fbpx

MSC Meditation Program

The MSC (Mindfulness, Selflessness & Compassion) Meditation Program is part of our Universal Education track. The program is based on both psychology and neuroscience as well as the Buddhist psychology and science of mind. It comprises the three core elements for training the mind. On the basis cultivating mindfulness we then apply that mindfulness to gain insights into the nature of reality (selflessness) and to cultivate the positive qualities such as compassion.

Thus the MSC Meditation program has three levels modules, detailed below; Foundations of Mindfulness (level 1), Foundations of Selflessness (level 2), and Foundations of Compassion (level 3).

Each of the three modules of this program will comprise eight 2 hour sessions. Each session will include a presentation, various guided meditations, and group discussions.

There will be a requirement to practice the meditation within each session at least three times before attending the next session. The last session of each module will explain how to integrate that particular core element of practice into daily life.

This module comprises eight sessions designed to provide a clear framework for the practice of cultivating mindfulness – the practice of cultivating a calm, clear & focussed mind. In Buddhism this is often referred to as shamatha practice.

Recommended reading: The Attention Revolution by Alan Wallace

The Eight Sessions

  1. Relaxation
    2. Focus
    3. Clarity
    4. Observing Thoughts
    5. Resting in Stillness
    6. Stillness in Motion
    7. Open Awareness
    8. Mindfulness in Daily Life

In cultivating mindfulness we are cultivating the three qualities of relaxation, focus and clarity. During the first three sessions we will use the breath as our object for cultivating these qualities. Then during the next four sessions we will use the mind and awareness for cultivating mindfulness. And finally in the last session we will look at how to integrate mindfulness into daily life.

Session 1: Relaxation  (Attention Revolution p.13 – 21)

In general when we focus on any object or task we tend to be quite tight and tense and as a result often become both agitated and exhausted. 

What’s the solution? Relaxation. The basis of any sustainable focus is relaxation.

In this session we will look at how we can cultivate this sense of ease and relaxation in both the body and mind. For this we will use the practice of mindfulness of breathing, in particular the practice of simply becoming aware of the rhythm of the breath.

Session 2: Focus  (Attention Revolution p.29 – 34)

When we try to focus on an object or task we often become distracted. And when we find that we have become distracted we tend to clamp down more forcefully on the object or task. Which then causes us to become even more agitated and also exhausted. 

What’s the solution? Cultivating focus on the basis of relaxation.

In this session we will look at how we can improve our ability to focus whilst maintaining a relaxed body & mind. For this we will use the practice of mindfulness of breathing focussing our attention on the sensations of the breath in the area of the abdomen.

Session 3: Clarity  (Attention Revolution p.43 – 49)

When we try to focus on an object or task our mind also often becomes very dull or drowsy. And when we try to arouse our attention we often become tense and agitated. So we tend to be either focussed and tense or relaxed and dull.

What’s the solution? Cultivating clarity on the basis of relaxation & focus.

In this session we will look at how we can combine the two – to be relaxed and at the same time focusing clearly on the object or task. For this we will use the practice of mindfulness of breathing focussing our attention on the sensations of the breath at the entrance of the nostrils.

Session 4: Observing Thoughts  (Attention Revolution p.81 – 93 & p.101 – 109)

Our mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy. Unfortunately in our modern society it often seems to be the latter. We tend to be the slaves of our mind, tormented and often overwhelmed by our thoughts, emotions and memories. 

How can we become the masters of our mind? The simple practice of observing thoughts. 

In this session we will look at how to use the mind as our object for cultivating mindfulness, specifically how to observe our thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them. And in the process make our mind our best friend. 

Session 5: Resting in Stillness  (Attention Revolution p.133 – 138 & p.144 – 148)

We get so caught up in appearances whether they be external appearances such as visual objects and sounds or internal objects such as thoughts and emotions that we not aware of the awareness within which they appear. As a result we tend to contract around those appearances and our mind becomes very small and constricted and thus becomes unbalanced and reactive.

What’s the solution? The practice of resting in stillness.

