George began his own path with a period of lightweight spiritual seeking (and heavy-duty drug and alcohol use). In 1978 he embarked on a serious exploration of the eleventh step of the Twelve-Step tradition, working primarily with concentration to reduce the anxiety of living sober. Subsequently, he began walking the Red Road (traditional Native American spiritual practices) and reading Buddhist texts in the 1980s to help make sense of the mounting AIDS crisis.
If you or someone you care about is dealing with addiction, Meditation Interventions for the Addiction Process is a program specifically designed to help students heal from addiction and addiction-related issues. Read more about the Meditation Interventions for the Addiction Process intensive or the pre-recorded download version.
On Teaching (In GEORGE'S Own Words)
I try to embody the characteristics that I find helpful in a teacher when I teach myself. What may not be obvious is that I teach irreverently. This comes from making sense out of the world while growing up in a household where the façade presented to the outside was so different from what went on inside. Along the way that dissonance created an extreme sensitivity to the negative side of what Gregory Bateson et al. so eloquently dubbed the double-bind (two conflicting demands, neither of which can be ignored nor escaped).
Imagine the profound shift in consciousness I experienced through the insight that a double-bind is not always malevolent. That my hard-won sensitivity could be put to good use in meditation, clearing away the distortions of my lose-lose view which had until then prevented me from experiencing the world the way it is. (Think of the kōan by Zen Master Hakuin—a benevolent double-bind—”Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?”)
Do not get me wrong. I am not a Zen practitioner. When I began sitting Vipassanā twenty years ago at Ordinary Dharma the locus was the Zen monk Thich Nhat Hahn (the last of my approach/ abandonment episodes). I found the overlay of Zen “harshness” unhelpful, even in its tempered form. I am not a Tibetan practitioner, I find the elaborate ritual unhelpful.
I practice what we call in the West “Vipassanā,” or “Insight Meditation,” in a distinctly North American form. Most of my training has been with Shinzen Young and I advocate his approach. I am a senior facilitator at Vipassanā Support International, Shinzen’s retreat organizing entity.
I love the teachings of Mahasi Sayadaw, and use the map in his manual Progress of Insight in my teaching. I am a linear thinker and prefer a systems approach. I am also dyslexic and prone to obscure connections.
I believe in the power of kindness to transform our perception of the world from a cold brutish place that justifies a closed mind into a warm loving one where we live with a wide-open heart. Half of what I teach is how to be kind, how to develop compassion so you can empathically connect with the people around you and, through that connection, deepen the meaning in your life.
I am an enlightenment-oriented teacher. I mean that I think that conventional classical enlightenment (at least stream-entry) in this lifetime is a worthwhile goal for your meditation practice and completely doable. You might be thinking if he got all of that from Shinzen and Mahasi why not just go to the source? Study with Shinzen, find somebody who studied with Mahasi (1904-1982) and study with them (I encourage that). There is a whole world of skilled meditation teachers and traditions out there available to you. Pick the teacher and the teaching you can connect to. You know if you can connect by trying to connect.
- George Haas, Founder of Mettagroup