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. 

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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.

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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

 

 

A Note From George (February 2018)

 

Off we go again to annual Metta Jhana retreat at the Chanmyay Myaing Forest Meditation Centre in Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar.

 
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Pyin Oo Lwin where the British Military summered, escaping the Rangoon heat in the mountains, and where Eric Arthur Blair lived in the 1920s, his experiences as a nineteen-year-old in the Imperial Police Force became the basis for the books he authored under his pen name, George Orwell. Burma Days. 1984, baby. Animal Farm. When I asked U Indaka Sayadaw which colonial sites were worth seeing, he said, “Why would you go there, don’t know what they did to us?” 

Seven of us are going this year. A week of travel in and around Yangon, Bago, down and back to The Golden Rock. Retreat, then a week of travel to Mandalay and Inle Lake. Home.          

In the beginning of Metta Jhana practice, the focus is on developing an awareness of the experience of Metta mind, to recognize when the mind state of loving kindness is present and when it is not. Metta is a Pali word that is most often translated as loving kindness. Given my conditioning, I tend to think of it more as a mind state of open-hearted curiosity. The body/mind cools, a total absence of heat – the heat of anger or desire. As the practice deepens, the focus shifts to developing the capability to cause the arising of Metta mind, and then to sustain as you wish. Advanced practice revolves around exploring the perception of self and world through Metta mind.  

Jhana practice is all about entering high-concentration states. The First Jhana has five qualities: Applied Thought, to place your attention on an object (vitakka); Sustained Thought, to maintain your attention on the object (vicara); Rapture, sometimes defined as interest, I think of it as a feeling of energy in the body (Piti); Happiness or Bliss, the pleasant feeling related to sensing experience (Sukha); and One-pointedness, the mind settling on the object of meditation, here Metta mind (Ekaggata). As the body/mind settles into Second Jhana, there is no longer a need to place and sustain your attention, so Rapture, Bliss and One-pointedness (Piti, Sukha and Ekaggata). Eventually, the coarseness of the Rapture is too much, and the body/mind settles further into the Third Jhana, One-pointedness and Bliss. Bliss in the English language often suggests an intense feeling, but here bliss can be subtle. Shinzen calls the Third Jhana the most pernicious trap in meditation, you get caught up in craving for the bliss experience and stop moving toward enlightenment. (Don’t do that!!) If you are willing to let go of the bliss, the body/mind settles further/deeper into the Fourth Jhana, One-pointedness and Equanimity, neither inclining toward something or away from it (Ekaggata and Upekkha).
 
In Metta Jhana practice, the object of concentration is the Metta mind. Because Metta mind is always inclining toward this cool experience of friendliness, loving-kindness, open-hearted curiosity, equanimity is not possible. Once you can attain Third Metta Jhana, the practice becomes about exploring how holding a mind state effects the way you form the experience of self and world. How the body/mind creates Conceptual Reality from Ultimate Experience. This, incidentally, totally supports the Vipassana side of your practice. Developing easy access to Metta Jhana provides an unfailing refuge you can come into cool down the body/mind if the Vipassana side heats up too much (craving, aversion, unconsciousness). 

We are going again next year, think about coming with us. Registration for 2019 will be on May 1st. 

This Metta-Vipassana practice strategy is the bedrock of The Meaningful Life Intensives and retreats. If this approach sounds interesting to you, please consider joining an intensive this March. We are offering two: The Meaningful Life – Level One, and for the first time, The Meaningful Life – Level Two.  

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 and 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.

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.

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.

I often ask at the beginning of a course, “How many people here are planning on becoming a monastic? Who wants to be a nun or a monk?” Occasionally, a hand shoots up. 

 
monks.jpg
 

Most of us are engaged in our householder lives of family and work, and plan to keep it that way. These intensives are designed for householders. We want to offer to the householder community of mediation practitioners a way to go deep while at the same time functioning well in our day-to-day lives. Often, the examination of early conditioning, especially if there is trauma, is too disruptive to balance both. We have taken that to heart in our design of these courses. We want “going deep” to support the flowering of a meaningful life engaging self and world.