In this session we will make explicit what for most of us goes unnoticed, that is that awareness is taking place in all of our experiences. We will simply do this by turning our awareness away from objects and turning it in upon itself. And simply knowing that we’re aware. And in the process noticing that awareness is completely still and boundless.

Session 6: Stillness in Motion  (same as session 4 & 5)

Even if we try to observe thoughts and emotions we still tend to get swept away by them. They are very ‘sticky’ and our mind easily reacts either getting caught up in them or if they are unpleasant trying to suppress them. Either way we become the slaves of our mind.

What’s the solution? The practice of stillness in motion.

In this session we will combine the practices of observing thoughts and resting in stillness. That is, resting in the stillness of awareness whilst observing the movements of the mind. In this way we anchor ourselves in that open spacious stillness and hence can more easily observe thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them.

Session 7: Open Awareness  (same as session 4 & 5)

In our daily life our mind is often very tight and constricted just like the water in a small cup. And just as when a small pebble is dropped into that cup the surface of the water is completely disturbed, so too is our mind easily disturbed even when a very small stimulus comes our way. 

What’s the solution? Open awareness. 

In this session we will expand the stillness in motion practice to also include sensory objects. That is, resting in the stillness of awareness whilst observing all movements of the mind. In this way our mind is like the water in a large lake. When that same pebble is dropped into a large lake is hardly causes a ripple. Similarly through resting in that open spacious stillness we can effectively engage in our daily life activities responding to stimuli without the mind being disturbed.

Session 8: Mindfulness in Daily Life  (Attention Revolution p.20 – 21, p.35 – 37, p.49 – 55 & p.66 – 67)

Mindfulness has become quite popular in our modern society however unfortunately it is often presented without reference to any supporting framework and thus largely stripped of its efficacy. It has been reduced to McMindfulness.

In this session we will explore one such framework that can help make our cultivation of mindfulness effective. To help us achieve mental balance and well-being. 

 

This module is designed to provide a clear framework for the practice of applying mindfulness to gain insights into ourselves & the world of our experience. In Buddhism this is often referred to as vipashyana practice. Here the word ‘selflessness’ is used as a generic term encompassing all insights into reality.

Recommended reading: Minding Closely by Alan Wallace

How to See Yourself as You Really Are by The Dalai Lama

The Eight Sessions

  1. Change – Body
    2. Change – Mind
    3. Dissatisfaction
  2. No Self
    5. Emptiness
    6. Potential – Mere ‘I’
    7. Potential – Mind
    8. Selflessness in Daily Life

The Buddhist assertion is that it is our distorted view of reality that is the underlying source of our mental afflictions and suffering. In this module we will be investigating four common distorted views that tend to pervade our life. The four distorted views are:

  1. changing as unchanging
  2. pleasure as happiness
  3. no self as self
  4. dependent as independent

And in the process we will explore how to overcome them through gaining four insights. The four insights are:

  1. impermanence (session 1 & 2)
  2. suffering (session 3)
  3. no self (session 4)
  4. emptiness (session 5, 6 & 7) 

Finally in the last session we will look at how to integrate these insights into daily life.

Session 1: Change – Body  (Minding Closely  p.113 – 132)

We think we suffer because things change but in fact we suffer because we don’t accept the law of change. 

Of course we all intellectually understand that everything we experience is constantly changing. However our behaviour is not driven by our intellectual understanding. It is driven by our instinctive habits. In this particular case instinctively seeing things around us as not really changing from one moment to the next. If we want to change those instinctive habits we need to bring our intellectual understanding into experience through vipashyana practice.

In this first session we will do this by focussing on the body. Coming to experientially see that the body is constantly changing. And thus coming to see that the world we experience is a constant flow of change. 

And by so doing we can be more experientially in harmony with the flow of life and use it to our advantage to improve our lives instead fighting against that flow of life and thereby inducing mental afflictions and suffering.

Session 2: Change – Mind  (Minding Closely  p.175 – 186)

In this second session we will focus on the mind.  Coming to experientially see that the mind is constantly changing.  And thus coming to see that we, the experiencer of the world, are a constant flow of change.

And by so doing we can be more experientially in harmony with the flow of life and use it to our advantage to improve our lives instead fighting against that flow of life and thereby inducing mental afflictions and suffering.

