A Note from George (September 2019)

It's been several months since the last newsletter. But there's lots of exciting things happening over here at Mettagroup!! Read on for the full update.

Mettagroup's IPF Teachings in a New Study 

The first is that Dr. Dan Brown will be presenting the preliminary findings for our study comparing his Three Pillars approach to repairing attachment disturbances with Mettagroup’s The Meaningful Life curriculum at the 2019 London – Congress Attachment & Trauma – Relationships, Consciousness And The Developing Self conference. Read more here.

The Vipassana meditators have higher Reflective Functioning than their attachment classification would suggest. We are endeavoring to find out why that is.

We have already adapted the Three Pillars approach under our new rubric, Meditation x Attachment, because the value of the Ideal Parent Figure protocol’s extraordinary remapping capabilities and the change to the afflictive fixed views of self and other people hold to beneficial views is remarkably pragmatic. This is not a contest to see which approach is better. Rather, it's to understand why the remapping works so well and why other approaches (if they have been able to add secure functions to the long list of attachment strategies most of our students show up with), do not change the original attachment approach. To put it an easier way, we noticed that The Meaningful Life added secure features to the attachment strategies of our students, but did not shift the primary attachment strategy to earned secure. 

If you're looking for a good intro to the IPF protocol, check out this short interview with our good friend and Mettagroup student Daniel Ahearn for his #YourZenLife project. Watch the video:

Blowing Our Own Horn

The second thing, in the blowing-your-own-horn category, is that after an interminable 12 years in the making, my new book, The Lower Manhattan Dormitory Effect, A Memoir of 1979 New York in Photographs and Lyric Prose Poetry is in production and will be available this fall. Memoir is the relating of memory—we remember what events mean to us, not what actually happens—what in Buddhism we call, “Dukkha, dukkha, dukkha, blah, blah, blah.” In this case, the story of my journey from Chicago to New York to Los Angeles from 1975 to now. The photographs are from the first series I did in New York in 1979. This memoir is a tracing from the first event in the causation of the creation of the photographs into the fallout (a.k.a. karma). Here are before and after photographs:

Q8w3jDKH.jpg

Meditation on Dying 

The spring before last, at the Big Bear Retreat Center, I spent several days meditating on dying. Using Dan Brown’s instructions from his book, Pith Instruction for A Khrid rDzogs Chen.

I am wildly paraphrasing here: contemplate all the ways that you could die, one at a time, until you are shaking with fear from the thought of your own death. Most days, drifting into unconsciousness, I think I am totally ok with dying. This long life, the carnal satisfactions blunted by aging, “Who cares?” There is after all no self that actually dies!! (Then, I get a bad cold and I am scared to death of dying.) Or sitting in meditation under a two-thousand year old Juniper tree, visualizing each grotesque dismemberment, each slow burning, each passing in my sleep, each falling down dead in the street, realize the depth of my attachment to this lifetime, if you are so inclined, this incarnation.  Shaking with fear from the deepening understanding of the short, brutish nature of the human life—this human condition.

Fall Retreat 
Seven Circles Retreat Center
September 20 - 29 (4, 7 or 10 days)

e3eddf83-009b-4f40-812a-d34f8750bc04.jpg

Registration for our Fall Retreat at Seven Circles Retreat Center in Badger, California closes this Friday, September 6th. Come for a few days—or ten—and sit with the very real possibility of your own end, so you can be free to fully engage this, your extraordinary life! Sign up here.

A Video Trip to Myanmar

I will leave you with a compilation of my trip looking for a monastery for our next group to trip to Myanmar in the fall of 2020. Watch:


Love to you,
George

A Note from George (February 2019)

 

Mettagroup x the Bay Area

There are a lot of events happening in the Bay Area this winter into spring from Mettagroup! 

 
joseph-barrientos-49318-unsplash.jpg
 

First up is my Dharma talk about meditation and attachment on Friday, March 1, followed by a day-long introduction to our Meditation x Attachment course (formerly known as The Meaningful Life) on Saturday, March 2. It all leads up to a special two-month version of the Meditation x Attachment intensive taking place over four day-longs on April 6, April 20, May 4, May 18. It's all happening at San Francisco Dharma Collective and you can read more here

Also in March (March 3 - 8 to be precise), my good friend Dave Smith and I are offering a six day/five night workshop called An Awakened and Meaningful Life at 1440 Multiversity in Scotts Valley. This is the first time we're co-teaching a retreat like this, focused on developing skillful emotional regulation strategies for use in intimate relationships (friends and lovers). Get the details and register here


We still ❤️ you, LA!

Back on our home turf in Los Angeles, we'll also be offering Meditation x Attachment – Level One during four day-longs, meeting every other week on April 13, April 27, May 11 and May 25. After a successful trial run of this new format in Santa Cruz last year, we're very excited to bring it back home - and it will be completely Dana-based, so here we go! Read more and register here

Then later in the Spring, Mettagroup will begin a series of day-longs under the banner Coupling for Single People, focusing on understanding the dynamics of collaborative relationships and meditation based emotional regulation strategies. We are taking a Noah’s Ark approach (is there a Buddhist metaphor that is equivalent?), inviting everyone whatever your object choice. We love a good mash-up!! Stay tuned for details.
 

Switching Up Our Retreat Schedule

Mettagroup’s ten-day Metta-Vipassana retreats will move from Winter and Summer, to Spring and Fall. Since we held the Winter retreat, the next 10-dayer will be in the Fall, back at Seven Circles Retreat Center in Badger, CA. Maybe California living changes your blood into wimpy, wimpy, wimpy, but many of our retreatants have emphatically stated that the meditation yurt is too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer, so we have opted for milder weather. People have also requested a lay-away plan for paying for the retreat, so we have created a pay-as-you-like possibility, so you can register now for the retreat and pay little-by-little over the months ahead of the retreat. Register here

 
The infamous yurt at Seven Circles.

