Updated: Jun 29
Welcome to our blog post where we delve into the 8-Month Mindfulness Course, an insightful program that aims to cultivate mindfulness practices and help individuals lead a more mindful life. In this exclusive interview, we have the pleasure of speaking with Anthony, a seasoned mindfulness teacher, who will share with us his experience teaching the course and what participants can expect to gain from it. Join us as we explore the fundamentals of this transformative course and gain a deeper understanding of the benefits of practicing mindfulness.
Hello Anthony, I'd like you to tell us a little bit about your eight month mindfulness course. I believe it's 32 weeks of practice and it's quite unique. I don't know anybody else doing this. Would you like to give us some idea of the content and what it's about?
Well, I think when we start meditating, the first very commonly taught is the eight week mindfulness course. That seems to be a very widely taught form of different mindfulness schools or organisations. Eight weeks seems to be a very popular time period. So we go through the basic ABC of what it means to meditate, how to use mindfulness support. We do all of that. But then the real learning, of course, in a sense, only really starts when we very often finish the course. And then we start making a practice our own through our own individual, daily practice of being mindful.
What does it mean to listen mindfully, what does it mean to really be present?
So I think the eight month course offers people a supportive environment where they have the advantage of working in a group where they can learn from each other, where we learn how to listen. What does it mean to listen mindfully, what does it mean to really be present? And so there's the support group where you get the great camaraderie of being with a fellow practitioner and also where the first hour... because the sessions are 2 hours, which seems long but I find it necessary. The first hour is where the group will talk about their individual practice, where any questions that are arising of their practice are worked with, any difficulties, anything they don't understand. And then the second hour is continuing to deepen their practice and also look at new practices they can do to add to their current experience of meditation.
So meditation is, I think, fundamentally dealing with ourselves. So the first part of our journey is definitely going to be about our individual psychology, it has to be because that's what we're working with. We cannot experience anything outside of our mind. And the mind that we have at present is this world mind that we all kind of share in the sense of we have the same similar habits, similar neuroses and ways of functioning and we realise that as human beings that functionality is full of flaws. It is very subject to suffering and by nature is a very fragile process and we don't have to look very far to see that. How feelings can come upon us unwanted how we are thrown so easily by events it shows us the fragility of a human psyche. So meditation is the means by which we begin to work very directly with ourselves and where we learn the skill through our mindfulness practice and how to work with this highly reactive inner situation.
The language of the heart, which is love and compassion.
And then of course, the big, big emphasis is on the one golden quality which is about loving kindness and compassion, that the heart is the one thing that we truly understand. The language of the heart, which is love and compassion, and how love when it meets the world and it is active in the world, is called compassion. When we start working with that, then we really start integrating in the truest sense what meditation means.
Then another very important thing about our practice is that I'm working with me and we begin to experience the relational nature I have with me. In other words, within our mind there's a whole dynamic of relationship which is quite honestly dysfunctional.
So as human beings we are functionally dysfunctional and we never question that because we're all doing the same thing. But when we really start looking at our own minds, we begin to see our fundamental lack of compassion, how incredibly judgmental we are in how we relate to ourselves. And then of course, because we're living in a society, we're very gregarious creatures that will have ramifications because it will spill out onto our relationships with others.
And so we caught in this dynamic of what we could call unskillfulness, this unskillful dynamic of the human condition which is highly reactive and by its nature continues to ricochet and feed energy back into the same mess. So we have our individual mess and we have the dynamics within our own mind which feed energy back into the same mess. And that is projected outside into the world, where the world is functioning from the same place. And we see how very real change is very difficult in the world.
What does that mean? It means that we can look at our history as human beings and we see that we have made many strides in the areas of medicine and science and that way there's been change, but in the fundamental change that is most important is that we haven't made any very little strides at all, that there's still war, there's still violence, there's still inequality, there's still all the things that we do to each other, between nations, between individuals, between families, which still creates chaos. So that is the thing, the one thing that we haven't understood, meditation is teaching us how to do that and why it is that we seem unable to work skilfully because we don't know what it means to look within.
Meditation isn't something that you do, it's something that you are.
And when we do look within, we don't know how, what skills are necessary to work with this highly reactive mind. So another very important aspect that we start looking at within the eight month course which needs that time is that meditation isn't something that you do, it's something that you are, and so it's learning to integrate the doing aspect of our world. In other words, how we function in the world, how to really integrate meditation into that, so that we shift from a place of doing to a place of being.
I'm reminded of the words of Jesus when he said “in him I live and move and have my being.” So when Jesus said that, he was actually sort of displaying this great understanding of what the end result of meditation is. Because in meditation, through our activity, there can still be the process of being, through the noise of the world we can still be resting in the inner silence of the peaceful mind. Through the chaos of the world, we can still have enormous clarity and purpose and energy to be of benefit to others, so that we can move in the world, because he said, be in the world, but be not of the world. We can be in the world and not be of the world.
What not being of the world means our minds are no longer diluted and distorted by the craziness of the world for the simple reason we are now learning the skill to work with our own distortion and craziness.
