March 12, 2014

Vivat Marcus Aurelius!

I recently received an interesting letter from a student of one of my facilitators, through which I discovered that there’s a modern movement to revive the stoic philosophy of classical antiquity. I think this is absolutely fascinating. Below you’ll find his letter and my response.

I've been practicing the Basic Mindfulness system regularly under Chris's guidance for quite some time now and I can't thank you both enough for the changes it's made in my life. 
I'm also a member of several online stoic communities and I blog regularly on the topic. I recently wrote a blog post for my fellow stoics showing how mindful awareness skills can be helpful in living a virtuous life. Your comments or suggestions would be most appreciated.
Many Thanks,

Hi Ben,
This is really cool. I had no idea that there were modern stoics. Obviously, you're right on. Metaphorically speaking, if stoicism represents a certain "software", then mindful awareness practices are the optimal hardware platform on which to run it.
In fact, I sometimes like to play a "counterfactual history" game with myself. What if Buddhist contemplative adepts from India had been able to dialog with the early European Stoics, providing them with systematic techniques for potentiating the actual practice of their conceptual ideals? In this version of history, Stoicism (and other schools of Greek thinking that emphasized eudaimonia) might have become so immediately efficacious that the vast majority of people adopted them. This, in turn, might have radically altered the course of Western and, therefore, world history, allowing for a continuous evolution of the "Greek miracle." The scientific revolution that erupted in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries might have occurred in the 7th or 8th century, and the cross-fertilization of science and meditation practice, which may happen in this and the next century, might have occurred in the 9th or 10th century. Thus, what ended up being the dark ages might have been the greatest period of advance in human history, and we would be privileged to be living 1000 years after that!
All the best,

February 19, 2014

Breath Focus: Advanced Perspectives on a Basic Practice

I’m known as one of the few Buddhist teachers that does not start people out with breath focus. It’s not that I have anything against breath focus, though. In fact, last Saturday I gave a one-day retreat devoted exclusively to that topic. The workshop was at Gil Fronsdal’s Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California.

You can read about the program below and listen to it for free here:

Breath Focus: Advanced Perspectives on a Basic Practice

Breath focus is sometimes considered an elementary starter practice. But with a proper understanding, it can lead all the way to Enlightenment. On the other hand, it can sometimes become a dead end; it calms but fails to bring deep insight and purification even after many years of practice. The purpose of this workshop is to compare and contrast different approaches to breath practice within Buddhism, unpack the mechanisms by which breath practice confers its benefits and describe how attending to the breath can be optimized and directed towards liberation.
Topics covered will include:
  • A clear conceptual model for how breath works as a focus
  • A chance to sample several distinct forms of breath focus
  • A chance to discuss your experiences around breath with a senior teacher
  • Suggestions on how to avoid dead ends
  • How breath practice fits into the broader framework of mindfulness
Preparation instructions that registered students received:
Please read from my article “What is Mindfulness?” the following sections pp. 4-46 (and feel free to read more of the article if you’d like):
  • Section I. Some Useful Distinctions
  • Section II. Noting: A Representative Practice
  • Section III. Towards A Definition of Mindful Awareness

February 14, 2014

Nachas and Mudita

In Yiddish it’s called nachas—the vicarious pleasure that one gets from the successes of people one feels connected to. As one’s sense of connectedness broadens, it evolves into what is called mudita in Pali –rejoicing in the (spiritual) successes of everyone and anyone.

I’m getting both nachas and mudita from some recent developments for one of my facilitators Maria Myoshin Gonzalez.

Check out her doings at Harvard Business School here, and see below regarding the release of her new Mindful Leadership app.

Argonauta Consulting Inc.

February 7, 2014
Dear Shinzen,

It gives me great pleasure to let you know that the Mindful Leadership App is now available.  It has been a while in the making as it is fairly large with 12 Categories and 73 Guided Meditations. It was a wonderful project and I had great fun doing the recording.  It is intended to complement Mindful Leadership: The 9 Ways to Self-Awareness Transforming Yourself and Inspiring Others and offer you guided meditations for the techniques described in the book and much, much more!
My intention was to create Guided Meditations that over the years of coaching and teaching, people have found to be most beneficial.  They naturally fell into 12 Categories.  There is something for everyone, including Managing Stress; Managing Migraines; Flying with Ease; Micro-Meditations (which are done in 2-3 minutes throughout the day), as well as, Mindfulness in Action Strategies / Tips.  There is also a Mindful Music Category for Teens and anyone who enjoys music; Exercising Mindfully  and Mindful Golf for those who wish to improve and more fully enjoy their game.
As you may know, my aspiration is to spread Mindful Leadership, globally, so that as many people as possible are able to benefit from Mindfulness, personally and professionally.  The Mindful Leadership App is one key way of making this a reality.  Consequently, if you enjoy the App, I would greatly appreciate it if you would share it with anyone and everyone you think might benefit and be interested.
I hope you experience as much pleasure in listening to the recordings as I experienced in creating them.
Below are the links to Apple and Google Play where you will find the Mindful Leadership App.  The App is for Apple iPhones and iPads, as well as, Android smart phones and tablets.
May you enjoy many Mindful moments.

With best wishes,
Maria Gonzalez
Argonauta Strategic Alliances Consulting Inc.
2 St. Clair Avenue East, Suite 800
Toronto, Canada   M4T 2T5