The infamous yurt at Seven Circles.

 

I think we have finally perfected our retreat format (not forgetting that everything remains impermanent), adding a period of restorative yoga at the end of the day, so the body can stretch and relax in preparation for sleep and another day of practice. 


The Tiger and the Strawberry

Now for a little Zen story: a monk or a nun depending on which makes you happier, walks along a forest path on the edge of a steep, mountain cliff. S/he hears a crash in the forest behind him/her and turns to see a tiger lumber out between the trees. The tiger licks her/his lips and charges toward the nun/monk. The monk/nun runs as fast she/he can but loses her/his footing taking a turn and slides over the edge of the cliff. Just as he/she is about to drop a thousand feet to her/his death, s/he grabs ahold of a root sticking out of the cliff with both hands. The tiger looks over the edge of the cliff and sees the predicament of the nun/monk, then trots down the path until s/he is standing underneath the nun/monk waiting for her/him to fall. 

As the monk/nun attempts to pull her/himself up the cliff back to the path, two mice crawl out of a small hole next to the root the monk/nun is clinging to. One white mouse called, “Expansion,” and one black mouse called, “Contraction.” The mice begin to chew through the root. The nun/monk sees what quick work the mice are doing on the root, looks down, and realizes, if the fall doesn’t kill me the tiger will eat me alive. 

 
sander-wehkamp-579332-unsplash.jpg
 

Then, out of the corner of her/his eye, the nun/monk sees a perfectly red-ripe strawberry growing of the side of the cliff just within reach. With one hand clutching the root, the monk/nun reaches out with the other and picks the strawberry. S/he tastes its luscious loveliness, and exclaims to the world itself, “Ahh, how sweet it is!!” 

Happy practice, love to you,
George

P.S. As always please feel free to call the office at 213-378-0489 for answers to any questions you have about our stuff.

 

A Note from George (December 2018)

 

The Meaningful Life Winter Retreat is coming at the end of this month. If you have not already registered and plan on attending, the last day for registration is next Friday, December 14th. This is a hard date, the retreat center is not flexible around last-minute changes, so if you are planning on attending the retreat, please sign up now here. (Oh, come on – you know you want to!)

I am also very happy to introduce you to Samantha Akers, who will be providing Mindful Yoga to support everyone’s meditation practice on retreat.

 
SApix.jpg
 

She is very knowledgeable working with the body-up approach to trauma and somaticized emotion. A great compliment to our practice of Equanimizing the Pool of Poison and Pain (PoPAP). We are very excited to have her join us and for her supporting our (often achy) bodies. You can read more about here on her website.

Speaking of The Meaningful Life, I had a wonderful conversation with Cory Allen on his podcast The Astral Hustle about that subject, and the attachment work we do here at Mettagroup. It was was just posted this week, so listen here.
 

Non-Profit News!

More good news!! Mettagroup is now a licensed non-profit!! I think I should go into this a little more deeply. Mettagroup has a hybrid business structure, we are a combination for-profit B Corp and 501 (c)(3) non-profit. We feel strongly that everyone who works here, teachers, meditation facilitators, yoga teachers, administrators, should all receive a living wage and benefits. In order to provide a living wage for our people, we need to ask our students to contribute through class fees what that costs. At the same time, we do not want there to be a financial barrier for anyone who wants to study with us. We understand this to mean that we will need to provide scholarships for people who need them. To achieve these disparate goals, we have formed a business structure at allows us to pay a living wage, and to raise funds to provide scholarships for low or no cost instruction for people who need that. 

B Corps (or Public Benefits Corporations) differ from typical for-profit corporations in purpose. The purpose of a conventional corporation is profit, at a B Corp the purpose is to fulfill the mission of the corporation. Our mission at Mettagroup on the B Corp side is to create a general public benefit by providing meditation instruction and psycho-education around attachment theory. In addition, using this benefit to provide employees with a living wage, safe environment, culture of growth, and concern for their lives as wholes; to provide its students the means to address attachment disturbances and to reach classical enlightenment; and to provide for its owners by balancing its external benefit purposes with its internal profitability. Our mission on the non-profit side is to raise scholarship funds for meditation instruction, and to carry on other charitable activities associated with this goal. 

Our recent experience offering The Meaningful Life classes at their cost, verses on Dana only basis (Dana is a Pali word meaning the practice of generosity which is the financial model of most meditation communities) demonstrates the challenge we all face in bringing the Dharma to the West. The classes we offered on a purely Dana basis provided one-tenth of the class fees that the classes with tuition provided, well below the cost of providing the classes with everyone involved in providing the classes being paid a living wage. We are hopeful that we can strike a balance between providing for our employees and making the teachings available to everyone who wants them. Fingers-crossed, spit twice against the wind.
 

The Practice of Compassion

With one holiday down and two to go, the practice of compassion is on my mind. The intension of the practice is to be willing to be open to the experience of another person’s suffering. So that when you encounter someone suffering you do not automatically turn away, protecting yourself from the empathic experience of their pain. I like to break down any activity into the individual skills need to complete the overall task. With compassion, attunement is the first stage, allow eye contact with the other person. They know you are focused on them, you know they are focused on you. This allows for the second stage, the empathetic connection between you and another person. You can feel their emotional experience in your body. With the empathetic connection in place, you can bring your emotional regulation skills to your experience of their suffering and send it back to them regulated, helping to emotionally co-regulate them. 