So you can't do it from the outside, you can only do it from the inside, because it's the inside which shows us the real dynamic. When we make meditation very personal and we discover its extraordinary intimacy in touching us from the inside, that's the only way we can truly understand what practice is all about.
So it's all about that. So this integration of mindfulness into everyday life is incredibly important.
Can I ask you a question, Anthony? I noticed you're saying people need to have done an eight week course first. Could you just enlighten us on that?
Well, the eight week course because of social media, and I think today is even
more complicated because of social media, which is a mixed blessing, because I think on one hand it's incredibly helpful, but there again, it's a typical example.
We've created something and we lack the maturity to use it properly, so you get all the dark side. If you look at... interesting enough, you look at the internet, it's a direct reflection of our mind. It is an art of projection. We've recreated what's happening within us. So there's the light and the dark. I mean, it's ridiculous, there's even a dark web. In psychology, we talk about the shadow, well, we've created it. It's there. But there's also the heights, the very beautiful positive things, which are there as well. So it's very interesting that we've just done it again. So I've digressed slightly. So why is the 8 week (Mindfulness course) important?
Well, because of the ease of communication with the internet, there's a lot of misunderstanding. So ideas can travel at the push of a button across the globe in a matter of seconds. So there's a lot of sometimes deliberate misinformation, but also a lot of... from some well meaning people, a lot of misunderstanding about meditation because they haven't had the proper instruction. So the eight week course is really showing us the ABC, what meditation really is actually and also what it isn't. So there's a clear and a firm foundation on which to build.
Mindfulness is about taking on responsibility for your own mind.
Anthony, would you like to comment on, often somebody maybe has done a course, an eight week course, they often come to our organisation, say, yeah, done it, done it, got the badge, done the eight week, and maybe that's it. They don't think they have to practice past an eight week course. Would you like to comment on that?
Well, there's nothing you can really do about that because mindfulness is about taking on responsibility for your own mind, which means taking responsibility for your own life, which then means being a better citizen, which then will mean having a positive impact on the world.
So the real change in the world, there's no magic wand we're going to wave, the world is going to change, it has to come from the individual, it can only come from the individual when we take responsibility, and we can only take responsibility when we gain the confidence that real change is possible.
Meditation has a flawless track record. It really, really works
And so meditation has a flawless track record. It really, really works. It's been around for thousands of years, and it's produced, if you look at Buddhism, for example, which is one of the main sources where mindfulness has been taught, it has been around for 2525 years and has consistently produced extraordinary human beings simply because they're practiced. So if they can do it, we could do it.
So would you say that it's not an eight week course, really? It's a life skill?
It's a life skill, it's not what you do, it's what you are. Meditation is us.
It's a life skill, it's not what you do, it's what you are. Meditation is us. It is our natural state. The mind's natural state is in fact, that process of meditation. It is that light of awareness that we have. It is that and the qualities that are inherent within that are right within us right now.
It's not something that we discover on some mountaintop in the Himalayas, it's right within our very being. And the irony is that it's with us all the time. Everything we need is already perfect and complete within us, but we don't know how to recognise it.
So meditation is showing us, how do I recognise my true potential, which is my deepest nature? How do I recognise that? We recognise it through meeting our mind, meeting the worldly mind in a skilful way which stops feeding energy into getting stuck with a worldly mind.
And in doing that, only then is there a possibility to notice anything else. Otherwise there's no way we're in it all the time. There's no possibility of finding anything else because we kept active throughout the whole process of the way we function.
So meditation is allowing a space in the mind where we have some objectivity, some clarity. So we begin to notice there is something else here, what is that? Eventually we get to discover this quality of awareness.
An image that is often used, that comes from Buddhism is the sky and clouds. So they say the mind is like the sky, and our habitual thoughts and feelings are clouds. So at the moment, we identify with clouds. We think the sky is just a cloud, it's just grey. We don't know the nature of the sky, but eventually, once we see the nature of the sky, then the understanding of clouds changes completely, completely.
So there's a huge, huge paradigm shift eventually in the meditator from obsession of content to really seeing through it, to resting more and more in the skylight nature of one's own mind. And that's the very beginning of true freedom of the mind.
So what I understand from what you're saying as well, the eight week course that we all embark on with mindfulness is just the first step, it’s the beginning.
It's just the first step, the first important step. And then again it's up to the individual, you see, mindfulness came to the west because it's incredibly… the first part of our psychology is in order to begin to see it, first needs to be some stillness in the mind. So with stillness, with genuine peace, to most of us that is absolutely wonderful and it is to have genuine peace in the mind. But that's not the goal, the only goal of meditation, that's just the foundation of it.
Because from the peace there's clarity, from the clarity comes understanding. From the understanding, true understanding or wisdom dawns. With wisdom, then that begins the process of transformation. It is only when there's understanding and understanding means something has changed.
If something hasn't changed, I can't understand. But when it does change, it shows that when I do understand something, then obviously that understanding is because something has changed. So change and understanding or transformation and wisdom are inseparable things.
And then of course, the big, big, big learning for us is about compassion. Compassion is the essential ingredient, without that, no change is possible. Without compassion and no real progress is possible.
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