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Our approach at Open Mind

Meditation as a path of discovery

Many people come to meditation to learn how to de-stress. Given the lives many of us lead, this is not a bad place to start! At Open Mind we go deeper, we explore meditation as a path of discovery, and as such a potentially life-changing process. In addition to learning how to de-stress, meditation has many other significant benefits. We can:

  • work, study, relate, play more effectively and with more appreciation by developing more calm and more ability to focus
  • learn to be more open and caring to ourselves and others
  • work creatively with significant challenges
  • meet our own depth potential for peace of mind, for living creatively, and for healing
  • learn to live our lives more fully

Becoming more aware in our lives has its own benefits simply in terms of wellbeing. A nurse friend of mine commented in a meditation class once: 'If you are still breathing, there is probably more right with you than wrong with you!' How often do we remember to look at things with this awareness? Meditation can give us the direct experience of the wellbeing which is always present in us no matter how 'good' or 'bad' our situation, or how 'well' or 'unwell' our bodies may be, and no matter how we are feeling. With this wellbeing, we feel more alive, more 'with it', more flexible and creative.

By developing mindfulness we can learn to be more fully present in our lives. As mindfulness increases, the bigger picture of our lives becomes much clearer: the wealth of our potential, as well as those things which hold us back. Every moment has in it the potential for finding a quality of openness and living from there.

'how much does it cost?'

Each course or class has a suggested donation range. When many of us hear that something is offered 'by donation', we hear 'really cheap"! As many people give only a little, you could suprise yourself, cut through some deep societal conditioning, and give above the range!

Assess your own donation according to your means and how you want to support the teaching. You may give more or less. There are at least two bottom lines to keep in mind: the dharma is available to everyone regardless of means, and the practice of dana (giving) is a very direct & well-tested way to move into an openness of spirit. Through practicing dana we learn to support that which supports us. This brings us to an ever deeper appreciation of the myriad ways we are supported by life in each moment. Giving, or opening, is an integral part of meditation training.

'I have a health problem - will meditation help?'

For people with serious illness, the evidence that meditation can be of significant benefit to our wellbeing is very substantial indeed, and can be used very effectively alongside any other treatment or treatments. More on meditation and health.

'What about my own beliefs?'

At Open Mind the approach to teaching meditation is completely non-sectarian. In making a practical study of buddhism there is no need to join anything or to become anything other than what we are. Where appropriate, we tap into Buddhist philosophy which is so rich in meditation techniques, and which provides many useful ways of understanding and extending our meditation experience. However, we can explore meditation while retaining whatever spiritual beliefs - or non-beliefs - we are comfortable with and continue to support us in our path journeys.

The human depth mind is not sectarian. Spiritual work - opening up to this depth heart-mind - ultimatley has little to do with any specific religious belief. That said, all the major traditions as well as many lesser organised traditions support the spiritual path in one way or another.

'what kind of meditation do you teach?'

Given the immense richness of the traditions of mindfulness training which have been developed over millennia, this question is more easily answered over several years than in a few words.

Methods taught at Open Mind include:

  • Awareness of the breath – developing mindfulness and clarity
  • Metta – kindness meditation - opens us to more acceptance of ourselves and others
  • Awareness of the body – moving towards a more whole, energised and integrated body experience
  • Investigating our reactive patterns, developing insight - learning to live with our full range of feelings and experience, and, in time, to let go of our reactive and unhelpful patterns
  • Tong len – a simple and effective method for healing self and others

These methods are useful in any meditation practice, and are taught in our open and beginners classes. They are also useful for exploring meditation in public settings such as hospitals and other groups and organisations. They are principally from the Theravadin schools of buddhism. In addition, there are simply too many methods in vajrayana ('diamond vehicle') and mahayana ('greater vehicle') buddhism to be listed here, but they include:

  • Mahamudra – the great dance between form and emptiness
  • Medicine Buddha – a profound method for healing self and others
  • Chenrezig – the bodhisattva of compassion
  • Tara - the divine mother
  • Tibetan foundation practices – the ngon dro - opening and clearing of body energies, karma and creative imagination to deepen our confidence on the path and our awareness of the lama consciousness in our own hearts
  • Investigating our reactive patterns, developing insight, eg 'spiritual warrior' training
  • Buddha dharma – an inspiring, very practical philosophy for exploring life ever more openly

We also explore some Sufi, Christian and Hindu teachings to explore parallels and take advantage of the wealth of exploration of the human mind which has taken place in all the major traditions over the millennia.

Where appropriate we sometimes also use body work such as yoga, tai chi, chi gung, theatre improvisation, music and visual arts techniques, playing games and singing together to compliment more formal meditation practice. These can all be helpful in exploring and integrating mindfulness into the different areas of our lives.

All these methods ultimately come down to one thing, at which point our ability to re-connect with our 'centre' and act from this place of openness and aliveness takes a quantum leap.

  • Find your own inner teacher, your own ‘path with heart’

As we continue to do the work of the path, we gradually discover more and deeper dimensions of our own wisdom mind or heart-mind. As most of us move in and out of living from our hearts and from our own wisdom, we continue deepening mindfulness as a sure and increasingly stable way back into our 'centres', our hearts, our own wisdom.