Living Practice Workbook

Aims and Methods

Note: this page does not reproduce the Living Practice Workbook itself. Please obtain that by clicking on the hyperlink, above. The document will download automatically.

Introduction

  1. The course aims to develop mindfulness in everyday life. The course is designed to help people:
    1. Cultivate the ‘Four Spheres of Mindfulness’ [ 1 ] in daily life
    2. Cultivate the ‘Four Dimensions of Mindfulness’ [ 2] in daily life
    3. What issues in our current system does the course address?
      1. Bhante taught meditation as a standalone practice, divorced from everyday life and from Buddhism. His teaching methods were in response to a very different cultural atmosphere, one in which meditation was seen as exotic and therefore suspect. Our current concept of meditation is indivisible from Buddhism and daily life – we need to teach that more overtly.
      2. We have been criticized by other Buddhist groups for not teaching mindfulness.
      3. The course helps people deepen their practice of Buddhism without getting more involved in the institutions of the movement (which has been our default position for ‘getting more involved’ until fairly recently).
      4. We encourage people to meditate everyday, but how much support do we offer to make that possible?
    4. How the course is led, and how it changes our usual conception of what classes are
      1. Putting it crudely, our classes are usually conceived as fill-up stations. People are left to get on with their own practice during the week. They come to the centre to fill-up on meditation and inspiration, which, runs out during the remainder of the week.
      2. The Living Practice course turns this assumption on its head. Almost all of the class time is devoted to reviewing how people have managed with their practice during the previous week, as well as setting goals for the following one. As the course is currently conceived, there is not enough time for a sitting meditation – though we do walking meditation every week.
      3. Living Practice is based on an intensive workbook which participants use during the week and in the class itself. It forms the basis for discussion in pairs, three’s or small groups about how people’s practice is going and how participants intend to practice during the following week.
      4. Much of the class is given over to working with the book – to discussion and feedback (e.g. in setting the mindful walk everyday, you ask them to think about what might get in the way of doing that, and then take feedback, thereby sharing the issues we all face in trying to develop mindfulness.) Much of the content of the class therefore comes directly from the participants rather than the teacher ‘telling’ the class what they should do and what the issues are likely to be. This interactive approach takes time, but helps promote active, engaged learning/exploring. The workbook also includes some drawing – so its no too heady.
      5. By week 3 each participant is asked to:
        1. Fill in their daily meditation diary (each week’s diary explores the ‘sphere of mindfulness’ that we have introduced during the class).
        2. Integrate a daily mindfulness walk into their daily life.
        3. Choose one daily activity as a mindfulness cue

    The workbook is quite long (I prefer it in a handy A5 format – so that people can have it with them all the time) so you may want to print it up week by week, so as not to put people off. The price of the workbook should be integrated into the course fee.

    To lead this intensive mindfulness course, the course leader needs to do it themselves!

    Notes

    [ 1 ] This is commonly translated as The Four ‘Foundations’ of Mindfulness, but this is incorrect: foundation suggest something to be built whereas the teaching is actually a complete system of practice up to Enlightenment itself — not a ‘foundation’ for more ‘advanced’ practices.

    [ 2 ] This is Bhante’s teaching (i.e. it is not canonical). The value of Bhante’s contribution is that it makes mindfulness of the environment, objects and, especially, people explicit.]

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