Today we continue the series on programs for experienced students, with a look at an annual program at the Insight Meditation Center:
Insight Meditation Center: Dharma Practice Days
At a monastery, not all the learning comes from the abbot's teaching. Much of it comes from conversations and interactions between practitioners as they explore the Dharma together as peers. Inspired by this model, Gil Fronsdal teaches a themed monthly program at the Insight Meditation Center called Dharma Practice Days. Participants engage in a daylong program each month that includes guided meditation, teachings, experiential exercises, and discussions. Between the daylongs, optional reflections and exercises are offered through a written handout.
Suitable for any level of practice, Dharma Practice Days go as deep as the student is able. The richness of the teachings makes them especially valuable for more experienced practitioners seeking to deepen their understanding of the Dharma.
Previous annual Dharma Practice Day programs have focused on such themes as the Brahma-Viharas, the Factors of Awakening, the Hindrances, and the Paramis. This year's theme is the Eightfold Path. The aim of all the programs is to integrate our outer life and our inner meditation practice. People are encouraged to attend all the monthly sessions, but anyone is welcome to attend any part of the series.
This year, IMC has included a new dimension to the program. At the beginning, participants were given the option to have a mentor during the program – a senior IMC student who would meet with them each month to discuss their experience practicing with the Eightfold Path components. The mentor meetings are focused on Dharma practice rather than taking a counseling or psychotherapeutic approach. Students and mentors commit to meeting for all eight months.
Nearly 30 people are being mentored in this way. It is creating bonds throughout the IMC community, offering valuable teaching experience to the mentors, and helping students learn to address their life issues through the Dharma.
Recordings from the current Dharma Practice Days are available on AudioDharma: http://www.audiodharma.org/series/1/talk/3667/.