 
 George and the gang on The Meaningful Life Retreat

George and the gang on The Meaningful Life Retreat

 

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at 213-378-0489. Hope to see you!

Love to you,
George

 

A Note From George (January 2018)

 

I am getting off to a slow start to 2018, what with the hectic holiday build up, The Meaningful Life Winter Retreat, and then a bad bout of the flu. Speaking of the retreat, I think we have worked out the bugs at the new retreat center, so that the retreat container really supports the work we are doing. A typical day begins with chanting Om Mani Padme Hum at 5:30am (à la Shinzen), followed by a long sit, and then Blake Abramovitz’s trauma-informed yoga at first light. Breakfast.

 
 First light on the mountain.

First light on the mountain.

 

The vegan food provided by the Seven Circles Retreat Center was healthy, balanced and delicious. Instructions for the day in the Myanmar-style after breakfast. Sit, walk. Sit, walk. Metta Jhana practice for the first four days, then Vipassana. Because the retreat center is small we can do one-on-one interviews every morning. Lunch. Rest. The afternoon, four-hour duration sit. Soup. 

Because of our strong focus on attachment disturbance repair during the retreat, we have added a half-hour period of talking before the evening sit. Dan Brown thinks that noble silence can trigger attachment responses that interfere with practice, so he has no restriction on conversation during his retreats. I found on retreat with him last fall, “the talking” did not prevent me from concentrating, and going deep, so I thought that adding a short period of optional talking on our TML retreats (even though everyone in our community is totally conditioned to think that noble silence is the only right way) was worth a try. 

The feedback from the retreatants is that a scheduled window for talking is emotionally regulating, and (surprise) Sangha building! And after a few bumps in the first days, we found that this approach was supportive of a stronger noble silence the rest of the time. It will now be a regular feature of our retreat schedule.

The Meaningful Life Retreats are now family-friendly. We had our first four-year-old on retreat. I find having a ready example of what being a child is like is incredibly useful doing attachment work. (And joyful, and fun, and hilarious, and compassion-inspiring….) We can get so centered in our adult view. Now the child’s view of the retreat:

 
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That’s me in the red, double-breasted: tall, thin-thin-thin as I am in my own mind, with an incredible shock of hipster hair (I remember having hair), apparently given to expressive hand gestures as wide as the whole world! (Finally, someone sees the inner me!) Gigi St. John, our retreat manager in black hair, and the artist in “my cold-self,” wrapped in an orange blanket. 

As part of our New Year’s Eve celebration, we formally set intentions for the coming year by lighting votives, performing our culture-wide ritual of letting go of bad habits by beginning something new. Hoping that the something new will last… “Oh, noooooo….”

If we frame the notion of old, bad habits as emotional regulation strategies, keeping resolutions may become easier to manage over the long haul. How the process typically unfolds, something happens in the world and we react to it. If the reaction is within each of our windows of tolerance (the term coined by Dan Siegel), meaning we can tolerate the emotional reaction without needing to regulate it by thinking, no problemo with keeping our newly-minted plans of action. 

However, when a reaction exceeds our windows, we have an emotional event that needs to be regulated. The mind brings up the strategy for emotional regulation associated with that pattern of distress. If the strategy is afflictive, then we are engaged in afflictive thinking an/or behavior, in the pursuit of the positive goal of emotional balance. We all must emotionally regulate, we do not really have a choice about that. The body/mind will regulate itself with whatever means are currently available. If you want to change afflictive strategies, you will not be able to do it simply by stopping the old strategy. You will have to stop and replace. 

This is where your meditation practice comes in especially handy. You can track your emotional reactions to the present moment (Noting Feeling States technique). If you notice you are reacting strongly enough that you are losing equanimity, you can apply a technique to reestablish equanimity (Noting Intensity: Low, Medium, High, Gone; or Noting Subtle Changes in Intensity: More, Less, Same, Gone). If you notice that you are unable to reestablish equanimity, and the body/mind begins to generate thinking to rebalance itself, you can explore what strategy the body/mind is using (Exploring Self-Generated Emotion). If you notice that the body/mind is using a beneficial strategy (positive self-talk, for instance), you can reinforce it. If you notice that the body/mind is using an afflictive strategy (negative self-talk), you can stop it, and replace it with Metta practice and/or Vipassana (back Noting Feeling States). We have guided meditations available for these techniques, let us know at the office and we can send links.

