February 16, 2021 at 6:36 pm #16046
Hello and welcome all to A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment in 9 Meditations! We are so glad that you are here and will be joining us! My name is Stephen Butler and I am co-founder of A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment with host and course leader Scott Snibbe. (You can read a little about me here: https://www.skepticspath.org/about). Thank you to the wonderful staff at Jamyang for making this possible.
We will be using this forum as a supplement to the course and we welcome you to join in the discussion. It is not compulsory to join us here but we welcome your discussion, reflections and questions as we go through the course. Our approach at A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment is reflected clearly in the title: skepticism, curiosity and critical analysis are the fiber of the journey. No topic is taboo and no question is silly. As Buddhism tells us, the mind of practice can accommodate all questions and inquiries. So feel free to share something or just browse through the discussions as we go if it is a help to you!
Scott and I are students just like you. We both have been students of the Dharma for more than 20 years and we see ourselves not as experts but as teaching assistants and enthusiastic cheerleaders as we examine the ancient inner science of Buddhism.
We will help answer questions here and can help point you to source materials and readings for those who want to take a deeper dive in the lam rim, its topics and the practices of cultivating reflection on these topics.
To get started please feel free to share where you are joining from and what brought you to this course!
We are looking forward to this journey with you all.
Stephen ButlerFebruary 17, 2021 at 3:45 pm #16231Kamlo Chen-DuffyParticipant
Hello Stephen. Thank you for a fascinating first session.
And hello to all the other students and meditators! I’m Kamlo, Spiritual Programme Coordinator at Jamyang Buddhist Centre London. That means I’ve had the privilege of working with Scott and Stephen in setting up the course. The reason why I was so enthusiastic to collaborate with Skeptic’s Path on this programme is that despite having heard many of these concepts before, I found the presentation given in the podcast very helpful in thinking about them from different angles.
So as a student I am looking forward to learning more and going on the journey over the next few weeks! 🙂February 22, 2021 at 3:56 pm #16878Laura WatsonParticipant
Hello Stephen and Kamlo
Thank you very much for providing this very interesting course – I really enjoyed the last session.
I have been a student of Buddhism for the last 10 years but recently have found practice difficult. I thought this would be a good reentry point. I also was very interested to learn about the teachings from a psychological perspective. Sometimes I find the cultural practices off putting and I thought that this would help me access the teachings in a different way.
In practice, I loved the last session and felt very joyful to be back on the cushion in a teaching. I found Stephen’s teaching style very easy and the time went quickly.
Thank you for providing this resource.February 22, 2021 at 5:29 pm #16892Sajda van der LeeuwParticipant
My name is Sajda van der Leeuw and although I grew up with a lot of Buddhism around, thanks to my mother, I didn’t start to meditate until about 8 years ago. I did try out all sorts of other things, like Aikido, Tai Chi, Yoga, and other ways to train both the body and mind. Yet it was not until I started with a serious meditation practice every day that I started to feel the benefits of meditation. After some long retreats and life-changing experiences, I’m now a committed practitioner and I’m trying to bring my work together with my contemplative practice.
However, I’ve still lots to learn! And the first session was so inspiring!
I work part time for Jamyang and I’m also one of the project managers for Science & Wisdom LIVE, http://www.sciwizlive.com, through which I’m also benefitting from Scott’s wisdom, as he moderates our talks and dialogues! Feeling very grateful for all of this.
So thank you so much, Scott and Stephen, for taking us on this wonderful journey through meditation and the Lamrim! And see you soon.
SajdaFebruary 22, 2021 at 7:53 pm #16905
Stephen here! Thanks so much for sharing your feelings about the course, what brought you here and what you liked about it.
Just to be clear, my partner Scott Snibbe leads the meditations and discussions. I am glad that you found Scott’s delivery and content helpful.
