Tag Archives: meditation

Susan Bauer Wu: Led Reflections

Susan Bauer-Wu is another Western Buddhist who ran a meditation workshop section in the Coursera MOOC Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism ….. She trained as a nurse, moved into academia, became involved in the Mind & Life conferences founded by Varela and Engle with the Dalai Lama as Honorary Chairman and is now President of the Mind & Life Institute. Prior to that she was the director of the Compassionate Care Initiative and the Tussi and John Kluge Professor in Contemplative End-of-Life Care at the University of Virginia (UVa) School of Nursing and associate faculty in the UVa Department of Religious Studies and on the executive committee of the pan-university UVa Contemplative Sciences Center.

I really appreciated her contribution to the course. In fact it was the meditation workshops and the neuroscience worships that kept me interested in the course. The formal lectures introducing Tibetan Buddhism were incredibly stilted and pedagogical. Such a missed opportunity. Here are some of her led reflections. You can find more on YouTube or you can have a look at the MOOC material on the link above.

The reflection that I most appreciate is the one on stepping out of out thinking minds. But they are all very good, very simply done, and if you’re new to meditation listen to them all.

Grounding Yourself:

” Not trying to make the experience a certain way, but it is just as it is, and see what you notice…Just being curious, but not analysing…. with the breath as an anchor, in this moment…”

 

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Stabilising the Mind:

“As long as you are alive, your breath is with you…. simply noticing the sensations of breathing in and breathing out ….. the texture of the breath…any time the mind wanders, and it will, very, very gently, very simply, coming back to the physical experience… “

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Stepping Out of Our Thinking Minds:

“This practice is of choice-less awareness… and it’s a non-conceptual being with and knowing…an opportunity to go beyond the personal pronouns of I and me and mine…. beyond self-interests and self-centredness and contracting around thoughts, or events….awareness of all sensations …. and allow the field to expand further to include thought-streams, images, memories… without separation of it rest in this awareness in this moment.”

 

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Opening the Heart:

The Shamatha Project

One of Dr Clifford Saron’s short talks about his experience in working with Buddhist monks in Dharamasala to look at what happens to their brain activity whilst they are meditation. But as he says at the beginning of this video:

“…. maybe these meditators were always extraordinary people; maybe that extraordinariness was what had led them to meditation in the first place. So how can you test this scientifically? how do you set up a control group for people who’s already got  20, 30, 40 years experience of meditation?”

What they did was set up a longitudinal study called The Shamatha Project.

Clifford Saron: the Scientific Study of Meditation

Clifford Saron is another investigator I came across in the online Coursera MOOC Tibetan Buddhist Meditation & the Modern World. I really enjoyed his section of the course which explored the scientific study of meditation.Dr Saron is a neuroscientist who has applied his scientific expertise to investigating meditators – what are they doing? what difference does it make to them?  do they act differently? what’s going on in their brain?

You can find a lot of his short videos on YouTube. Just search under his name. The ones I’m sharing here are on YouTube and were all part of the MOOC course material.

In the first video he gives an account of how he became involved in this field of enquiry in the 1990s in Dharamasala, India, meeting the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist meditators. As he says himself, those were life-changing experiences for him.

 

Anne Klein: Short Contemplations

I came across these short contemplations from Anne Klein (Rigzin Drolma) whilst following a MOOC on Coursera and really appreciated them. (I didn’t appreciate the main lecturer on that course at all but that’s another story.)

Anne Klein is professor and former chair of religious studies at Rice University and co-founder of and resident teacher at Dawn Mountain Retreat Centre, celebrated by the Houston Press in 2006 for offering the best guided meditation in Houston. She’s a distinguished Buddhist scholar, she has studied in the United States, India, Tibet, and Nepal and has written numerous works on Buddhism, including co-authoring “Unbounded Wholeness” and “Knowledge and Liberation”.

Here are the meditations. They are in the order they were presented on the course so if you try them maybe try them in this order. If you have a look on YouTube you’ll find short introductions and conclusions to each as well.

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Cultivation of Mindfulness:

“.. with an intention to cultivate mindfulness, all your other concerns are simply going to rest outside of the room of your mind at this time.. all those other concerns, you just let them go like leaves in a stream flowing away from you…. they will arise, they will show you their faces, but you won’t latch on to them ….. which is very different from our ordinary habit pattern …. of course you are breathing ….inhale and exhale ….you’re not writing a paper about this, but you’re feeling it… words may come and you can let them go also…”

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Cultivating Calm:

“The cultivation of trust is a very significant foundation for the development of calm …. we can begin by cultivating a sense that we are being profoundly supported right now, in a very physical sense….that our body is supported…. and this is soothing to us .. and from that can come trust…”

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Cultivating an Understanding of Impermanence:

“Think of the world at large… how does it display impermanence?…it does it all the time… big things, things closer to home, death and loss ….and with this kind of practice we are also enjoined to understand it as an indication of what arises…the pain that is really no stranger to anyone’s life.. this moves towards love by recognising the shared, poignant situation that all of us are in …”

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A Line to Our Own Insight:

“How will we cultivate insight? how do we unfold in the world? ….if we don’t wonder, we’ll have no interest in investigating… so with curiosity motivating us, we can sit and simply observe….the practice of insight begins when you are moving forth from the intention to investigate, to look in and see what your experience is…”

Mind Training for the Digital Age

I’ve been a follower of Buddhist Geeks podcasts for a while now.  You can find their potted history here. I  like their approach. It’s fresh, it’s got depth, it’s secular – oh, and it’s geeky. They also feature residential retreats in the USA which look pretty good if you live there, though they also seem quite expensive too. That’s from a UK view, anyway. Continue reading Mind Training for the Digital Age