A few last things: The new Six Month Intensives will begin in March, registration is open on the website. This includes The Meaningful Life Levels One and Two, and Meditation Interventions for the Addiction Process. Registration for The Meaningful Life Spring Retreat at the Watershed Center in Millerton, New York is also open now. 

Deepening Your Practice, the weekly drop-in classes in Echo Park on Monday nights, and Culver City Thursday nights will both end this month. I will be traveling to Myanmar for sightseeing and retreat for the month of February, and then out to New York in early March to read my poetry, and present my short films as part of the Club 57 Show at MoMA. I will begin teaching a new class focused around meditation for attachment repair in April, details to follow.

Here is a video of the mountains near the 7 Circles Retreat Center. Such a beautiful place to practice. Enjoy!

Love to you,
George

 

A Note From George (December 2017)

 
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To begin, there are a couple of community events that might be of interest.

First: I am very (as in extremely) excited that Daniel P. Brown, the author of Attachment Disturbances in Adults: Treatment for Comprehensive Repair, a great champion of attachment work, and one of my teachers, will be in Los Angeles, this Sunday, December 3rd for Sacred Sundays at the Mystic Journey Bookstore, 1702 Lincoln Blvd. in Venice. Doors open at 5:30pm. Dan’s incredibly skillful amalgamation of Mahamudra practice and attachment theory in the form of the Idealized Parent Figure Protocol is a total game changer for people with attachment disturbance. Mettagroup is over-the-moon to have IPF as a part of our The Meaningful Life and Meditation Interventions for the Addiction curricula. This is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to hear from the horse’s mouth. 

Two: Brightmind, the new Shinzen Young meditation app, is now available for iPhones everywhere (Android coming soon). If you are a longtime Shinhead (Shinzenite, Shinzenian, Shinzenic, etc.) and/or would like to deepen your practice with the app version of one of America’s preeminent deep practice teachers, try it out here. I have been a very grateful student of Shinzen’s for 20 years. His practices have completely transformed my life for the better, and they are heavily incorporated into all Mettagroup’s offering. Christian Stiller and the people at Brightmind are awesome! Check it out!

Christmas Time is Here. The holidays descend on us like a dense fog; except in Los Angeles, where it pops up as an ostensibly bulletproof marine layer. Some of us will spend the festivities with our families of origin, some with “families” of our own choosing, and some of us will do our very damnedest ignore the whole turkey, cranberry and mashed-potato klatch. Whatever you do, pay attention to the possibility that Mara, and his or her daughters, Greed, Hatred and Delusion, may make a surprise encampment. 

From a practice perspective, perhaps focus on developing patience for everyone catch up in their conditioning. Metta, Karuna, Mudita and Upekkha. Loving-kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity. Also, some focus on emotional regulation could come in handy. I would also suggest that you keep Sangha close. Make the extra effort to attend your sitting groups, keep up your daily practice. Pay attention to the people close to you, if you notice them suffering, see if you can help.   

Loving-kindness phrases:

  • May I be peaceful.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May all beings be peaceful.

Compassion phrases: 

  • May I be free of pain and sorrow, may I be well and happy.
  • May you be free of pain and sorrow, may you be well and happy.
  • May all beings be free from suffering.

Sympathetic Joy phrases:

  • May good fortune fill all the days of all my lives.
  • May good fortune fill all the days of all your lives.
  • May good fortune fill all the days of all beings lives.

Equanimity phrases:

  • Things are just as they are, things are impermanent. Joy and sorrow arise and pass away. All beings are the heirs of the intentions and actions. My joy and my sorrow depend on my intentions and actions, not on other’s wishes for me.
  • 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 in a pinch: Things are just as they are, etc.)