As many of us know, Buddhism comes from India and carries with it many cultural references and idioms. Tibetan Buddhism preserves and utilizes many of these Indian cultural idioms and also carries elements that come from Buddhism’s interaction with Tibetan culture. This can sometimes seem overwhelming for sure! However, the Buddha and the lineage of teachers and practitioners that follow his lineage emphasize that the main point is this: that the mind is workable and can be developed to reduce the suffering of ourselves and others and establish them in greater states of wisdom. Great teachers like his His Holiness the Dalai Lama emphasize this again and again. The Buddha and these teachers emphasize that critical inquiry is never abandoned in favor of blind faith or acceptance of a belief that does not make sense to oneself. One thing to remember is that these teachers teach the same thing to heritage practitioners in the Himalayas and Tibet. I know and live with people who grew up within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and can attest that they too have doubts about some of the cultural idioms that get intermingled with Buddhist practice!
You mentioned that practice can be difficult. I think that many of us can relate to that feeling! I have had difficulties in practice for sure and still do! With practice I think a bit of difficulty is par for the course. In activities like hiking, studying or even traveling there are difficult points. Sometimes practice can even feel really difficult. It is always ok to take a break from practice and this is even mentioned by masters. Take a break when you need to. This will keep one mentally and physically fresh. We never want practice to ever approach “burnout” or “overwhelm.” Maintaining a light feeling of joy is so helpful when we practice.
There is a great bit of advice from teacher and author Pema Chodron that touches on the feeling of difficulty and the dense, vibrant visual imagery of Tibetan Buddhism. Ven. Pema says that when we see all the images on thangkas (Tibetan religious paintings) we can remind ourselves that, like us, they exerted themselves in practice to benefit themselves and all beings and it was difficult! They may have even felt that it was EXTREMELY difficult at times! Those word comfort me and reorient me when I see all those images in a Buddhist center, temple or monastery.
It is so wonderful to have you on this journey with all of us!
StephenFebruary 22, 2021 at 8:12 pm #16908
Thank you for sharing a bit of yourself here! It is such and honor to be collaborating with you, Kamlo and the Jamyang team on this course.
To all in the forum, make sure you follow Science & Wisdom LIVE (http://www.sciwizlive.com) and the illuminating discussions that they present.
Sajda, I have a question for you about your journey in studying and practicing mind-body disciplines like yoga and tai-chi. Did your experience with those disciplines help you as you began your journey with Buddhist mediation? I know that many people have had experience with those disciplines before coming to Buddhism and/or practice them in tandem with a meditation practice.
Thanks for sharing!
StephenFebruary 24, 2021 at 10:56 pm #17116Fernanda ConceiçãoParticipant
Hello Stephen, Kamlo, Laura and Sajda!
Hello fellow colleagues,
I’m Fernanda and I live at Portugal, Lisbon.
I have no experience in Buddhism and I come from a very Catholic country. I never saw myself as a believer and since young age I feel myself attracted to Buddhist mindset and meditation.
As I got older, I have been trying to incorporate that practice in my mundane life. I have no formal education at it. Only a deep feeling of belonging and a profund believe about the major gains of controlling the mind. I’m a nurse and, through all my life, I have seen the potencial of the mind, of self knowledge, of awareness.. And the unbelievable effects on quality of life, physical health, emotional and relational health.
I discovered the podcast when searching for something that guided my need for meditation and learning and I found you.
Thanks for the amazing opportunity for learning and to improve my life.
I’m at the beggining of a probably long but fulfilling path.
Sorry for my English.
