Merigar West (Tuscany), Italy, 15-16-17 August 2018
Presentation of the Meeting by Elio Guarisco
Self Introduction of all the participants
We are happy that you all responded to our appeal and came here to participate in this working meeting. It is wonderful. Thanks.
Following the Presence and Awareness Conference held in Tenerife this spring, a proposal to develop courses for the public was presented to Rinpoche who gave his blessings for the project. The project is, however and for the time being, an unofficial activity of the members of the Dzogchen Community.
For a few years we have been witnessing a growing interest in the meditations that primarily emphasize presence and awareness. Neuroscience researchers are also focusing on this kind of meditation, rather than other types.
The applications of presence in various forms have widely penetrated the social tissue through various fields, such as medicine, psychology, education, business, scientific research, protection of the environment, and so forth.
From the trend we have witnessed in the last 30 years, this is definitely not a passing fashion, it is something that is bound to radicate itself in western society, just like Yoga did, with a potential vast benefit.
Presence and awareness have a priviledged position in the teaching of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, and are a key factor in the various disciplines practiced in the Dzogchen Community, such as meditation, Yantra Yoga, and dance in its two aspects Vajra Dance, and Khaita.
In particular those who have followed the SMS course through the 1st and 2nd levels are supposed to have a very well established understanding and practice of presence and awareness. And it is suggested that they are able to fathom the principles and methods of meditation of different traditions.
If there is such a knowledge of the principles and application of presence and awareness in our Community, it would be a pity that that knowledge and its potential benefits remains confined within the circle of the members of the Community.
For that reason we envisioned the possibility and need to develop public courses to introduce presence and awareness with the particular distinctive flavor of what we are learning from the Dzogchen teaching in general, and Rinpoche’s teaching in particular. We are thinking of a format of integrated courses, in the sense that we would like to parallel the meditation with movement as expressed in the breathing techniques and exercises of yoga and dance.
Now the reason for this integration is that, traditionally the practice of presence as we know from the origins of Buddhism, has mostly the flavor of a static sitting meditation, in which one attempts to experience emptiness.
Although this aspect is undergoing considerable change in modern developments of presence-meditation, by merit of the emphasis on the necessity of integration in daily life, and because some of the first teachers of mindfulness meditation in the US had some degree of exposure to Dzogchen masters and teaching, nevertheless not just traces of static tendency remain.
This is a point in which we can offer an approach to presence and awareness that is distinctively our own, and different from what is around.
If we analyze why the principle and methods of presence have had a great impact and growth in the West, we can see that in great part this is due to the fact that some have been able to communicate those principle methods in very accessible and modern terms, stripping them from the superstructure in which they are taught in traditional Buddhism.
Although this has been a source of controversy with some lamenting and crying that Presence has lost its Buddhist roots, and is now deprived of its finality of leading to total liberation, yet it cannot be objectively argued against that fact that such developments have brought and are bringing scientifically assessable benefits to people.
In the light of this, I believe these kinds of integrated public courses that we have in mind could be more easily popularized if presented in a totally lay manner.
This of course does not imply that all the public courses offered by the Community should have that character. There is also room for more Buddhist, so to speak, oriented public courses, but their public is of course more restricted.
Some say, well what is the finality of such courses, when there are so many such things around that are focused on temporary well being of the person? First of all, I don’t believe the temporary well being of the person is something negative, we all need and wish for that. It is also one of the two aims of general Buddhist practice.
Such courses first of all introduce the principle of presence and awareness that are one of the best doorways to the understanding of one’s limitations, and the first step for de-conditioning oneself from them.
There are also many scientifically proven benefits from such practices, and also many proven as well as suggested health benefits. Moreover, once the individual becomes familiar with the principle of presence, if she or he wishes many doors are open for deepening one’s knowledge, experience and freedom.
We have invited therapists so that instructors can become aware of what is happening in the world about presence and awareness in the field of therapy, so that our way of communicating can improve by having knowledge of the situation and circumstances we are living in. Also to know what the benefits and eventual shortcomings of such practices are from a psychological point of view, and to collaborate with us to formulate a structure for the public courses. We thank them.
I believe that in a phase of changing circumstances, public courses can become a way in which the Dzogchen Community can become accessible to more and more interested people, and in this way also guarantee the Community and Rinpoche’s Teaching survival and prosperity.
Lastly, we have invited all those instructors, and others who are sincerely interested in contributing to this project to participate in this meeting. So we hope that all the people who are here share this good intention.
To smoothen the procedures, not to waste time, and to ripen results, we ask all participants to share a collaborative disposition of spirit, to be pro-positive rather than critical, to avoid putting forward strong personal opinions, and to try to understand each other.
List of Participants
Mind Group: Moderator: Steven Landsberg
Adriana Dal Borgo (maybe via skype)
Sicilia d Arista
Blue Print for Public Integrated Courses on Presence and Awareness
Merigar (Tuscany), Italy 15-16-17 August 2018
9.30-10.15 Fabio Andrico, Igor Berkhin, Elio Guarisco and Lukas Chmelik Present the ‘Aims, Proposals, and benefits of integrated PA courses for the public’.
10.15-10.45 Questions and Feedbacks.
10.45-12 Groups work separate to discuss:
– Mind Group: Methods of Meditation to be implemented in the Courses
– Movement Group: Movements to induce Presence and Awareness
– Therapy Group: Attitudes that Foster Presence and Awareness; ways and tips for leaving with Presence and Awareness.
16-17.45 Groups continue to work separate.
17.45-18.30 The Therapy Group illustrate to the other participants Attitudes that Foster Presence and Awareness; ways and tips for leaving with Presence and Awareness.
9.30-10.45 Movement Group illustrates to the Mind Group the Findings Regarding Movements
9.30-10.45 The Therapy Group meet: Psychological benefits and drawbacks of Meditation; Modern Ways to Communication.
10.45-12 The Therapy Group illustrate to the Other Groups their findings regarding benefits and drawbacks of meditation.
16-17 Fabio Andrico illustrates the Mind Group the breathings and and other exercises to be included in the courses.
17-18 The Therapy Group meet: timeframes and modules for courses on Presence
17-18 The Mind Group meets with the Movement Group: in-depth appraisal of the integration of meditation and movement
18-18.30 The Therapy Group illustrates their findings regarding time frames and modules of the courses
9.30-10.45 General meeting of the Groups: the experimentation of public integrated courses of presence and awareness; and the forming of instructors for public integrated course of Presence and Awareness (materials, time frames, courses online, residential courses etc.).
10.45-12 The Therapy Group illustrates what instructors of Presence and Awareness need to know in regard to secular Mindfulness in the modern world.
General Meeting with Feedback
Fabio Andrico, Igor Berkhin, Elio Guarisco and Lukas Chmelik offer a tentative program for the integrated courses summary of the Outcome of the Meeting and the Time Frames and other considerations for the development of the project