Speak or act with a peaceful mind / And happiness follows / Like a never-departing shadow.
-- Dhammapada 2
Buddhist Insight Network
Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation
This 8-chapter course is offered to Dharma leaders who wish to guide their sangha through the fundamental aspects of mindfulness meditation. The material is from the Insight Meditation Center and is used with full permission from IMC and Gil Fronsdal.
Mindfulness meditation is one of the fundamental spiritual practices taught by the Buddha. It allows us to bring appropriate attention to things occurring in our lives and to get to know and train our minds. It can be a dynamic process that involves engaging with sensations in the body and states and qualities of the mind, discovering cause and effect relationships. It can also be quiet and receptive, observing closely with wise attention.
In Buddhism mindfulness is part of a larger group of teachings and practices that, when wisely developed, lead to spiritual maturity and liberation. This way we learn how to cause less and less suffering to ourselves and others.
In the modern world this practice has been secularized and is applied in different scenarios including addiction, chronic pain management, eating disorders, stress reduction, psychotherapy, and education among others.
II. Course Aims and Outcomes:
The emphasis in this course is on learning from one's own experience. Gil Fronsdal says: “Just as the point of going to a restaurant is not to read the menu, but rather to eat, so the point of Dharma teachings is not found in just reading or listening to them, but in their practice.” Therefore we encourage experiencing meditation through personal practice. This will gradually allow one to know the mind, train the mind, and attain spiritual maturity and liberation. The development of wholesome qualities during meditation contributes to peace and harmony within oneself, which also affects society and the world.
Specific Learning Outcomes:
Participants will receive a broad set of teachings for developing and deepening meditation. By the end of the course:
The students will be familiar with the basic aspects of mindfulness meditation.
The course will help the students to have a daily regular meditation practice.
Students will learn how to observe and investigate their bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions without being entangled with them.
Mindfulness practice will promote the cultivation of ethical sensitivity.
The practice of mindfulness meditation will strengthen concentration.
Mindful awareness will allow the students to gradually stop and see deeply.
The students will explore and develop mind qualities like friendliness, sympathetic joy, compassion, and equanimity.
Course Modules and Structure:
The program is offered in eight chapters. The suggested frequency of classes is weekly; however, this can be adjusted to the needs of each sangha. Each module has a particular theme. It is composed of a talk, including some guided meditations or experiential exercises; a transcript of the talk; written reflections; and exercises to practice during the week.
Participants are expected to meditate every day and also to choose some daily life activities through which to practice mindful awareness. Instructions will be given for both of these. Keeping up with these practices is important for the development and flow of the course.
Teachers or sangha leaders have some alternatives for the use of this material:
1. One is to listen to the audio files while sitting together in the meditation hall or in an appropriate space. After listening to the recorded talk, the leader can encourage people to offer questions or comments based on the talk or in their own practice during the week. Finally he or she will offer the handouts and homework to students to take home.
2. If the teacher is already skilled at speaking about the Dharma, he or she could study the material and to prepare his or her own talk based on the contents of each chapter. It is recommended to include guided meditations within the talk, as Gil Fronsdal does. This can be followed or preceded by a sitting with the group. As above, the teacher can encourage people to offer questions or comments based on the talk or in their own practice during the week. Finally he or she will offer the handouts and homework to students to take home.
In Buddhism we understand that sangha members represent a rich variety of backgrounds and perspectives. This introductory course is committed to respect the diversity. While practicing in group we encourage sangha members to:
Be open to the views of others.
Honor the uniqueness of their colleagues.
Appreciate the opportunity that we have to learn from each other.
Respect each other’s views and opinions and communicate in a respectful manner.
Keep confidential the discussions that the community has of a personal nature.
Use this opportunity together to discuss ways in which we can create an inclusive environment in the Sangha.