For emotional regulation, nothing beats Noting Feeling States technique:

  • If you notice an emotional sensation in the body and you know what it is, label it by name. Anger, fear, sadness, excitement are the base emotions. Love, joy, interest, loneliness, longing, guilt, shame, regret, remorse, some of the more complex emotions. 
  • If you are aware of an emotional sensation in the body and you do not know what it is, label it “Something” or “Don’t Know.”
  • If there are no emotional sensations in the body at any given moment, label that “Rest” or “None.”

There is always the possibility of simply enjoying the holiday season. I highly recommend that choice. And if practice calls out to you, you can always join us for a nobly silent New Year’s Eve celebration. There are few spaces left for our Winter Retreat in the Sierra Nevadas. Come. Enjoy! 

Love to you, 
George

A Note From George (November 2017)

 
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Mettagroup is offering The Meaningful Life Winter Retreat this year at Seven Circles Retreat Center in the Sierra Nevadas from December 26, 2017 through January 6, 2018. We use a Metta-Vipassana format for our retreats, and I want to talk through the differences between a Metta-Vipassana retreat and a traditional Vipassana retreat. 

The first four days of the retreat are organized around Metta Jhana practice, developing high concentration states using Metta (kind) mind as the meditation object. In the early stages of developing Metta Jhana practice, you develop the skill to cause the arising of Metta (kind) mind whenever you want to; in the middle stages of practice you develop the skill to sustain Metta mind for as long as you want to; and in advanced stages of practice, you explore how the view through Metta mind changes the way you perceive self and world, often eliminating the negative, critical self-talk that poisons the experiences of life for many. Most of us who use negative, critical self-talk do so to regulate our emotional reaction to the conditions of the present moment. One thing neuroscience tells us about emotional regulation is that we do not have a choice about whether we regulate or not; but we do have some agency in how we regulate. We can train our minds to use beneficial strategies for emotional regulation completely replacing the negative ones. This is one of the principle benefits of Metta Jhana practice.  

Metta Jhana states can also be very blissful. But, bliss is not the end game of practicing Metta Jhana, the end game remains classical enlightenment. The purpose of Metta-Vipassana practice is to concentrate the mind, make the mind kind to itself, and then jump with Metta mind into Vipassana practice for the last five days of the retreat.

Mettagroup retreats use the Sixteen Stages of Insight as the Dharma map for developing insight. We move through the stages exploring the insights described in each stage. The typical hindrances/difficulties (wanting something else, not wanting what is, sleepiness, restlessness, harsh self judgement, dysregulated emotions, and so on) I have so often countered on the teaching side of straight Vipassana or Mindfulness retreats from students, tend not to come up in the Metta-Vipassana format. Concentration is already established, the mind is kind toward itself, and emotional regulation using Metta practice is available to replace critical self judgement. So, the body/mind can be explored with great precision and ease. This was a surprising outcome - it had not occurred to me that focused practice on Metta at the beginning of a retreat could dampen or eliminate the distress experienced by so many yogis practicing Vipassana. 

Because this retreat is part of The Meaningful Life teachings, Mettagroup includes descriptions of Attachment Theory informed mind states as part of the exploration of view. We find that this is a useful way to explore the direct link between early conditioning and the way that conditioning effects how we experience self and world. Our view of self and world comes online so early, we are often in the position of the fish asking, “What water?” when trying to tease out the distortion of our conditioned view from what we are sensing in the here and now. Because Attachment Theory describes in such a direct way the common distortions of view, it acts like the illustrations we have always hoped for in unraveling the knots in our tangled personal narratives. The processes of seeing the view of attachment conditioning can then be applied to unraveling enlightenment. A total win-win!

On the practical side, Mettagroup wants as many students as possible to deepen their practice through retreat,  so scholarships are available - get in touch with the office at 213-378-0489 to find out more. See you there or be square.

Love to you, 
George

A Note From George (October 2017)

 
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In October, on the Vipassana side, Morning Meditation will explore emotional regulation, working with the Noting Feeling States technique. This technique brings sensory clarity to the embodied emotional experience and develops equanimity with emotional reactivity. We will then explore the personal, conditioned, emotional-regulation system we each developed in our family systems, with attention on developing antidotes to negative self-talk using the Investigating Self-Generated Emotion meditation strategy. On the Metta side, we will begin a Forgiveness Practice cycle. 

