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Insight Meditation: An In-Depth Correspondence Course

edited May 2009 in Meditation
I'm in the middle of a pretty tremendous transition currently: buying and moving into a house, leaving the one in which I've lived for just shy of thirty years.

Much of the process has been a little overwhelming in various ways, particularly since it was all unexpected. (The owner of my current residence found himself in a difficult situation and had to evict us so he could move in himself.)

As the process became increasingly disruptive, I decided last weekend to order up the Salzberg/Goldstein Insight Meditation: An In-Depth Correspondence Course to give me some specific material and guided meditation sessions to help support a daily practice.

So far I'm finding it helpful in that it brings me back to focus on very basics of ethical mindfulness practice in sessions that really do feel a lot like sitting in a a dharma center practicing with a teacher of this tradition providing non-intrusive guidance.

Although I expect to be moved and somewhat settled in within the next few weeks to a month at most, I intend to continue working through the material in my at-home study/practice. The very supportive local sangha (in the lay sense) is great and how I got my start, but when I'm at home I find I could use a little direction to stay on track.

I'm not really seeking advice or plugging the course, but I thought it might be nice to mention the experience.


  • JerbearJerbear Veteran
    edited April 2009
    I originally learned to meditate through an online course given on Wilmind by Bodhipaksa. It was actually 4 different types of meditation practices based in mindfulness, the bhavanas, and six point practice. For someone who couldn't make regular meditation classes d/t work, it was great for me. Those courses are what you put into them. You put a lot in, you will get a lot out. I did find that I had to let my partner know I was serious about this and inform him of times when I needed to be alone for a period of time.

    The toughest thing about meditating I've found is sitting on the mat (or chair or zafu, or bench) because there always seems to be something we "need to do". The best time for you to meditate needs to be worked out by you. I normally meditate in the afternoon (so when I work nights, it really is my morning), but find what works for you. I found it unreasonable and self defeating to expect me to make a big change to fit meditation in to my life. Afternoon TV stinks, and the computer can wait for the 20-30 minutes that I sit. Also, make sure you are comfortable when meditating. I have major back problems so I use a chair. If you can sit on a mat (also known as a zabuton) with a pillow (or zafu) great. If not, great! Sit comfortably so you can sit for the whole period. It's hard to keep concentration when you are fighting pain or "legs falling asleep".

    Keep us posted on how your practice is coming. You will be motivating us to sit more reuglarly also.
  • edited April 2009
    I find that the coursework is immediately helping me in that I have specific instructions on what to do next, which takes my discursive mind right out of the picture. When it's "up to me" I can clever myself right out of a proper practice session!

    For the moment I've chosen between 9 and 10 p.m. for my practice time, as the "preparing to move" business combined with the commute and work day present a lot of challenges.

    After the move, when I have a few spots set aside specifically for practice, I will see about a morning practice session to begin the day. I will be trading in a 45-minute drive in difficult traffic for a few blocks on a bicycle, and am buying a larger, more private house with ample space for contemplative work.

    I'm honestly hoping that ditching the long commute will make it easier for me to get off my duff and sit with the local Insight group, as I talk myself out of it with stunning ease after 9 hours at work & a combined hour & a half on the road.
  • edited May 2009
    I too am taking the course, and I'm at Lesson #7. Are you utilizing the correspondence course part of it, sending your responses to a teacher? This has helped me tremendously to put what I'm learning into correct usage. I also find that doing the work, then writing about the experiences in the lessons and then "discussing" with a teacher helps it all sink in.
    Be kind to yourself and remember it all takes time--years of practice.
    Perhaps you might use your long commute and frustrations of the move as part of your meditation practice. When I'm busy or frustrated, I notice the Hindrances coming up during practice...they arise quickly and give you lots to work with.

    I know that for me, too I'm used to learning things or getting things right away--fast answers on the internet; instant gratification with the purchase of new things. I keep telling myself to take my time; this is a lifetime practice.
    Good luck with the course, stay with it! This actually sounds like a GOOD time for your practice! :-)
    Good luck, too with your move.
  • edited May 2009
    I haven't begun the correspondence part yet, as I've been between addresses. But I just bought the house this past week and am in the process of moving in.

    I'm still in the process of working through the activities for Lesson 1, and am in no special rush, as I have been maintaining a daily practice lately and consider this an aid to practice.

    On a more Mahayana note, I took a break from moving this weekend to participate in a workshop and half-day sesshin pretty much filling the weekend with Soto practice (around 14 hours by my loose reckoning).

    I've been sitting with the zen group for a few weeks now and intend to continue to do so.

    I see no conflict between working through the Insight course and practicing with the Soto group. When I'm in the dojo, I'll be practicing zazen. But as the monk said this weekend, "If you find something of value in another tradition, use it."
  • edited May 2009
    I'd love to hear more about zazen. There is a zen center nearby and I've driven by it several times, reluctant to go in. I enjoy some chanting that I've learned, especially the nam myoho renge kyo (the entire length of verses). It's my understanding that the practice is very strict in terms of the sitting, the chanting, etc., is that right?
    By the way, I found Lesson 1 of the insight course the least interesting of all the ones I've completed--but now find it is the basis and I do keep returning to it.
  • edited May 2009
    I guess it depends on how one defines "strict" and which zen center/tradition one has in mind.

    In this tradition, as Tony the monk put it this weekend, "you put your butt on the zafu and face the wall." (said with a warm smile)

    There's a set liturgy passed down through the lineage, certain hand positions used during different activities, etc.

    But you're not whacked with a kyosaku for slumping or fidgeting. :lol:
  • edited May 2009
    Thanks for clarifying that, LOL! Actually, I had heard that there was some sort of discipline involved but I have no idea what that meant. I would have to find out if beginners are cordially welcomed!
    By the way, there's a great source of dharma talks at dharmaseed.org. Joseph Goldstein and other teachers' talks free for downloading. I've found many as helpful supplements to taking my course. I listen to them on my iPod all the time.
  • edited May 2009
    I keep my Zune loaded with their material, as well. Good stuff.

    I believe you'll find the typical zen group to be more warm and welcoming than not. Even experienced practitioners are encouraged to bring the open mind of a beginner to zazen.

    I have much love for both the Insight and Zen groups in this area, and there's a long history of communitarian spirit between them predating my involvement at all. I would like to think this is normal.
  • edited May 2009
    I'm a NJ transplant to Omaha, NE...not much of that here. I'm searching for a sangha for support in my practice. There is a mindfulness center with a meditation group I'm checking out.
    Thanks for the insights...I've enjoyed your comments!
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