every morning she makes me look bad by dropping into bliss-saturated samadhi stillness while I roll around on the floor doing my special “meditation” body exercises. How did she get so good? She followed Culadasa’s excellent Mind Illuminated protocol, that’s how. Join us for a trip into the depths.