Registration for Mettagroup’s March 2018 The Meaningful Life Intensives open on October 15th. There are 20 spaces maximum in each training (we expect full trainings, just saying). Intensives meet twice a month on Wednesday evenings.

The Meaningful Life Level 1 training offers basic instruction in Buddhist theory, Attachment Theory, and meditation technique with an emphasis on developing a daily practice. This training is appropriate for people at any level of meditation practice (even people without a practice), and is a prerequisite for the next levels of training.

We’re also very excited to offer The Meaningful Life Level 2 Intensive for the first time. In this class, the basic instructions from Level 1 will be put to good use exploring the nature of attachment strategies as they manifest in daily life. Working with a meditation mentor, your attachment strategy will be individually evaluated so you can develop the meditation-based, metacognitive skills necessary to shift your relationships toward secure functioning. A great part of our excitement in offering Level 2 is that each class will include practice of Daniel Brown’s Idealized Parent Figure protocol, a meditation strategy for remapping the internalized working model of self and world toward earned security. To be eligible for this class, you will need to have completed a Level 1 training or any of the previous The Meaningful Life or Meditation Interventions for the Addiction Process trainings we’ve offered in the past. (If you have any questions about eligibility, please call the office to discuss.)

In addition, we plan to offer a Meditation Interventions for the Addiction Process (MIAP) Intensive in March as well. We need to have at least 15 registered students to make the offering, and as of today we have 13 people on our interest list. MIAP is a relapse prevention training structured around G. Alan Marlatt’s relapse prevention research, focusing on four of the main pathways to relapse (Craving and Urging; Stress, Anger and Depression; Persistent Negative Emotions; and Difficult Interpersonal Relationships), so you can develop strategies to stay on the path. The training is for both substance and process addictions (most people have a combination of both), and works with both abstinence and harm reduction models. We believe that the underlying cause of addiction is attachment disturbance, and we emphasize in this training relationship skills development and attachment repair. Please sign up on our MIAP interest list, and when we have enough interest we will schedule the training (hopefully in March!).

If you have any questions about these upcoming intensives, please call the office at 213-478- 0489 to set up a phone call with me, and I will happily answer any questions.

On a personal note, if you are in New York this fall through the spring, I will be showing 80 of my photographs, five of my films, and on a couple of occasions reading some of my poetry as part of Club 57 at MoMA. The show if focusing on the work of artists who were active in New York’s Lower East Side from 1979 to 1983, a period that is increasingly compared to Paris in the early 1920s. The opening is on Halloween. What to wear? What to wear?

Happy sitting everyone, love to you,
George

A Note From George (September 2017)

 
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I hope everyone is happy and well. Mettagroup is excited to announce two new trainings for the fall of 2017: the Idealized Parent Figure Work Group, and Facilitation and Mentoring Training for our long-running intensives The Meaningful Life and Meditation Interventions for the Addiction Process. 

The Idealized Parent Figure (IPF) protocol is adapted from the Tibetan Mahamudra meditation practice by Daniel P. Brown et al, and is designed to repair attachment disturbances in adults. During the therapy, students imagine ideal relationships with ideal attachment figures replacing the actual relationship experiences with their actual attachment figures, updating their insecure attachment strategies with a secure working model of self and others. 

In delivering IPF to students, Mettagroup will develop three levels of care. Basic IPF will be included in first level curricula of The Meaningful Life (TML) and Meditation Interventions for the Addiction Process (MIAP) led by Mettagroup facilitators/mentors. As practice deepens, students will be supported psychologically by licensed psychotherapists in addition to Mettagroup facilitators/mentors. Some students may require a higher level of care than a Mettagroup facilitator and/or psychotherapist can provide, so a third level of additional support by licensed psychiatrists will be available as needed. Facilitators/mentors, psychotherapists and psychiatrists working with Mettagroup will need to have a practical understanding of the TML/MIAP curricula, including a developed meditation practice, and a working knowledge of IPF. 

