To make the experience of reality more awe-some by exploring and curating mind-body practices from all traditions
We do this in community, in an engaged, playful and always pluralistic way.
The Consciousness Explorers Club is a meditative think-tank and community hub that supports personal growth and life activism through carefully curated courses, retreats, events, and weekly guided meditation and social practices. Our outlook and methodology are humanistic and pluralistic: we take insights and practices from culture and science and integrate them in playful and experimental ways with insights and practices from the world’s contemplative traditions, in particular Buddhism and mindfulness. We do this as a community and try to empower everyone in the community to come up with their own insights and service missions, to share their various neurotic life strategies, so we can laugh uproariously at them together, in a spirit of dumbfounded incredulity. As good explorers, we don’t push world views – we investigate them. Our ambition is global; our community is local. We sit, we dance, we act. We fall asleep during long lectures. We wake up refreshed!
For a CEC update, and why we’d love some support, click here.
“Meditate, Celebrate, Activate”
At the CEC we believe all three activities are important for maximum human excellence, because all three feed and inform each other. Meditation can be approached with a sense of adventure and play; celebration is more contagious when done with openness, friendliness and presence; and both of these somehow lead to the third, equally best way to spend one’s time: giving back. We’re all in this together, so we might as well be fearlessly loving samurais of activism in a beautiful, messed-up world.
Thus, the CEC organizes these regular events in Toronto: a weekly Monday night exploration, where we experiment with different meditation techniques and interactive social practices and share ideas about how to bring the insights we experience to life; a monthly or bi-monthly social event – sometimes a mini-retreat, or a film night, or a dance party; and various activation initiatives, where our freedom-fighting community support each other in an endless quest to get things right. In the first we get clear, in the second we get fire, in the third we get busy. We also offer more intensive workshops and courses throughout the year – different approaches to meditation and personal growth, delivered in a literate and non-dogmatic and nerdily exploratory style (for example, here and here). In the late summer, we host a popular Meditate Celebrate Activate retreat, an opportunity to implement our three core principles in a single four-day community smorgasbord of existential eyes-closed ass-whoopery, as I believe the Buddha himself once said, after a particularly invigorating meditation party in the forest.
Though we ascribe to none exclusively, one of our philosophies is Tantric: everything in human life can be approached as a practice, as an opportunity to be more caring and present and alive.
For more on our values, see The Way of the Consciousness Explorer.
CEC Core Values
Discernment, Pluralism and Ethics. The CEC is quality-controlled spiritual pluralism. Although we honour the traditions and technique we explore, in come cases we also try to tease out implicit assumptions and interpretations, including (ideally, perhaps poorly) our own. Guidance is based on the clear language of experience: sights and images, inner and outer sounds, feelings and intuitions and sensations. Discernment is also ethical. The practices we explore at CEC have many different intentions – some promote insight, some creativity, some compassion, some focus – the list goes on. Ultimately we are interested in helping people come into a saner and friendlier relationship with the world around them. This is our bottom line; its litmus test is how we are and act in life. Community feedback and perspective help.
Humility and Bafflewonderment. “Don’t know mind” they call it in Zen. A deference to the mystery, to uncertainty, to the recognition that it’s all so much bigger and existentially fucked than any one perspective can account for. This leads to a willingness to engage with very different worldviews. Not only is this fun, it’s also practical. Rigid explanations and expectations narrow the field of possible experience.
Safety and Inclusivity. The CEC is committed to providing an environment free from bigotry, discrimination, coercion, and harassment of all kinds. We are a community of mutual respect and support; anyone with a concern or a grievance is encouraged to talk to one of the CEC facilitators.
Transparency. We are definitely not in this for the money. For an overview of CEC cash-flow, and to help support us in what we do, click here.
