Mindfulness is often spoken of as “the heart of Buddhist meditation.” However, its essence is universal. As the Theravada monk and Buddhist scholar, Nyanaponika Thera, put it in his classic work, The Heart of Buddhist Meditation, mindfulness is the unfailing master key for knowing the mind, and is thus the starting point; the perfect tool for shaping [our relationship to] the mind, and is thus the focal point; the lofty manifestation of the achieved freedom of the mind, and is thus the culminating point.
Mindfulness has everything to do with open-hearted attention to the unfolding of experience as it is. In most Asian languages, the word for “mind” and the word for “heart” are the same word. Therefore, we can understand mindfulness better if we simultaneously hear it as heartfulness and cultivate it in that way. During this retreat, we will be cultivating intimacy with our own experience as the days unfold, letting life itself become the curriculum. We will be engaging in a range of formal and informal meditation practices, including the body scan, various forms of guided movement, sitting meditation, and walking meditation. There will be an emphasis on the cultivation of mindfulness in all daily activities to foster a seamless continuity of life and practice. The applications of mindfulness in the face of the full catastrophe of the human condition, including stress, pain, illness, our own tacit assumptions, implicit biases, and the challenges of social inequity will be emergent themes.
The week will be in the form of an intensive retreat that goes beyond the normal Omega schedule. It will include stretches of extended silent practice as well as periods of conversation and dialogue about our unfolding experiences.