“The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life. For it is only through meditation that you can undertake the journey to discover your true nature, and so find the stability and confidence you will need to live, and die, well. Meditation is the road to enlightenment.”
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche
What Meditation Really Is is a unique meditation series that has been specially developed by Sogyal Rinpoche after many years of teaching in the West. It brings together over 2,000 years of Buddhist wisdom and experience in a way that is authentic, accessible and completely relevant to modern life.
Led by experienced meditators, it offers a complete introduction to meditation. Students will gain a genuine experience of meditation and all the tools they need to take the benefits into every aspect of their life.
1. Getting to know your own mind
Led by experienced instructors, the first course in this series offers a complete introduction to meditation and provides participants with all the tools necessary in order to have a genuine experience of meditation, establish a daily practice, and take the benefits of meditation into every aspect of their life.
It introduces methods of meditation practice that are simple, yet powerful and profound. These methods can be practiced by anyone and are extremely effective for bringing inner strength, peace, compassion and understanding into your life.
Students acquire all the tools they need in order to have a genuine experience of meditation, establish a daily practice, and take the benefits of meditation into every aspect of their life.
The following topics are covered in Module One:
Session One: A basic introduction to the true purpose of meditation and how to practice it.
Session Two: Meditation as a way to inner peace and contentment
Session Three: Understanding mind and how to work with it
Session Four: The benefits of meditation
Session Five: Integrating the practice in daily life
Module One- Getting to Know Your Own Mind is suitable for anyone who wishes to learn to meditate or deepen their knowledge of meditation—including absolute beginners who have never heard about meditation or Buddhism, as well as more experienced students from any tradition.
It is also a recommended foundation for Modules Two through Six, which present a series of ever-subtler methods for stabilizing and deepening shamatha meditation practice.
2. Using our senses, thoughts and emotions as a support
The series deepens the practices introduced in the first course and helps participants understand how meditation can help us to transform our mind and perceive things differently, so that we discover a deeper contentment that is not reliant on outer circumstances.
Often when we meditate, we find that we are easily distracted by our senses, thoughts and emotions. A pain in our leg or back, or some thoughts about our day circling through our mind in a seemingly endless loop can make us completely forget about meditation. Rather than seeing common situations like these as something we need to avoid or eliminate in order to practise ‘properly’, this course shows us how to use them to strengthen and support our meditation.
Module 2- Using our Senses, Thoughts and Emotions as a Support introduces the idea that all sensations, thoughts and emotions can be used as a basis for meditation practice: in short, everything that occurs during the meditative experience can be a basis for meditation, rather than distraction.
The course material builds on module 1 and presents the following new topics:
– using the senses as an object of shamatha
– using thoughts as an object of shamatha
– using emotions as an object of shamatha
It also revisits important principles that were established in the first module. This material will be a valuable reminder and deepening for students who attended the first module, and a vital introduction to those who did not. These points include:
– the ultimate goal of meditation
– key principles of shamatha with support
– the source of genuine contentment
– an understanding of the two aspects of mind—its appearance and essence.
Through teachings on video, class discussions and contemplative exercises, students can begin to see the connection between experiences of happiness, peace and contentment, and the way mind perceives. This helps to understand how meditation can help us transform our mind and perceive differently, so that we discover a deeper contentment that is not reliant on outer circumstances.
It is recommended to have already taken Module One- Getting to Know Your Own Mind prior to taking this course, as it provides a foundation in many of the fundamental principals that are elaborated on here.
3. Dropping the method
Dropping the method’ builds on the two modules that precede it, introducing and focusing on the topic of shamatha without support.
Students will have the opportunity to:
– understand how shamatha with support leads into shamatha without support
– practise alternating between shamatha with and without support
– maintain a stable daily practice and also develop the habit of practising for short moments, many times, throughout the day
– begin to identify more with the essence and nature of mind rather than the appearance of thoughts and emotions
This course also revisits important principles that were established in the first and second courses. Some of which include:
– the ultimate goal of meditation
– the complete structure of the teaching on meditation
– the three noble principles
It is recommended to have already taken both Mocule One- Getting to Know Your Own Mind and Module Two- Using our Senses, Thoughts and Emotions as a Support prior to taking this course, as they provides a foundation for the topics covered here.