In formal practice, we sit on the cushion and develop the willingness to allow the experience of their suffering, so that Practice Is Life (PIL; not to be confused with Public Image Ltd.). 

May all being be free from pain and sorrow. 
May all beings be well and happy.


Meditate Every Day! 


Don’t forget, Mettagroup is now offering single mentoring sessions, so if you want to check in about your practice every now and then you can. And you can now book those sessions online! Click here to book online or contact our scheduling coordinator David Kriegel at scheduling@mettagroup.org or 213-378-0489.

And for your daily practice you can always go live with Mettagroup’s Morning Meditation, 7:30 to 7:55am PT with Vipassana practice on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Metta practice on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Sign up here.

Or for the more app-minded folks, Brightmind has just been fully redesigned and it's great! If you haven’t already tried it, it's the only meditation app based on Shinzen Young’s teaching, with Shin himself guiding meditation, as well as other teachers (full disclosure: I'm one of them!). Click here to try it out. 

However you decide to practice, happy sitting, standing, walking, laying down!! 

Love to you,
George

 

A Note From George (November 2018)

 
52610fdd-56c3-482e-9d30-9fe1b0236201.jpg

The holiday season is upon us again. With Halloween behind us and Thanksgiving looming, may I suggest the practice of Metta Meditation in Life. Touch into yourself, closing your eyes if there is the opportunity, careful not to create disconnection from the person in front of yourself, express Metta to yourself, “May I be peaceful.” Then, looking at the person in front of you, express Metta for them, “May you be peaceful.” Back and forth. This fosters mindfulness of self and mindfulness of others. If you can track how your experience of the other affects you, and how you their experience of you affects them, you will be in attunement to them. When we are attuned, we feel seen, understood, accepted, and loved. When we misattune or are misattuned to, we feel to opposite. Pay attention to who you can attune to in the whirl of the holiday gatherings, so when you need to connect, you know where to go. If no one is available in the flesh, use the phone. This is the time for gathering, so gather and enjoy!!

Exploration!!

 
 

The “Exploration!!” classes with Ben Smith at the Red Door in West Hollywood have been going great!! We are focusing on defining what makes life meaningful from a skills perspective. Looking through the attachment lens, there are three main drivers of meaningfulness. The first is having people that you feel safe with, that will make space for you when you feel threatened. The second, is that you have people that you can provide safe haven for, that you can take care of. And the third, is that you have people who will encourage you to explore what is meaningful to you, and who will welcome you back from your explorations with interest to find out what you found out. That opens up the whole “how do I maintain functional relationships” can of worms. (Different from the can of worms you go eat in the corner by yourself.) Then, how do I find a way for me and my group to make our way in the world. The conversation is getting interesting, please come. Reserve your spot here!

We have also started to live stream them on Facebook, so if you are unable to attend in person but would like to keep up with the conversation, please tune in every Monday at 7:30pm PT at facebook.com/mettagrouporg. (Or catch this past week’s class here!)

Mettagroup’s Winter Retreat at Seven Circles is still happening. The horrendous wild fires burning in so many places are thankfully nowhere near the retreat center. I am very excited to return to the wilderness for 10 days of deep practice. We still have some spaces available, please join us. Register here.

New solo sessions, new scheduling coordinator

 
8af8b0bf-0697-444d-ad44-83658ad84700.jpg
 

I would like to introduce you to David Kriegel, who is joining Mettagroup as the Scheduling Coordinator. He will be handling the calendar going forward. If you have mentoring, IPF and/or supervision sessions you need to reschedule, in other words, for all things calendar related, please connect with David at: scheduling@mettagroup.org.

Speaking of scheduling, here's something new!! Mettagroup is now offering single mentoring sessions. If you would like to talk with me about your practice on an as needed basis, you can set up a session by contacting David at scheduling@mettagroup.org or calling the office at 213-378-0489.

Your daily practice  

Keep in mind, that if you are unable to maintain a daily practice on your own, support may be the solution. Go live with Mettagroup’s Morning Meditation, 7:30 to 7:55am PT with Vipassana practice on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Metta practice on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Read more here.

Or if you are the type that really prefers an ATM to an actual bank teller, then the Brightmind app and your phone is the way to go. If you haven’t already tried Brightmind, the only meditation app based on Shinzen Young’s teaching, with Shin himself guiding meditation, here is a link for that. 

However you decide to go, happy practice!! 

Mad love to you,
George

 

A Note From George (October 2018)

 

I'm very happy to announce a new drop-in class with Ben Smith called, “Exploration!” on Monday nights at 7:30pm at The Red Door in West Hollywood. I'll talk meditation, attachment conditioning as reflected in our individual capacities to explore what is meaningful, and Ben will cover the how-to of entrepreneurship to integrate meaningful work into a whole life. The classes are designed to provide instruction and support in meditation practice, instruction in how attachment conditioning shapes exploration, and with plenty of time to cover the how-tos of creating an entrepreneurial business and making it thrive.

unnamed-3.jpg

We will use Dan Brown’s Three Pillars approach for attachment repair: Ideal Parent Figure protocol for reparenting, developing of mentalizing, and developing our collaborative capabilities. As the human condition would have it, these three skills are essential to the practice of entrepreneurship. I think the synergy between these two worlds will be amazing. Please join us - RSVP here!