Session 3: Dissatisfaction  (Minding Closely  p.65 – 66 & p.141 – 144)

We tend to believe that the source of our happiness is out there in the external world and as a result one of the main methods we use to try to find happiness is that we try to manipulate the things around us. We try to attract people, places and things that seem to be the source of our happiness. 

However no matter how hard we try to get those things we still seem to encounter suffering and we’re still chasing after that elusive happiness. And even if we get the things we want they never really fully satisfy us and hence remain stuck in this state of dissatisfaction. 

In this session we will introduce a simple practice that can help us to realize that there is no genuine happiness to be found out there in the world. And as a result come to realize that the real underlying source of happiness is to be found within our own mind.

Session 4: No Self  (Minding Closely  p.67 & p.128 – 130)

Does a self exist or not? 

The short answer is that it depends on how we define the word ‘self’.

In this session we will be looking at a number of different ways we conceive the self. And in the process focus in particular on our sense of being an ‘autonomous self’. 

We will then engage in the vipashyana practice of looking for this autonomous self that seems to be here. Also discussing some of the most common ways in which we tend to go astray in this practice.

Session 5: Emptiness  (Minding Closely  p.275 – 287 & How to See Yourself as You Really Are)

Is there an independent objective world out there? Is there an independent subjective me here?

We will begin this session by briefly presenting the view of emptiness. The view that nothing exists independently, that everything is a dependent-arising. And in particular how we grasp onto the ‘me’ seeing ourselves as completely independent of the world that we experience.

We will then engage in the vipashyana practice of looking for this independent me. 

Session 6: Potential – Mere ‘I’  (same as session 5)

If there is no ‘me’ to be found does that mean that we don’t exist at all?

In this session we present in more detail the flipside of emptiness – the view of dependent-arising. And come to see that like everything else we exist depending on other factors, in particular as something merely labelled on the basis of the body & mind.

We will once again engage in the vipashyana practice of looking for the independent me, this time also placing some emphasis on dependent-arising.

And through understanding that emptiness and dependent-arising are like two sides of a coin how we can avoid the two extremes of existence and non-existence.

Session 7: Potential – Mind  (Minding Closely  p.288 – 301)

If there is no independent object world and the world exists in dependence on our mind does that mean that the mind is the only ‘real’ thing and everything else is like an illusion?

In this session we turn our attention to the mind. How does the mind exist? What is the nature of the mind?

We will first begin be defining the mind and what we mean by the nature of mind.

We will then engage in a simple nature of mind practice looking directly at our own mind to come to realize how the mind exists.

Session 8: Selflessness in Daily Life  (same as session 5)

How can we bring these insights into daily life? In particular how to bring the insight into emptiness into daily life.

We will begin by first explaining the process of how grasping onto an independent me and an independent objective world is the underlying source of our mental afflictions and suffering. How through this grasping we turn lines and boundaries and then briefly present both short-term and long-term strategies to help reduce and finally eliminate this grasping.

We will then engage in the vipashyana practice of seeing everything as like an illusion.

 

This module is designed to provide a clear framework for applying mindfulness to cultivate the positive qualities such as loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy & equanimity. In Buddhism this is sometimes simply referred to as compassion practice.

Recommended reading: The Four Immeasurables by Alan Wallace

The Eight Sessions

  1. Loving-kindness
    2. Dealing with Attachment
    3. Compassion
    4. Dealing with Anger
    5. Empathetic Joy & Equanimity
    6. Exchanging Self with Others
    7. Tong-len (giving & taking)
    8. Compassion in Daily Life

The two main wings of practice are wisdom and compassion. And the foundation for the compassion wing of practice are the four immeasurables. They are:

  1. loving-kindness (session 1)
  2. compassion (session 3)
  3. empathetic joy (session 5)
  4. equanimity (session 5)

In the context of discussing these practices we will also look at how to deal with attachment (session 2) and how to deal with anger (session 4). We will then be building on this foundation in sessions 6 & 7 in terms of exchanging the selfish attitude with the attitude of cherishing others.

