intensives

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 (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. 

 
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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 (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

 

 

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.

 
Chanmyay-Myaing-Forest-Meditation-Centre.jpg
 

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 (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