Karma & Generosity

Karma has a way of unfolding that is often unpredictable. For instance, some of you may remember a teaching on generosity I have offered may times. 

unnamed-4.jpg

You keep a dollar bill with you, and if you notice an opportunity to give it away, you do so mindfully, tracking your cognitive and emotional experience of generosity. Simple practice. Years ago, I was having lunch at a sideway café in (I am remembering Beverly Hills, but memory is unreliable) with Remi Kessler, marvelous Frenchman and documentarian. A homeless man approached the table asking for money, and I practiced generosity. Remi was so intrigued by this practice that he began a journey exploring the origins of homeless and our collective response to it. That exploration has resulted in a new documentary, The Advocates. Here is a link for conversation with Remi relaying his experiences coming to understand this terrible ongoing failure of our culture. The film premieres in theaters tomorrow, Friday, October 19th. Please look for it!

Calling all Shinheads!

Meditators often have found themselves wanting to have a daily meditation practice, but almost everything else in the world gets in the way of that ever @#$%ing happening. In our interweb connected, digital, phone-centered lives there is almost always an app for that. Shinheads of the world rejoice!! If you haven’t already tried Brightmind, a meditation app based on Shinzen Young’s teaching, with Shin himself guiding meditation, consider the possibility of inaugurating your new daily meditation habit. (Try it, you’ll like it.) Here is the link try try Brightmind.

Winter Retreat!

As Halloween is fast approaching and all that masked abandon is now the de facto start of the Holiday season, I think it is important to begin considering retreat for a silent New Year’s celebration. I point this out because Mettagroup is offering our Winter Retreat at Seven Circles Retreat Center in the Sierra Nevadas. Nothing quite rings in the New Year like supermarket cake, a cold Martinelli’s, and enlightenment. Book your spot here.

unnamed-5.jpg

Happy practice, love to you,
George

 

A Note From George (September 2018)

 

In the sorely-needed good news department, Mettagroup has reached two milestones. First, we have joined Dan Brown on an outcome study evaluating the effectiveness of his Ideal Parent Figure Protocol (IPF) in repairing attachment disturbances in adults. The effectiveness of Mettagroup’s The Meaningful Life Intensives approach will be evaluated and contrasted to IPF. Very exciting!! If you completed an Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) as part of any of the Intensives and would like to participate in the study, please reach out to us to schedule a follow up session. 

Second, we have been granted our 501(c)3 tax exempt status from the IRS. Mettagroup has a hybrid corporate structure with both a Benefits and Non-Profit corporate filings. We believe that our teachers, facilitators, therapists and staff should be paid a living wage. To do that, we need to price our programs accordingly. But we also want to provide our classes to everyone who wants to participate in them, and now we can raise scholarship funds to meet both of these goals.

Intensives, Intensives, Intensives!

The fall is upon us, and the whole back-to-school thing is happening whether we are ready or not. This is as true at Mettagroup as it is everywhere else. We will be starting our intensives this month and have found that class size has an impact on the learning experience, and that smaller is better. So we are limiting the classes to 10 people in person, plus remote students. There are some spaces open in all levels and scholarships are still available (get in touch with the office at admin@mettagroup.org or 213-378-0489 to apply). Here’s a description of what’s happening: 

The Meaningful Life – Level One

This course focuses on developing an integrated Metta-Vipassana practice, with psychoeducation of Attachment Theory. We use a secular Buddhist approach to teach meditation, keeping intact the linkages developed over millennia while at the same time not requiring belief of any kind. 

We do believe the long-term goal of meditation practice is classical enlightenment. For many people, stabilizing their householder’s life is a prerequisite for deep practice. Using the attachment mind states as a vehicle for practice helps build in the short run the social support necessary for sustained practice in the long run. Understanding the effects of our early conditioning on our current life path deepens our understanding of the nature of our karma, and the path to release it. This course is suitable for any level of practitioner and begins on Wednesday, September 19, and meets every other week for 12 sessions. Register here >

The Meaningful Life – Level Two

This course focuses on deepening the understanding the dynamics of your own attachment strategy and shifting your relationships from an insecure stance to a secure ground. Relationship dynamics will be explored through an attachment lens, as well as, the skill set of secure functioning. Meditation-based emotional regulation is emphasized, with instructions specific to individual attachment presentations within the Metta-Vipassana practice context. A period of The Ideal Parent Figure protocol, a guided-meditation designed to repair early attachment disturbance, developed by Daniel P. Brown Phd at Harvard, will be part of the class. Each student will work with a mediation mentor one-on-one. This course requires completion of any MIAP or TML intensive and begins on Wednesday, September 26 (please note the date change!), and meets every other week for 12 sessions. Register here >

The Meaningful Life – Level Three

And for the first time, Mettagroup is offering The Meaningful Life – Level Three, which focuses on doing the deep work of uprooting your early attachment conditioning. An Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) will be given to each student, and each student will receive twice-a-month, individual (one-on-one) Ideal Parent Figure (IPF) protocol sessions as part of the class. This intensive supports working thorough your attachment conditioning, for continuing education on developing healthy relationships, and will include collaboration practice with a plant-based Make-A-Meal. Completion of TML - Level Two is a prerequisite for Level Three. If cost is a consideration, please call the office and we can figure it out. Class begins on Sunday, September 29, and will meet once a month for six months. Register here >

Things are just as they are, morning meditation, etc.

In Morning Meditation (which you can still try for one month free here), on the insight side, we are going through the exploration of Self-generated Emotion. And, on the heart side, we will finish Sympathetic Joy practice and begin Equanimity practice: Things are just as they are; things are impermanent; joy and sorrow arise and pass away. All beings are the heirs of their intentions and actions. Your joy and your sorrow depend on your intentions and actions, not on my wishes for you; I care about you, but I cannot prevent you from suffering. Or for short, Things are just as they are, etc. 

