Mindsight Intensive 2016/2017 academic year

1. Background history:

The Mindsight Intensives go back more than 6 years, when I had not yet trained in Interpersonal Neurobiology. Responding to people’s requests for an integrated long-term program that would help them develop proficiency in meditation after having taken the time-limited Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSRP), I started teaching these programs I then called ‘Meditation Intensives’. They are unique in that they are fully embedded into everyday life and demand an ongoing long-term commitment, rather than just a limited one like retreats do. They therefore also allow for in-depth study, inquiry and practice like no other existing venue I know of.

After 2 years of training in Interpersonal Neurobiology with Dr. Daniel Siegel, about 5 years ago I began to integrate this cutting-edge knowledge in my teachings in mindfulness and meditation. In fact, two knowledge traditions began to intertwine and come together like never before in my mind, my practice and my teachings, one being the new scientific insights into how the brain functions, the other the empirical knowledge from centuries-old meditation principles developed in different cultural traditions. I then began to integrate them all into new types of programming. Thus came into being the MBSRP-X, the expanded version of the MBSRP, and the Mindsight Intensive, which replaced the old Meditation Intensive. I changed the word from Meditation to Mindsight Intensive, because I realized that, going beyond meditation, our core work is really about the cultivation of mindsight, the ability to be consciously aware of one’s whole being by whatever means necessary.

In the process I also developed a unique approach to meditation I call ‘Dynamic Mindfulness’, which is a clear, precise and systematic meditation technique that takes into account what we now know from science with regards to the way our organism is wired.

Over the years the number of candidates seeking mindfulness training through the MBSRP-X and the Mindsight Intensive has grown exponentially, so much so that about 2 years ago I could not possibly continue accommodating all requests alone by myself. Through good fortune Dr. Linda MacDonald, who collaborated with me for many years, agreed to join me as a teacher. Her extensive expertise, deep capacity for empathy and insight, and profound understanding of mindsight have already enriched our programs immensely. She is now teaching most of the 12-15 MBSRP-X programs we offer every academic year between September and June, while I can concentrate more thoroughly on the Mindsight Intensive and other aspects of the Mindfulness Centre’s work.

2. This year’s new program:

In the past years I have taught two separate groups every week and often different topics separately. For many years I focused on the exploration of objects of awareness (i.e. the content of awareness, the known, experience phenomena), and only last year introduced the much more difficult topic of the subject of awareness (i.e. the witness, the knower, non-dual awareness). Last year’s experience made it abundantly clear that this separation is arbitrary. This year I therefore plan to teach the exploration of objects and the subject of awareness in an integrated fashion. To this end we need a bit more time per session in order to respect the fundamental importance of integrating theory and practice as the royal road to transformation and liberation.

What will you experience each session? Each session will include various combinations of the following four elements:
(1) Guided meditation with review of the Dynamic Mindfulness meditation technique,
(2) Presentations on Interpersonal Neurobiology and the brain providing a systematic review of the field,
(3) Presentations on non-dual awareness and the transverbal aspect of subjective experience, and
(4) Question period with examination of participants’ meditation experiences and progress.

The program will thus be based on a 5-dimensional view of reality as we explore the 5 aspects of human experience in an integrated fashion:
1. Physical dimension: The brain, the body and behavior as they are objectively explored through science.
2. Somatic dimension: The brain and the body as it is subjectively experienced through physical sensations and emotions.
3. Psychological dimension: The mind as it is subjectively experienced through emotions, thoughts and narratives.
4. Existential dimension: The sense of an independent and embodied self as human organism or bodymind within the boundaries of time and space.
5. Spiritual dimension: The dissolution of an independent sense of self as we tap into the nameless, timeless and spaceless essence of transcendence.