Kind regards to all,
FernandaMarch 11, 2021 at 11:29 am #18561Carla CalimaniParticipant
Hello everyone, and apologies it’s taken me so long to get round to introducing myself! I’m Carla and I’m a yoga teacher. I’ve been really enjoying all the sessions so far, and I particularly appreciated Scott’s very clear explanation of the two strands of meditation: stabilising meditation to calm the mind, and analytical meditation to change the mind. I find it fascinating how little the latter approach seems to be mentioned in yoga settings, and I’m very keen to explore this more in my own classes, as I feel it has the potential to be so beneficial and empowering.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank all those involved for making the Zoom sessions available on the Jamyang website – I am often unable to attend ‘live’ on Tuesday evenings as I am putting my young daughter to bed, and I so appreciate being able to access the material after the event.March 13, 2021 at 1:22 pm #18653Kamlo Chen-DuffyParticipant
Thanks for joining the Skeptic’s Path online community! I’m intrigued to hear how you imagine applying these analytical meditations in a yoga setting? That sounds pretty cool… 🙂March 15, 2021 at 12:06 pm #18853Carla CalimaniParticipant
A lot of yoga practitioners (certainly myself included) have shifted away from yoga for the sake of achieving set shapes, and toward yoga as a way of noticing how it is to be in your own body, its interconnectedness with the mind and the breath. The emphasis on this style of yoga is the inner felt sense, and noticing how you have choices in how you move and the possibility of doing so with more ease. It seems to me there are a lot of lovely parallels here with realising that you have also choices in how you think, and that the muscle of the brain is just as moldable as the muscles in the body.
There is often only time for a relatively brief meditation session as part of a yoga class, so I get why normally this is a stabilising type of meditation, but I find it interesting how I never even knew analytical meditation existed until I started exploring specifically Buddhist practices. Even if only offered in far briefer ‘nuggets’, I still think offering meditations more in line with the nine session topics that Scott is guiding us through could offer fantastic food for thought at the end of a yoga class too…March 16, 2021 at 9:10 pm #19128Jude HarrisParticipant
I’m sorry to be slow in communicating but I only found my way to this forum tonight – some technical blindness I suppose! I just want to thank you both, Stephen and Scott, for the immense work you must have invested in creating this course. I think you navigate the space between the traditional teachings and the newer blend of ‘spiritual’ and psychological approaches with great clarity and skill. Every week is a nourishing meal.
Having followed a Tibetan path for the last few years, these sessions have given me another way of viewing the precious wisdoms shaped over expanses of time, using the more familiar tools of present day methodologies. Scott – you have such a fluent and sincere and light way of communicating, there are no barriers to understanding. Being prepared to incorporate insights and reveal examples from your own life prompts each of us to reflect on the practical realities of our own. With the restrictions of Lockdown, being in a confined physical space, apart from company, you actually have so much opportunity to observe your mind and mood, and (on a good day,) dip down beneath the churning waters. Tuesday night is the inspiration.March 23, 2021 at 5:56 am #19398
Thank you for your kind comments. We are so glad that you are finding some benefit in the sessions. You are right in saying that the pandemic can provide the opportunity to be with oneself in a deeper way through reflection. At the same time, I have some friends who have really found the lockdown jarring and challenging. Like you hinted at, it is good to acknowledge both dimensions and to to try our best to be with them in a gentle way. If we can get some degree of stability with that then we may begin to open up to the possibility of the lockdown as a chance to deepen our practice.
I know many in the UK have been in and out of (3?) lockdowns! Has it become and easier to adjust to a new lockdown?
Thanks so much for sharing!
StephenMarch 23, 2021 at 6:18 am #19400
Your English is great and I really found what you wrote moving.
Thank you so very much for being part of the course and for saying hello. We are so glad that you could be part of what Jamyang has so kindly made available. They are amazing and have so many programs for all levels of interest. Thanks for listening to the podcast as well.
I was raised Catholic and have so much gratitude for growing up in a kind and devoted household.
I was really touched by your words about trying to integrate meditation and self-reflection into one’s life. That notion of integration is really where the work gets done right?
I found it so interesting to read that you felt “…a profound (belief) about the major gains of controlling the mind.” Do you feel this belief came from your experiences as a nurse? You touched upon the evidence-based benefits of meditation and self-reflection practices with such sincerity. I would love to hear more.
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