Which reminds me of the story about a Zen Master and a very clever boy named Ikkyu. Ikkyu’s teacher had a very precious tea cup, a rare antique. Ikkyu accidentally breaks the cup. Hearing his master’s footsteps, Ikkyu hides the broken pieces of the cup behind his back. When the Master appears, Ikkyu asks him, “Why do people have to die?” “This is natural,” explains the older monk. “Everything has to die and has only so long to live.” Ikkyu produces the shattered cup and says, “The time for your teacup to die is now.”

Lastly, but not least, here is a Buddha Image of the great reclining Buddha in downtown Yangon. Each time I see it I am awe-inspired. Enjoy. 

unspecified.jpg


Love to you,
George

 

A Note From George (August 2018)

 

“It is going to be a scorcher…,” is something I said in a childlike imitation of corn farmer wisdom growing up in Chicago during the dog days of summer. This was back in the cruel, barely re-imaginable, pre-air-conditioning days. More precisely, my father put one of those new-fangled window units into his (and my mother’s) bedroom, the children got their second-hand fans, albeit large window fans with low, medium and high, and reversible in/out air flow. Still, ouchy-wouchy!!

PO#1-2013.jpg

My mother would pack up the kids and head north to the summer cottage we shared as an extended family in Door County, Wisconsin. My mother had two sisters, Nancy, the youngest, and Marion, the oldest. Nancy got June, Marion got July, and we got August. August in Ellison Bay. We kept a ski boat docked in a small harbor for fishing boats. The local white fish increasingly fished out by nets with smaller and smaller holes, closer and closer to shore, leaving more empty berths for pleasure boats. We had a dingy and a pier on the rock beach below the cottage, at the bottom of a dangerously steep wooden stair case down the forty-foot limestone cliff. I remember it raining a lot in August, but my mother didn’t want to cause a ruckus.

Here in Los Angeles, high 80s and low 90s feels just right to me. Low humidity required.

Speaking of just right, Mettagroup’s first Plant-Based Make-A-Meal was a great pleasure. Broccolini with garlic and pasta, and an arugula and butter lettuce salad with purple radishes and green olives. Our small group too full for dessert of strawberry slices with honey (I know, honey is not vegan). If you do not know how to cook or would like to hone your cooking chops, the meal prep is the perfect place to develop mad skills. The veggies are from a local CSA, Farm Fresh to You. What could be better? (Nothing.)

The Meaningful Life Summer Retreat unfolded over ten days at the Seven Circle Retreat Center in Badger, California. The addition at this retreat of the Ideal Parent Figure protocol in the evenings worked really well, so we are adding it to our regular retreat schedule.

_DSC1528.jpg

The Meaningful Life Intensives

Our intensives will be starting again at the end of September. We are now offering three levels!

The Meaningful Life - Level One: Students focus on developing an integrated Metta-Vipassana practice, with psychoeducation of Attachment Theory. We use a secular Buddhist approach to teach meditation, keeping intact the linkages developed over millennia while at the same time not requiring specific religious belief of any kind. 

We do, however, believe the long-term goal of meditation practice is classical enlightenment. For many people, stabilizing their householder’s life is a prerequisite for deep practice. Using the attachment mind states as a vehicle for practice helps to quickly build the social support necessary in the short-run that supports sustained practice in the long run. Understanding the effects of our early conditioning on our current life path deepens our understanding of the nature of our karma, and the path to release it. This course is suitable for any level of practitioner. Sign up here.

The Meaningful Life - Level Two: Students gain deeper understanding of the dynamics of their own attachment strategies and shift their relationships from an insecure stance to a secure ground. Relationship dynamics will be explored through an attachment lens, as well as, the skill set of secure functioning.

Meditation-based emotional regulation is emphasized, with instructions specific to individual attachment presentations within the Metta-Vipassana practice context. A period of The Ideal Parent Figure protocol, a guided-meditation designed to repair early attachment disturbance, developed by Daniel P. Brown, Phd at Harvard, will be part of the class. Each student will work with a mediation mentor one-on-one. This course requires completion of any previous Meditation Interventions for Addiction Process or Meaningful Life intensives. Sign up here.

The Meaningful Life - Level Three: Offered for the first time, students will focus on doing the deep work of uprooting early attachment conditioning. An Adult Attachment Interview will be given to each student, and each student will receive twice-a-month, individual (one-on-one) Ideal Parent Figure protocol sessions as part of the course. The class will meet once a month for support working thorough your attachment conditioning, for continuing education on developing healthy relationships, and will include collaboration practice with a Plant-Based Make-A-Meal. Completion of The Meaningful Life Level Two is a prerequisite to join Level Three. Sign up here.

The Meaningful Life - Two Month Intensive: If you are in the Santa Cruz area, we're offering a condensed (in time, not content!) version of The Meaningful Life – Level One. We will meet at Insight Santa Cruz for four Saturday daylongs (September 15th and 29th, October 13th and 27th). The format will be an hour of meditation, followed by an hour of instruction and dyad work, in three cycles each day. Lunch in the middle there somewhere. This is the same curriculum we offer in our six-month intensives condensed into four daylongs to save the travel wear-and-tear on the teacher (me). It will be fun and transformative. Sign up here.


