Insight Meditation and Therapeutic Mindfulness
“Why meditate? Sometimes I wonder why we need to ask this question. Nobody who admires a talented pianist and would like to become one would say, “Why should I train? Why don’t I just go on stage and play Mozart?” However, when it comes to the basic human qualities that we admire and hope to acquire—altruism, inner strength, inner freedom to deal with whatever comes our way, emotional balance, not being swayed by hatred and craving and jealousy— we think that they come up just because we want them to, without any training. Or we think that they are fixed, and that we can’t change them. It is absurd to think that we do not need training to nourish these kinds of positive qualities.
“We only use a small fraction of the potential we have. So that’s what meditation is about: to cultivate the qualities that we have the potential for, but that remain dormant, unused, and to develop them to the best of our potential.” Matthieu Ricard
The practice of mindfulness fosters our capacity to be in skilful relationship with ourselves, with others, and with whatever circumstances we may face in life, however unpleasant or difficult. This process begins with learning to be with things as they are now, with calmness and compassion. With ongoing practice, mindfulness creates the internal conditions for approaching whatever life throws at us with equanimity, non-harm, and insight.
The Buddhist philosophy that mindfulness is based on makes a distinction between pain and suffering. Pain in life is unavoidable and includes all the losses and uncomfortable situations we can’t control, ranging from an annoying colleague to the death of a loved one. Suffering refers to the ways in which we deepen or amplify our pain by turning away from the difficulties confronting us. Our habits of avoiding, ruminating, compulsively fixing, craving, attacking, distracting ourselves or sinking into numbness are a few examples of how we (often unintentionally) add suffering to pain.
Both as individuals coping with personal problems and as a society struggling with major environmental and humanitarian crises, we are constantly faced with stress and distress. To varying degrees, we all feel vulnerable. It is how we respond to the challenges facing us that makes the difference.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR provides a comprehensive and enduring training in mindfulness. Its curriculum emerges from the teachings of two empirical disciplines: one of science, medicine, and psychology, and the other of Buddhist philosophy and meditative traditions. Analyses of the MBSR program over 30 years confirm its many positive outcomes.
- Simple awareness: centring attention; coming home to the body
- Attention and the brain: the neuroscience of mindfulness meditation
- How we add suffering to pain: attachment and aversion
- Stress and eu-stress: reacting versus responding
- Difficult thoughts and emotions: befriending internal experience in times of difficulty
- Stress in relationships: mindful compassion toward self and others
- Taking personal responsibility: knowing what to put down and what to cultivate
- Sustaining the practice: engaged mindfulness in everyday life
This course develops both formal and informal skills. Formal skills include sitting mindfulness meditation, walking meditation, and the body scan. These practices are the cornerstone of mindfulness and the foundation on which self-awareness and equanimity are built. Informal skills relate to mindfulness in daily life; i.e., practices including compassionate awareness of thoughts and feelings, emotional tolerance, recognition of unhelpful habits of thought and behaviour, effective conflict management, centring in present moment experience, and cultivation of a resilient attitude to all life experiences.
The next MBSR course will be offered online by Zoom starting in January 2023.
Please write firstname.lastname@example.org for further details or to register.
Other Courses, Intensives, and Retreats
Equanimity: Living in Peace with Emotions
This six-week course draws on the ancient and contemporary wisdom of Buddhist psychology, mindfulness, evolutionary psychology, and cognitive neuroscience to help us approach our emotional experience with skilful care and balance.
Themes of this course:
Week One. The history and purpose of emotions
The three inescapable conditions
Practice: mindfulness of feeling tone
Week Two. Having emotions without believing or obeying them
Dis-identifying; calm abiding
Practice: friendly awareness, receptivity
Week Three. Urge surfing for addictions and procrastination
The space between stimulus and response; non-grasping
Practice: compassionate inquiry
Week Four. The inconvenient emotions of others: it didn’t begin with them
Primary and secondary emotions; the search for safety
Practice: calming reactivity, responding wisely
Week Five. Prosocial emotions – we make the path by walking it
The ‘divine abodes’ and reciprocal inhibition
Practice: cultivating joy, kindness, and appreciation
The next equanimity course in Rome is at a venue near Circo Massimo and begins on Wednesday, 12th October 2022, 6:15pm to 7:45pm.
The next equanimity course in Tuscany is in Montefollonico (SI) and begins on 15th October – Saturdays from 11:00-12.30
Requested contribution: €90 – includes five meetings, half-day guided retreat, written materials for each week. The teacher is available for any support or follow-up you may need for the duration of the course.
Please send an email to email@example.com to request full details or to register.
Meditation: On the Cushion and in Life
Themes of this four-week foundation course in mindfulness:
- Stillness: anchoring awareness in the body and the breath
- Equanimity: befriending experience
- Clearly seeing: compassionate awareness
- Spaciousness: responding skilfully to change, trouble, loss, and uncertainty
The next course will be announced through a private mailing list. Please write firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to add your email address to the list.
Half and full day retreats in central Rome and Tuscany, organised on clients’ requests for small and large groups.
Bi-monthly free online gatherings providing brief Buddhist teachings and guided meditations in an atmosphere of Noble Silence.
Our entire experience of life is moderated by what we pay attention to, yet we’re never specifically taught how to pay attention. In fact, the human mind has a natural negativity bias: we tend to pay more attention to negative or threatening stimuli than to neutral or pleasant ones, to feel negative emotions more intensely, and to invest more cognitive energy in what’s wrong with our lives than in noticing and savouring what’s right.
In addition to the negativity bias, we are all to some degree pre-programmed to experience things in certain ways based on our biology, cultural background, inherited characteristics, personality, and childhood conditioning, that is, the vast sum of experiences we have accumulated over the years.
We can’t easily control thoughts and feelings because they flow from the unconscious, which operates much faster than the conscious mind. But we can learn to cultivate equanimity, the capacity to calmly be with whatever is arising and passing away in our internal experience. The more skilful we become at this mindful awareness, the greater the possibility that we can frame our experiences in a more accurate and helpful way.
Therapeutic mindfulness provides a safe space for one-to-one private professional support during times of stress, anxiety, depression, relationship conflicts, personal loss, or life transitions. Sessions are available in person in the province of Siena, or online by Zoom, Skype or Facetime.