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Monday Night Explorations for April 2017
Start time 7:25pm; address is 967 College, just past Dovercourt at Octopus Garden Yoga.
DATE: April 3
TEACHER: Avi Craimer
THEME: Inquiry as a Process
MEDITATION: What is a question?
INTERACTIVE: Group inquiry and reactivity
Avi: To kick off our month of inquiry, I’m going to lead us in a meditation to explore the nature of question asking. How does the act of asking a question impact your inner life? In the second half, we’ll examine our reactive patterns around intellectual discussion. What does it bring up for us: Do we worry about not being smart enough or are we afraid of sounding too smart? Do we get competitive, shut-down, bored, fascinated? What kind of inquirers are we?
DATE: April 10
TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Exploring the Mind-Body Connection
MEDITATION: How does the body speak?
INTERACTIVE: Aligning mind, body and world
Jeff: The exact nature of the mind-body relationship is one of the oldest philosophical puzzles we have, made more puzzling, I’m convinced, by the fact that the very minds that spend so much time wondering about it are so over-developed that they often don’t even realize they have a body! In other words, forget the theory. What does your own living “folk” experience tell you about how these two domains interact? Then for part two we’ll explore one contemplative ideal: the idea that mind, body and world can all come into increasing harmony and alignment. Our concepts are less of a problem when we learn to live our philosophy!
DATE: April 17
TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Stillness as Inquiry
MEDITATION: What is stillness?
INTERACTIVE: Lake of Being
Jeff: We can hardly have a month of inquiry go by without checking in with our nondual friends, that ramshackle order of spiritual fast-trackers and Absolutists, many of whom are masters in the art of inquiry. As it happens, I had a long conversation just a few weeks ago with one such master, a wonderful lady named Mukti who is also the wife of Adyashanti, one of North America’s most popular nondual teachers. I can’t say enough good things about her – skilled and smart and generous and kind. She led me through two beautiful practices that I’ve been exploring ever since. This week I’ll share my version of these – one an exploration of rest, and then a framework for inquiry.
DATE: April 24
TEACHER: Avi Craimer
THEME: What is this all about anyway?
MEDITATION: Why am I alive?
INTERACTIVE: Good life mandala
Avi: One of the fundamental questions of philosophy is “What is the good life?”. There’s not just one answer. For the Buddha it was the end of suffering, for Sade it was having sex all the time. If we don’t grapple with this question seriously, our meditation and even our lives risk being dominated by somebody else’s idea of what is truly important. In the second half, we’ll creatively map out our personal good life mandalas, seeking greater clarity and perspective to balance all our competing values.
No Stupid Questions
“I thought to myself: I am wiser than this man; neither of us probably knows anything that is really good, but he thinks he has knowledge, when he has not, while I, having no knowledge, do not think I have.”
― Socrates in Plato’s Apology
There is no such thing as a stupid question. This might be the most important thing I ever learned. It was only later in my life that I realized how privileged I was to have been inculcated in this simple idea since early childhood. My mother worked as an educational psychologist specializing in learning strategies, and she encouraged me not just to look for the answer, but to reflect on my own thinking process. How I solved a problem was as important as getting to the end result, so every school assignment, every worksheet and test and essay, became opportunities to question, to reflect, and to notice wide-ranging connections. I grew to love the process of seeking an ever more complete and beautiful synthesis among ideas. This passion led me to devote a decade of my life to the intensive study in philosophy.
Western philosophy was born in ancient Greece long before it became a modern academic discipline known for quirky logic puzzles. Back in Socrates’ day, philosophy was a form of intellectual yoga, a spiritual practice of inquiry, aimed at transforming the life of the philosopher. To live philosophically was not about winning arguments or publishing papers, it was learning to live well by dedicating one’s life to the endless pursuit of wisdom. The activity of pursuing wisdom through the asking of questions and the offering of reasons was seen as valuable in itself, not as as means to some other end. As a young man, I was very drawn to this ancient Greek ideal. I felt intuitively that the best life was one spent in learning and inquiry for its own sake.
Thinking of inquiry as a way of life provides a much needed balance to our culture’s veneration of instant knowledge. In pop culture we are presented with a highly distorted image of the “smart” person. Whether, it’s Tony Stark, Spock, Hermione or Matilda, over and over again, intelligence is shown as being synonymous with always having a speedy (and smart sounding) answer ready to hand. I can’t think of a time when a Hollywood genius type says things like, “Hmm…I don’t quite understand that part,” or “well, I’m not sure how that makes sense,” or “let’s slow down a bit and explain this step by step.”
Yet, in my years learning from some of the smartest, most creative thinkers in the world, I observed that the process of becoming wise begins by acknowledging the extent to which even the cleverest people don’t have a clue what’s going on much of the time. It’s not that they don’t have a mastery of facts and arguments, they do, but this mastery develops out of a slow and at times agonizing process of trying to make sense of things while dwelling patiently amidst confusion and befuddlement. Over a lifetime of breaking their heads against baffling problems, dedicated thinkers become profoundly at ease with pushing into that uncomfortable zone beyond the limits of what they currently understand.
This month at CEC, we explore the theme of inquiry as practice. Each week we will meditate on a different fundamental question: What is a question?, How does the body speak?, What is stillness? and Why am I alive?
Inquiry is to knowledge as a vast river is to a cup of water. Knowledge is a contained end product, useful for some purposes, but ultimately limited. Inquiry is a process of asking questions and contemplating possible answers. The goal of inquiry need not be the production of knowledge, especially in the context of a meditation practice. We will use the intellectual mind as an entry point for our practice, but that doesn’t mean that these are merely mental exercises. The questions we ask ourselves in inquiry point beyond the mind toward ever deeper aspects of our inner experience.
Looking forward to questioning together.
Director of Research and Education, Consciousness Explorers Club