At Mettagroup, we feel very strongly that the IPF protocol should be widely available to people living with attachment disturbance, so we do not wish to restrict dissemination of IPF training to people only interested in the TML/MIAP approaches. To that end, we have divided the training into two groups.

The IPF Protocol Work Group will train practitioners to use IPF, and provide ongoing support. Members will learn IPF by doing, and will be expected to both facilitate IPF for a member of the group and to receive IPF facilitation from a member of the group. Dan Brown will support the training during a two-hour video conference call every four to six weeks. Training in how to use the Adult Attachment Interview, and scoring services will be available to members. The group is open to TML/MIAP facilitators/mentors, licensed psychotherapists and psychiatrists. The group will be ongoing, and supported by member’s monthly dues. 

In addition, Mettagroup will offer an Attachment Theory and Meditation Basics course for therapists and psychiatrists who are interested in engaging this work but may not feel informed enough on the concepts and language of mindfulness meditation (and how it relates to attachment theory) to jump right into a work group. If you're interested in this course, follow this link and fill out the form to get in touch.

Mettagroup's Facilitator and Mentoring Training is a continuation and expansion of our existing mentoring training program that many of you may be familiar with. Focused on our signature intensives, The Meaningful Life and Meditation Interventions for the Addiction Process, it will have a special emphasis on teaching MIAP in treatment centers. The new format reflects the extensive expansion of these courses.

TML has been expanded to five levels of training, each in a six-month module. MIAP is offered in a 12-week, 36 class intensive outpatient format, and a six-month intensive post-acute treatment training. Students working with MIAP move to TML after stabilizing in their recovery from process and substance addictions. Meditation Mentoring training is a central part of our strategy. Students in the TML/MIAP Facilitator and Mentoring training will be supported in teaching classes, and working with mentees.  

I hope that we have peaked your interest. We are gathering names and contact information for those interested in these trainings. Please follow the links above to fill out the forms on our website and if you have questions, please feel free to call our office at 213-378-0489 to set up a time to speak with me directly.

Thanks,
George

A Note From George (August 2017)

 
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Mettagroup is changing the way we will offer The Meaningful Life teaching, our meditation-based attachment disturbance repair. Until now, we centered the teaching on ten or nine-month classes, repeating the same level of instruction once per year. Responding to the requests of our students, we have developed five levels of training, each for a six-month period, each with a different emphasis.

Level One training (beginning August 2nd) will focus on teaching the meditation techniques used in information on Attachment Theory, attachment disturbance repair, emotional regulation, and the development of mind states associated with secure attachment and spiritual maturity. Level One training is a required prerequisite for the additional trainings.

Level Two training (beginning in March of 2018) will focus on developing the skill set of secure attachment in relationships, shifting your current relationships from the native attachment strategy you developed in your family system to earned secure dynamics. This training will incorporate meditation mentoring, the mindfulness-based strategies, adapted from Shinzen Young’s teaching, for the development of the basic mind states and emotional regulation, and group Idealized Parent Figure protocol developed by Dan Brown at Harvard. The IPF protocol is based on the Tibetan Maha Mudra practice, where you replace the model of how relationships work you developed in your actual system with a working secure model.

Level Three training will focus on doing the deep work of uprooting the original conditioning that caused the attachment disturbance using the mindfulness-based strategies, and a personalized IPF protocol based on the outcome of your Adult Attachment Interview.

Level Four training will focus on who you pick to be in relationship with, shifting who you find attractive from the native attachment strategy of your childhood conditioning to an earned secure strategy using mindfulness-based strategies for the development of intermediate and advanced level mind states, and Dan Brown’s Idealized Partner Figure protocol.

Level Five training will focus on developing interpersonal conflict resolution strategies that work in harmony using mindfulness-based strategies and Dan Brown’s Conflict Resolution Inventory.

We are very excited to expand The Meaningful Life teachings. Each level can be repeated as often as required for the insights offered to be deeply integrated. If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at 213-378-0489, and we will be happy to ask any of your questions. 

