WHAT WE DO
is not a place. It is the way we experience this world when our
perception is distorted by ignorance." —KEN MCLEOD,
While the techniques of meditation
practice are not particularly difficult to learn conceptually, the
actual practice has many subtleties and potential pitfalls. Also,
as one works directly with the mind a lot can happen – the emergence
of buried emotional material, different states of mind, sleep and
dream states are often effected, to name just a few. For these
reasons, meditation practice generally goes better with the help of
a teacher. The teacher serves to provide instruction and support
for proper practice as well as helping the student to progress
through the various stages of practice.
We provide a number of different ways
to work with a teacher, including regularly scheduled individual
meetings, classes, one-day retreats and three-day retreats. In
addition, though meditation is essentially an individual practice
and can be done entirely on ones own, most people benefit from the
association and support of a group. Classes and retreats are partly
designed to provide group support for practice.
Individual meetings provide an
opportunity to discuss your practice in detail with a teacher. The
teacher will work directly to assist you with any practice issues or
concerns that have arisen and provide direction for future practice.
Questions can be addressed in detail and specific readings may be
recommended. The teacher has an opportunity to provide instruction
to supplement sitting practice with movement and/or energy work.
These additional practices provide a way of working with the energy
in the body to increase the effectiveness of meditation.
The intent of individual meetings is
to allow for the growth of a supportive relationship with a teacher
that can assist in dismantling reactive patterns that prevent the
student from waking up. Most students find that individual meetings
reduce the time spent in frustrating and non-productive states.
Working directly with a teacher also tends to keep students on track
with their practice since they know they will be “checking-in” on a
regular basis. The exchange between a teacher and student is a
sacred part of practice in all lineages and generally provides an
infusion of energy that assists students in deepening their
commitment. We recommend that you call and come in for an informal
visit before deciding to work with one of us.
Before starting biofeedback training
for meditation, we have a meeting to discuss this approach and
determine if this would be an effect direction. If it is, we do a
comprehensive evaluation which includes measuring the EEG (brain
waves) at various locations on the head and a computerized test of
the ability to pay attention, a critical skill in meditation.
Based on the results of our
evaluation, we design a specific biofeedback program that is likely
to aid in developing skills that are important in meditation
practice. We generally start with heart rate variability training
which is very helpful for overall calming and teaching correct breathing,
also an important skill in meditation.
Meditation research has identified
that there are various brain-wave states that are particularly
important in meditation. Two of these are increasing alpha
frequencies (8 – 12 Hz) and if there is excess fast wave (high beta,
20 – 30 Hz), reducing these excess fast frequencies. This is done
through sophisticated EEG biofeedback (also known as neurofeedback)
We have extensive professional
experience in using this technology to treat problems with attention
and focus, anxiety, depression and brain injuries (see
www.sierramentalfitness.com). It is also potentially useful for
training the type of attention required in meditation practice.
Practice Discussion Groups
The intent of these groups is to provide a forum for discussion and training on practical points for living our practice. The format is a 20-30 minute meditation session, a brief teaching on the topic followed by a group discussion. The groups are under the direction of Dan Jorgensen and Claudia Hansson. Please contact us for further information.
Retreats, which are basically a
period of extended practice are an important part of all
contemplative traditions, including Buddhism. Retreat is an
opportunity to go deeper and extend one’s meditation practice beyond
what is possible in a daily sitting practice. The group support and
energy during retreat is also an important part of the retreat
Retreats are held several times a year at Mercy Retreat Center in Auburn, which provides a warm and supportive environment. Retreats include teachings, movement work, outside
practices (weather permitting), individual interviews with a
teacher, and extended meditation sessions. The topics and practices
for these retreats will vary but may include compassion, insight,
mind training, and Mahamudra.