Welcome to Morning Meditation

In Morning Meditation, on the insight side, we are going through the first four Stages of the Progress of Insight as we are wont to do every summer. And, on the heart side, we will begin Mudita (Sympathetic Joy) practice next week. I like to transmute the traditional phrase: May good fortune fill all the days of all your lives, to: I hope you’re lucky. Luck standing in as a rubric for good karma. May good karma fill all the days of all your lives. My mind often tracks back to the old Zen story of the farmer and the horse:

A Farmer had a horse he used to plow his fields. One morning he woke and went outside to find that the corral where his horse had been, was empty. His neighbors came by and said, “You have the worst luck out of any of us.” The Farmer replied, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”

The next morning, the Farmer woke and went outside to find that the horse had return with three other wild horses. His neighbors came by and said, “You have the best luck out of any of us.” The Farmer said, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”

The next morning, the Farmer’s Eldest Son went to the corral to attempt to break one of the wild horses. The horse threw him, and he broke his leg. The Farmers neighbors came by and said, “You have the worst luck out of any of us.” The Farmer said, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”

The next morning a Warlord came through the village conscripting all the eldest sons except for the Farmer’s Eldest because his leg was broken. His neighbors came by and said, “You have the best luck out of any of us.” The Farmer said, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows.”

I say, “May good fortune fill all the days of all of your lives.” May good karma fill all the days of all your lives. Or, for short, I hope you are lucky. I hope you are lucky. Or you might say to yourself as you walk around the planet, “I’m lucky. I’m lucky.” A portable Mudita practice for the dog days of August.  

Love to you,
George

 

A Note From George (June 2018)

 

June Gloom Redux


If traffic is not the cause for complaint in Los Angeles, it is the weather. April Overcast followed by May Gray followed by June Gloom…not that I ever go, but I long for beach weather. My internal visual thinking, me, forever prostrate, worshiping the sun from the shade, my head propped up against a tree in perfect viewing position.

 
Beach.jpg
 

Perhaps the last of the Brahma Viharas, Upekkha or Equanimity practice: 

Things are just as they are, things are impermanent. 
Joy and sorrow arise and pass away. 
All beings are the heirs of their intentions and actions. 
Our joy and our sorrow depend on our intentions and actions, not on our wishes for each other. 
Care deeply for each other, knowing we cannot prevent suffering.

Or the short form, when you find yourself in a pinch bopping around the planet:

Things are just as they are, etc. 
Things are just as they are, etc. 
Things are just as they are, etc.

 
In-a-pinch.jpg
 

Retreat for Householders

For householders, maintaining retreat practice as part of your overall meditation practice plan is essential to making progress on the path. Mettagroup’s The Meaningful Life Summer Retreat begins June 29th at the Seven Circles Retreat Center in Badger, California. Ten days of retreat heaven/hell (there is no heaven or hell!). We have changed our admission policy to limit attendance to the whole retreat. Feedback from the past retreats suggests that people coming and going in the middle of the retreat is too disruptive for the long-haulers to make sense. For students that are not able to make a ten-day retreat work, we will offer long-weekend retreats in the future. 

 
retreat.jpg
 

 

We limit the retreat to 24 participants, so there is a plenty of teacher/student support for your personal practice. Different from a traditional silent retreat, there is a period of talking after dinner each day to promote Sangha building. The Meaningful Life curriculum is all about developing strong interpersonal relationships, so getting to know the other people on this path is critical to making progress. 

From the Meghiya Sutta (liberally paraphrased), from the Buddha’s mouth to your ears:

Five things give rise to the release of heart and lasting peace: One, an engaged intimacy with close friends (As & Bs); Two, ethical conduct toward self and world; Three, frequent conversation that supports your ethical and meditation practice; Four, making a commitment to work for the good of all beings in the world; and Five, insight into the nature of impermanence.

This year’s summer retreat begins on a Friday evening. Arrival, settling in, etc., then four days of Metta practice followed by four days of Vipassana practice, then a day to wind down. (After the retreat, the biggest tree on the planet, a Sequoiadendron giganteum, the so-called, “General Sherman,” is still available for viewing at Sequoia National Park a mere half-hour away. Don’t miss it before climate change!!) 

There are a few spaces available, and some scholarship support if you need it. Please consider joining us. More info at mettagroup.org/retreats.

Scheduling Update

Dan Brown will not be coming to Los Angeles in June after all. His trip is tentatively rescheduled for October. We will keep you abreast of developments as we know what is happening.
 

The Meaningful Life Intensives


Registration for the Fall 2018 The Meaningful Life Intensives is now open. In Los Angeles, we are limiting each class to 12 participants. We find that the small cohort size provides space for actual understanding of the material. We will be offering a Level One for anyone interested in our meditation for attachment repair approach, and Level Two for people who have completed Level One and want to deepen their practice. Remote students can now participate in the classes live through video conferencing. 

For people who are already practicing Idealized Parent Figure Protocol or who would like to begin, we will be offering a Level Three class. More details on that coming soon!

If you have questions about any of the intensives, please give the office a buzz at 213-378-0489 to arrange call with me. I am happy to answer your questions directly. Or check out mettagroup.org/intensives sooner rather than later.

We will also be offering The Meaningful Life – Level One in Santa Cruz, at Insight Santa Cruz, in a new format, four day-longs over two months. Because this is a Level One class, and in keeping with the culture at ISC, these day-longs will be organized as drop in classes, so you can participate in as many as you like. Read more about that at Insight Santa Cruz

Summer is almost here. Go have fun! 

Love to you,
George

 

A Note From George (May 2018)

 

May Gray

What I consider Spring-like weather, by any reasonable estimation, is late this year. Living in Los Angeles, below sixty degrees post-February I experience as I imagine the Antarctic. The Happy Light on my desk blinds for hours combating May Gray and the resulting California Seasonal Affect Disturbance (CSAD). I remember something about lions and lambs from Second Grade, but I am unsure what if anything that has to do with temperature. Anyway, that has to do with March, it is %(&#^+@ May already!! Where is my heat?! Why does the universe think I live here in L.A.? [Hint: I am freely willing to concede Leap Day to an overcast sky.] 