And finally in the last session we will look at how to integrate compassion into daily life.

Session 1: Loving-kindness  (Four Immeasurables p.87 – 126)

Loving-kindness is the wish for ourselves and others to have happiness and its causes. 

Thus to effectively cultivate loving-kindness we need to know 

  1. What is happiness?
  2. What are the causes of happiness?
  3. How do we cultivate those causes?

We will discuss these questions and then engage in a loving-kindness practice first focussing on ourselves and then expanding out to others.

Session 2: Dealing with Attachment  (Four Immeasurables p.114 – 116)

We begin this session by clearly defining attachment and discussing where it comes from.

Then looking at some ways to deal with attachment using mindfulness and also applying antidotes.

We will also be discussing some common misconceptions regarding attachment including:

  1. Without attachment my life would become very bland and boring.
  2. I need attachment to have a relationship.
  3. I need attachment to be creative.

Session 3: Compassion  (Four Immeasurables p.127 – 142)

Compassion is the wish for ourselves and others to be free of suffering and its causes. 

Thus to effectively cultivate compassion we need to know 

  1. What is suffering?
  2. What are the causes of suffering?
  3. How do we eliminate those causes?

We will discuss these questions and then engage in a compassion practice first focussing on ourselves and then expanding out to others.

Session 4: Dealing with Anger  (Four Immeasurables p.107 – 112)

We begin this session by clearly defining anger and discussing where it comes from.

Then looking at some ways to deal with anger using mindfulness and also applying antidotes.

We will also be discussing some common misconceptions regarding anger including:

  1. Anger is necessary in dealing with difficult situations.
  2. Anger is a sign of strength and compassion is a sign of weakness.
  3. Why we get angry at others who behave badly.

Session 5: Empathetic Joy & Equanimity  (Four Immeasurables p.143 – 162)

Empathetic joy is a rejoicing in our own and others virtue and good fortune.

Equanimity is a mind of impartiality towards others, not having attachment to friends, apathy to strangers or aversion to difficult people.

Having briefly introduced these two qualities we will then look at how to overcome the near-enemies of each of the four immeasurables. The near-enemies are:

  1. Loving-kindness (attachment)
  2. Compassion (despair/pity)
  3. Empathetic joy (meaningless rejoicing)
  4. Equanimity (indifference)

We will then engage in a simple practice of cultivating empathetic joy following which we will also look at how to purify our mind of negative habits.

Session 6: Exchanging Self with Others  (Buddhism With an Attitude – Alan Wallace)

In this session we will begin to look at how we can build on the four immeasurables through a five step process of exchanging self with others. 

The heart of this process is to first see the disadvantages of the selfish attitude and the advantages of the attitude of cherishing others. And then on this basis to exchange the selfish attitude for an attitude of cherishing others.

Also dispelling some common misconceptions such as:

  1. Won’t I just get taken advantage of if I just cherish others.
  2. And won’t I just end up with compassion burnout.
  3. Isn’t it just being selfish if I do things for myself.

Session 7: Tong-len (giving & taking)  (Attention Revolution p.95 – 96)

The fifth step in the five step process of exchanging self with others is the tong-len practice. Tong-len is a Tibetan word meaning giving and taking.

In this practice we imagine taking on the sufferings of others and we imagine giving them happiness. This is a very powerful way of exchanging self with others, a very powerful way of transforming attachment and aversion into loving-kindness and compassion.

We will engage in a simple tong-len practice beginning with ourselves and then expanding out to others.

And finally we will dispel some misconceptions about the practice and also how to apply it in daily life.

Session 8: Compassion in Daily Life  (Mental Balance & Well-Being – Alan Wallace & Shauna Shapiro)

In this last session we will look at the importance of adopting an integrated approach to the practice of mindfulness, selflessness and compassion.

We will do this based on a model presented in an article called “Mental Balance & Well-Being: Building Bridges Between Buddhism and Western Psychology” by Alan Wallace and Shauna Shapiro.

This article presents a model based on the four types of mental balance. 

  1. Motivational (conative)
  2. Attentional
  3. Cognitive
  4. Emotional (affective)
X
X
X
X
X
X
X