4. Finding motivation; loving kindness practice
Meditating on loving kindness helps us restore our love and confidence, and heal any unresolved emotional wounds we may be carrying. It also puts us back in touch with the fundamental goodness of our core being, and once that has happened, we are able to love ourselves. Loving kindness meditation practice first shows us first how to open to the unconditional love within ourselves and then how to extend this love to everyone else.
If we are ever going to adopt a genuine attitude of love and compassion towards other people, we first need to be able to love and have compassion for ourselves. Then, it is much easier and more meaningful to wish that our practice may be of real benefit to others. By showing us how to love ourselves and how to extend our love to everybody else, loving kindness meditation practice expands the scope of our practice – that our practice will benefit not only ourselves, but everyone else too.
Many people discover that loving kindness practice gives them a method for transforming their difficult emotions and helps them avoid getting stuck in negativity and confusion. For this reason, many students find that by meditating on loving kindness, their shamatha practice becomes more stable.
Students will have the opportunity to:
– start to get in touch with our true nature and perhaps glimpse the sense of well-being, self-worth and profound love that comes from it
– learn that loving kindness practice comes out of the space of meditation
– practise loving kindness for ourselves
– look at why we need to learn how to love ourselves
– learn how we can unblock love
see the value of occupying our mind with love
– practise extending loving kindness to others
– see the benefits that loving kindness can bring us.
This modue is ideal as a continuation from the previous modules, as loving kindness practice is based on the foundation of meditation.
It is recommended that students complete Mocule 3- Dropping the Method before starting this class.
5. The Unifying Practice
The Unifying Practice brings together the three aspects of body, speech and mind, and is a way of bringing our body, speech and mind into the environment of meditation and the state of of non-distraction. This module looks in detail at the Unifying Practice, in which these three key methods—each of them a complete method of meditation in itself—are brought together into one practice.
As we practice these methods in a gradual sequence, it enables us slowly to transform our thoughts, emotions and energy, and become steadily more peaceful and more present. When we practice them together in what we call ‘The Unifying Practice’, it brings the three methods together, and ‘unifies’ them, so that we can see their connectedness, and how each one supports the other. This accelerates the process of meditation and deepens the experience, with the result that meditation can happen effortlessly.
The three methods introduced here include:
Looking at an image of Buddha to transforms our outer environment and acts on the level of the body.
Chanting or reciting a mantra is related to the speech and purifies our inner world of sound, emotion and energy.
Watching the breath pacifies the mind. This may gradually lead to the higher meditation of the innermost nature of mind.
Since it builds and relies on the methods introduced in the previous four mocules, it is recommended that students complete them before beginning Module 5- The Unifying Practice.
6. Bringing the State of Non-Distraction into Life
The ‘What Meditation Really Is’ series concludes with focusing entirely on integration: how to integrate meditation in action, so that practice and everyday life are no longer separate and presents a clear framework, tools and methods for doing this. These teachings on integration show how we can apply meditation to everything we encounter and everything we do.
“I cannot say it strongly enough: to integrate meditation in action is the whole ground and point and purpose of meditation. The violence and stress, the challenges and distractions of modern life make this integration even more urgently necessary.
People complain to me, “I have meditated for twelve years, but somehow I haven’t changed. I am still the same. Why?” Because there is an abyss between their spiritual practice and their everyday life…
How, then, do we achieve this integration, this permeation of everyday life with the calm humor and spacious detachment of meditation? There is no substitute for regular practice, for only through real practice will we begin to taste unbrokenly the calm of our nature of mind and so be able to sustain the experience of it in our everyday life.”
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
Module 6- Bringing the State of Non-distraction into Life, presents a clear framework, tools and methods for doing this.