I hope you are happy and well, 
George

A Note From George (July 2017)

 
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There's some big changes happening with Mettagroup's intensive classes. Instead of single ten-month programs, we are dividing The Meaningful Life and Meditation Interventions for the Addiction Process into five levels of six-month classes. This expands and deepens the training, while simultaneously making it more digestible for students. We're very excited about it!   

The first level, beginning this August, will offer instruction in Buddhist theory, Attachment Theory, relapse prevention strategies, and in-depth meditation techniques. Subsequent levels will focus on developing secure relationships, uprooting past attachment conditioning, working through conflict resolution strategies, and will draw more deeply on Daniel P. Brown's attachment protocols. If you have any questions about the courses, please feel free to contact Tyson in our office at 213-378-0489 or admin@mettagroup.org to set up a phone conversation with me to discuss further.

For those of you who take part in our Morning Meditation, we will be exploring the third and fourth stages of Insight during July’s sessions.

The third stage is the examination of the Ananta, Anicca and Dukkha (aka Non-Self, Impermanence and Unsatisfactoriness), in which our focus becomes "Nothing Lasts." In watching all sensory experience arise and pass on its own without a self causing it, we experience non-self with no permanent, ongoing, continuous author, creator, doer, maker. In nothing lasting, including ourselves, we experience the unsatisfactoriness of the human condition. This puts us at a crossroads: in one direction is nihilism - nothing lasts, nothing matters, there's no need to participate in life. In the other direction is full engagement - nothing lasts, the moment ends either way, what we miss if we don’t engage every moment is the engagement itself. Franz Kafka says it best: “You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, that is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid."

The fourth stage is the investigation of impermanence. Wherever we turn our attention, the sensory experience arises and passes. Join me on our daily call to hear more about that!

I hope you are happy and well, 
George Haas

A Note From George (June 2017)

 
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June is upon us, and -- drum roll please, can-can line wave kick right to left and back, dumb-da-de-dum -- so we will begin exploring the first four stages of insight from The Sixteen Stages of Insight for the next eight weeks on Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s Morning Meditation. Applying tried and true Shinzen Young meditation techniques, and with commentary from Mahasi Sayadaw's The Progress of Insight, we will spend two weeks with each stage.

Beginning with the Analytical Knowledge of Body and Mind (nama-rupa- pariccheda-ñana) we will explore the actual activity of sensing: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling; the capacity to sense something contacts an object that can be sensed, and a consciousness of that sensing experience arises, which awareness knows.

Building on the experience of sensing, we will develop Knowledge by Discerning Conditionality (paccaya-pariggaha-ñana), tracking how this moment is dependent on the conditions of the previous moment, and how the next moment is dependent on the conditions of this moment.

Then, we will explore Knowledge by Comprehension (sammasana-ñana), examining each sensing phenomena through one of The Three Characteristics of Existence, Ananta, Anicca and Dukkha (not-self, impermanence and unsatisfactoriness).

Finishing up July with Knowledge of Arising and Passing Away (udayabbaya-ñana), or flow states. 

To continue on to Knowledge of Dissolution (bhanga-ñana) I would recommend some retreat practice! BHANGA OR BUST!! There is so much freedom to be had in understanding the nature of sensing and what we make the sensing experience into. How we make self and world. Enjoy!

- George Haas (from retreat in upstate New York)

A Note From George (May 2017)

 
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I am very excited to begin our adventure as Mettagroup moves to our new location in Echo Park. We will be offering more day long retreats, more weekly series, and the intensive series in both The Meaningful Life and Meditation Interventions for the Addiction Process curriculums. 

The Intensives will now be offered in three six-month modules. The first module will be on the informational side of attachment-focused meditation, and second and third modules on the practice side with mentoring and optional attachment-focused psychotherapy.

We will offer four Metta/Vipassana retreats a year, Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall in New York and California.  

The weekly Deepening Your Practice classes for intermediate and advanced meditators continue in Santa Monica and Echo Park. We will be adding beginners’ classes in both secular Buddhism and Mindfulness, and a monthly alumni class for people who have taken the intensives. 

Here we go, here we go!

Love to you,
George