Because we express these different aspects of experience through action, one form being language, different facets of consciousness in different experience modes will be expressed in different language modes. The four language modes allowing us to access different facets of consciousness and different experience modes are:
1. Unstructured everyday language: It re-presents and expresses a running commentary on life experience. The criterion of truth is unexamined subjective experience.
2. Left-brain descriptive language: It re-presents external reality as being separate from the speaking subject, and gives us objective knowledge into the physical world. The criterion of truth is out there in the physical world – if it corresponds to something physical and concrete in the world, it must be true. The speaking subject is minimally involved. It emphasizes aboutness. Examples are history, biography and science.
3. Left-brain conceptual or dialectic language: It re-presents internal reality as being separate from the speaking subject, but less separate than in description, and gives us knowledge into the psychological world. The criterion of truth is in its internal consistency or coherence – if it sounds logical and well thought out, it must be true. The speaking subject is more intensely involved. It emphasizes aboutness. Examples are psychology, meditation, philosophy.
4. Right-brain metaphorical language: It presents the whole (internal and external) reality as lived by the speaking subject (no subject-object separation) and gives us knowledge about how to live. The criterion of truth is in its efficacy when lived and compelling sense of wisdom. The speaking subject and the objective world he/she lives in manifest as a whole in the here and now. It emphasizes direct experience and wholeness. Examples are myths and metaphors, sacred stories.

The challenge is to become aware which aspect of experience is being accessed with what language mode. They all express different facets of consciousness that give us clues about the nature of reality. No level of experience is better or worthier of inquiry than any other. They all need to be investigated in an integrated fashion. When we master that, we are not in danger of confusing facets of consciousness, language modes and levels of experience, and we will gain the freedom to access reality in its complex entirety without dissociating any part of it. We will get a glimpse of the whole elephant. And that is the goal of our inquiry in this course.

3. The program’s core values:

A. The goal of this educational program is to provide an environment of inquiry, in which people feel safe to explore the most intimate, intricate and challenging issues facing them in their lives. Although this program is not a psychotherapy group, but a meditation training, we honor the fact that the brain knows nothing of such distinctions. In getting to know the nature of the organisms that we are, we always emphasize meeting the person and the wholeness that we are.
B. My method of teaching is not just based on imparting knowledge to students, but on providing solid tools of inquiry, so that the student gains confidence in his or her own inquiry. I don’t presume to be the one who has the answers, but rather endeavor to always hone my proficiency in asking better questions.
C. My programs are not designed to be a theoretical course. They invite each participant to put new knowledge in the service of actual daily practice in order to foster real-life transformation towards a life of less suffering. It is therefore a prerequisite to commit yourself to a daily meditation practice. In starting this program, you don’t need to be an expert. All you need is a passion for discovering your essence, combined with a dogged determination in actually doing the required work for your own transformation.
D. The way we learn to use dialogue as a tool of mindfulness within the group environment cannot be overemphasized. I put a lot of value in fostering a mindful attitude of openness and non-avoidance among participants as interpersonal exchanges unfold, sometimes with unpleasant emotions to deal with. The courage to manifest who you are, warts and all, within such a supportive and insight-fostering group environment, goes a long way in your development of resilience, mindfulness and wisdom.

4. Time, dates, location and fee:

Due to time constraints I intend to teach only one course this year. This coming academic year’s Mindsight Intensive will take place Mondays 6:30-9:00 pm. The dates for the three trimesters are: Fall: September 26 – December 19; winter: January 9 – March 27; spring April 3 – June 26. The course will take place at the Creating Space Yoga Studio, close to my practice in downtown Oakville, at 594 Chartwell Rd, Oakville, ON L6J 4A5.

Per time unit the fee will be the same as in previous years, but per session slightly higher than last year, because this year’s session length will be 2½ instead of 2 hours. This amounts to 3 installments of $900 each, covering 3 trimesters of 12 sessions each, to a total of $2700 for 36 sessions per academic year. I extended the length of the sessions in order to include more material and be comfortably able to teach every session an integrated path to meditation. The curriculum I envision will take approximately 2-3 years to complete, but that does not mean that in your mind you have to commit yourself in advance for that length of time. Some people chose to follow the whole curriculum, while others will participate only during certain sections depending on what their time allows. Whenever possible there will be ample handouts made available through a google group.

5. Sign-up:

To sign up just send me an email confirming your commitment to attend.

 Copyright © 2016 by Dr. Stéphane Treyvaud. All rights reserved.

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