Innovation and Creativity. The CEC is a laboratory for generating new meditation slants and – we hope – innovative and relevant interactive social practices. Many of us are arts professionals, so we try to apply the creative techniques and practices and insights of writing, theatre, film, visual arts, photography, philosophy, psychotherapy and humanism in general to the fields of inner experience, personal growth, community service, and self-actualization.
Friendliness and Playfulness. Friendliness for yourself, for all these weirdo humans, for trees and bugs and all those seemingly insensate objects of awareness – like your breath, like chairs, like pebbles in the dirt, which on close inspection contain multitudes. Playfulness is partly about lightness – about not taking ourselves too seriously – and partly about not taking reality passively. We mess with experience. We remix it, we cognitively-reframe it; our neuroplastic brains are ever-changing, and our attitudes unquestionably shape our experience.
Curiosity and Exploration. We believe it’s vital to preserve the instinct to explore, that curiosity is the soulful side of restlessness. What is over that next hill? Only one way to find out. The mind’s terrain – like the heart’s – is more variegated than most of us appreciate. And so we explore consciousness, and we explore how to be more conscious in life.
Last, Gratitude, Love and Interconnectivity. It may sound a bit religious or sentimental, but experience has shown some of us the joy and satisfaction that comes from receiving gratitude and radiating care out to the whole teaming network of people, and nature, and past present and even future connections. Maintaining this engine of receiving and expressing is obviously a horizon-line to aim for, but it seems to move a person over time into a nice feedback loop of openness and appreciation and life-intimacy. It can also be done in a way that is discrete, downtempo, and common sense.
What about the Tools?
Happy you asked. A pith helmet, obviously. For the man, a wild and bushy moustache that cannot be tamed. For the woman, a hemp petticoat and exploded frizzette, to add to the volume of hair. Of course, in these identity remixed times, all combination of personal decor will work. One thing, however, is required for all Explorers: a tool belt.
Tool number one is mindfulness mayonnaise. A big jar of it strapped to your hip and encrusted with dirt. You scoop it out with two fingers and use it to style your greasy hairdo, which sits like a lid above your knowing awareness, already free, percolating with presence.
A cushion. That’s tool number two. Put your ass on it, every day, if only to quizzically notice said awareness, or the breath, or itches upon thine rump. What else? An antique brass telescope, to boost sensory resolution. A carefully-designed Tibetan pacemaker, to encourage a fuller and more compassionate heartbeat. A canister of Zen nitrous, to expand space (we used to call these whippits, back before we got spiritual). Japanese Koans tattooed along the forearm. A Vipassana reality vibrator. A single rotting finger – snipped from a corpse – hanging around your neck (Tantra, left-hand path). Several colourful mandalas scrolled into a cylindrical leather map case. Jhana morphine jabs in case you get wounded. Chewing tobacco in your shaman’s pouch, maybe a little dried peyote. Couple cosmic mantras – obviously passwords of some kind. And of course, a full line of Karma Yoga Sunglasses ™, to help you adjust life’s moment-to-moment chromatic tint.
Go forth, Explorer. Meditation and spiritual practice teach you that ordinary experience is actually extraordinary. Who couldn’t use a little of that spread on their ham sandwich?
Jeff Warren, CEC President
James Maskalyk, CEC Director of Science and Special Events
Bonus! – Other random principles to keep in mind:
- Admit you don’t know. Explore anyway.
- Don’t be a dick (but if you do, don’t be one again, because that’s what a dick does).
- Throw parties.
- Un-fixate. Everything passes. Even you.
- Learn to enjoy paradox.
- Create opportunities to help, but don’t tell anyone about it.
- Practice handstands.
- Never miss a Halloween.
- Be kind to animals and shrubs.
- Meditate every day. Or get curious about geology – anything that expresses your wonder at being part of this whole existence situation.
- Cultivate equanimity, a behavioural and sensory smoothness.
- Call yourself on your own shit so other people don’t have to.
- Stop boring people with your absolutist theories of reality, especially if you are nondual.
- Plant a tree.
- Disregard all rules.