Or better yet – what happened to my equanimity with the cold? Bummer…more practice…duh.

 
N#1012-2017YNG.jpg
 

Equanimity Meditation Techniques

My favorite equanimity technique is Noting Intensity Changes. In each moment, note if the intensity of whatever sensation awareness is drawn to is the same as the moment before, increasing in intensity from the moment before, or decreasing from the moment before. Using simple labels: Increasing, Decreasing, Same or Gone (some sensations just drop off, so that possibility needs to be represented). No attention to the content of thinking, just noting intensity of activation.

My second favorite equanimity technique is to Noting Equanimity or the Lack Thereof. This technique has increasing levels of difficulty. In the simplest form, in each moment, note whether the body/mind is craving, aversive and/or spacey or is the body/mind in equanimity. I like to use the labels: Wanting for craving, Not Wanting for aversion, Thinking for spaciness, and Peace for equanimity. To increase the difficulty, add a first note for sensory clarity, using the flexible See, Hear, Feel technique (First Foundation/Pasture). Then, continue with noting for sensory clarity, and then a second note for the quality of the sensing experience as Pleasant, Unpleasant or Neutral (Second Foundation/Pasture) before noting for Equanimity (Third Foundation/Pasture).

Both techniques are recorded, give the office a call at 213-378-0489 or shoot us an email at admin@mettagroup.org and we can send them to you.

The Meaningful Life Weekly Drop-In Class

Join us for Mettagroup’s new weekly drop-in class version of The Meaningful Life on Saturdays at 4pm. Because the space is limited you will need to claim your spot ahead of time. You can sign up to get an email reminder each week when registration opens, or you can always email us at admin@mettagroup.org or call us at 213-378-0489 to register. (The cutoff is Friday at 3pm the day before each class.)  The class has a dual focus, classical enlightenment for householders and attachment repair, both through mediation practice using a Metta/Vipassana framework. The class revolves around the interests of the students who attend each class, so the content will be rangy in topic depending on who comes each week. 

The Meaningful Life drop-in class is also intended as a Sangha-building enterprise. Finding people with whom you can discuss your meditation practice is key to your practice developing. Finding people with whom you can discuss your attachment strategies is key to moving toward secure functioning. This is a safe, refereed environment. Please join us!

To deepen the Sangha-building aspects, after our summer retreat in mid-July, Mettagroup will add Make-a-Meal to the schedule following the Saturday sit. The idea here is that we collectively cook a plant-based meal, and then eat it. Then, clean up! One of the central qualities of secure functioning is the ability to collaborate. Make-a-Meal is designed to develop strong collaborative skills if you do not already have them. And if you already do, please come and show the rest of us how to do it!! Quoting the Los Angeles Times, “Are you feeling lonely, disconnected or alienated? It could be making you sick, and, ironically, you're not alone….” Social isolation is terribly painful. Connecting with similarly minded people over good food is awesome. Learn to cook, learn to clean. Just saying. More about that closer to the date.

The Value of Retreat

Mediation teacher extraordinaire, Dave Smith, stayed with me for a couple of days while in Los Angeles from Colorado. We are going to do our first Metta/Vipassana workshop next spring at 1440 Multiverse outside Santa Cruz, where we will discuss the Dharma late into the night (or maybe 9:30pm, whichever comes first!). Dave mentioned that there are big benefits to sitting for seven to ten-day meditation retreats over just trying to maintain a daily householder practice. (You might look at Altered States by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davies.)

Mettagroup is totally with that thinking, which is why we offer ten-day retreats. Consider joining us this summer – a few days of intense practice in the California wilderness (read: in the middle of nowhere, really?) will really deepen and accelerate your practice. Plus, Seven Circles Retreat Center has a shamrock shaped pool. We have added a daily period of talking after dinner to support the development of Sangha. Our retreats are intentionally small. The food is plant-based. There are still some spaces available, and some scholarship funds available. Please join us.

Poetry at MoMA

I leave you sharing my reading from "The Lower Manhattan Dormitory Effect" at The Club 57 Show at MoMA in early March this year. A group show, the subject was artists active in downtown New York scene between 1978 and 1983. This period is increasing being academized as the harbinger for our current cultural debate, like Paris in the '20s for the mid-Twentieth Century. 

My friend, the Confabulist, Jimmy McCourt, dubbed my writing syntax, “Lyric Prose Poetry.” I have always liked that. Enjoy!
 

 
 

Ahh, thank god (there is no god), at last…a few days of hot.

I hope to see you somewhere along the path.

Love to you,
George

 

A Note From George (March 2018)

 

Retreat in Myanmar

This year, Mettagroup’s small band of intrepid meditators (Paola and the Metta Boys) hit the road to experience firsthand the three holiest sites in Myanmar. 

Our-Intrepid-Band.jpg

The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, The Golden Rock on Mount Kyaiktiyo, and the Mahamuni Buddha image in Mandalay. Sann Yu Maung, our awesome Licensed Tour Guide, says that anyone who visits all of them in one fell swoop will have extraordinarily luck. So there you have it, six more people on the planet with extraordinary luck!!

hwedagon Pagoda

hwedagon Pagoda

Golden Rock

Golden Rock

Mahamuni Buddha

Mahamuni Buddha

On my return to the City of Angeles, my friend Daniel Ahearn reminds me of the Taoist story: “An old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. ‘Such bad luck,’ they said sympathetically. ‘Good luck, bad luck, who knows,’ the farmer replied.” Perhaps a little Mudita: May Good Fortune Fill All the Days of All of Our Lives….

Mandalay sunset.jpg

Mandalay has such a different vibe from Yangon. Smaller, slower, older.

Lavendar.jpg

We flew south to Inle Lake. The light there after the sun sinks below the mountains is pure lavender.

U Indaka Sayadaw said during a Dharma talk he is continually surprised by the expressions of self-hatred that so many foreign yogis express during their interviews with him. He says, “I love myself. How can you not love yourself?” Perhaps the differences in child rearing, the Myanma (Burmese) community or alloparenting parenting model verses our western nuclear families cause one group to experience self-hate and the other self-love. Perhaps the differences in western personal identification verses the eastern group identification contributes. Western striving to be better than everyone else verses the eastern desire to fit in with the group. 

Sayadaw’s instructions for dealing with the self-hatred/western negative self-talk is to ignore it and focus your attention on Metta Mind. If the distraction of the negative self-talk is impossible to overcome, use a few minutes of vipassana meditation to examine the source of the negative self-talk and then when you see the root causes as empty, return your attention to the cultivation of Metta Mind. 

In the Myanma-style (Burmese-style) retreat interview, a yogi is meant to limit their report what is happening in the present moment and only the present moment. The teacher will then respond with instructions of where to go from here. What do you do when lobha (extreme greed), dosa (hatred that arises from greed) and/or moha (lack of awareness of your motivations driven by greed) overwhelm poor little ineffectual Metta Mind? What I found helpful on this retreat with endless lobha, lobha, lobha, ceaseless dosa, dosa, dosa and a cavernous lobha for moha was to drop into a short stretch of vipassana, examining the content of the emotional regulating self-talk, and to come up with Metta phrases that were an exact antidote to the agitated mind. During this retreat, fearful mind was frequently triggered by a sense of being unseen. Noble silence can easily trigger the attachment mechanism. The phrase the settled my mind and allowed me easily find Metta Jhana was: People see you, people love you, people support your work. 

Ignoring lobha, dosa, and moha seemed to ramp up the thinking mind. Providing a direct antidote to the content of thinking quieted the mind. Perhaps another difference between eastern and western?

Mettagroup will be going back to Myanmar next February for travel and retreat. We will be going to the Golden Rock and then Win Sein Taw Ya, the largest reclining Buddha image in the world near Mawlamyine south of Yangon. Then, a Vipassana retreat!! After the retreat, off we go to the Great Budhhas of Monywa, one standing, one reclining, then onto the 2,200 pagodas of Bagan. Registration will open in May.

Myanmar 2018: George Haas Does a Lap of Walking Meditation with Narration (VIDEO)

Join George for a walking meditation captured on retreat in Myanmar!

 

Spring Schedule

Spring has sprung or will on the 22nd. Which means our spring intensives will start at the end of the month. Here’s what we've got: 

Meditation Interventions for the Addiction Process (MIAP)

Meditation Interventions for the Addiction Process (MIAP) is a level one course for people working with substance and process addictions. We believe that the underlying cause of addiction is attachment disturbance. That the repair of the attachment disturbance is the foundation of long-term recovery. This class incorporates G. Alan Marlatt’s strategies for relapse prevention with psychoeducation of Attachment Theory, and meditation practices focused on developing emotional regulation within ourselves and between ourselves, and mentalizing looking at what we think and process information. MIAP uses a harm-reduction model of treatment. Most people that we work with have a combination of process and substance addiction, so we work to develop a harm reduction/abstinence program that works to foster the development of attachment security. This course is suitable for any level of practitioner.  Register Now >

The Meaningful Life – Level One

The Meaningful Life – Level One course focuses on developing an integrated Metta-Vipassana practice, with psychoeducation of Attachment Theory. We use a secular Buddhist approach to teach meditation, keeping intact the linkages in thousands of years of teaching at the same time not requiring liturgical belief of any kind. We believe the long-term goal of meditation practice is classical enlightenment. For many people, stabilizing their householder’s life is a prerequisite for deep practice. Using the attachment mind states as a vehicle for practice helps build in the short run the social support necessary for sustained practice in the long run. Understanding the effects of our early conditioning on our current life path deepens our understanding of the nature of our karma, and the path to release it. This course is suitable for any level of practitioner. Register Now >

The Meaningful Life – Level Two

The Meaningful Life – Level Two course is focused on deepening the understanding the dynamics of your own attachment strategy and shifting your relationships from an insecure stance to a secure ground. Relationship dynamics will be explored through an attachment lens, and the skill set of secure function will be practiced during class time. Meditation-based emotional regulation is emphasized, with instructions specific to individual attachment presentations within the Metta-Vipassana practice context. A period of The Idealized Parent Figure protocol, a guided-meditation designed to repair early attachment disturbance, developed by Daniel P. Brown Phd at Harvard, will be offered in every class. Each student will work with a mediation mentor one-on-one and will receive the Partner Attachment Interview developed by Stan Tatkin PsyD at the PACT Institute as part of the exploration of your personal attachment strategy. This course requires completion of any MIAP or TML intensive. Register Now >

The Meaningful Life Spring Retreat

Also, for people out New York way, our Spring Retreat at the Watershed Center, April 13-22,  upstate in Millerton, NY is open for registration. This is a Metta-Vipassana retreat, four days of Metta practice followed by four days of Vipassana practice. The Metta practice softens and opens the heart and mind so the Vipassana can go deep. There is no substitute for retreat practice when it comes to going deep. Hope to see you somewhere along the path.

Love to you,
George