Beginner looking for a teacher

Kathy Joyce Cosley, modified 1 Year ago.

Beginner looking for a teacher

Posts: 5 Join Date: 6/26/20 Recent Posts
I hope this is not too naive a question, or too vague.

I have been interested in and reading about meditation and Buddhism as philosophical or intellectual concepts for decades now (I am 63 years old), but only seriously began to practice meditation diligently for the past 3 years. I have based my practice on Culadasa’s The Mind Illuminated, and based on his framework I would say I have reached at most stage four. I now (as of the last three or four months) meditate 30 to 60 minutes per day, every day, and I am taking it more seriously since starting to read Daniel’s book. I am about halfway through MCTB2. Some of his tips and suggestions have already greatly improved my focus, which makes me think some structure and guidance would help me progress.

I’ve been committed to solitary practice up until now for several reasons. One is being married to someone who is supportive and appreciates my practice, but is not himself interested, and I haven’t felt like I could invest money or long periods of time to this, especially as I move into retirement and a fixed income. The other is just not feeling very drawn to what I’ve seen of mediation retreats, communities, systems of belief. I am quite averse to religion or any reference to anything “supernatural”. I did one 7 day silent retreat at Beatenberg Switzerland with Stephen and Martine Batchelor, which was interesting, well geared toward my mind set, thought provoking, not exactly transformative, probably my fault.

By the way I live in Chamonix, France, which is not a town which particulary attracts spiritual seekers, more thrill seekers. So it’s not obvious, how to find a community of like-minded meditators.

The level of attention, concentration, calm, that I’ve been able to attain from my practice has helped me a lot, from a psychological, social, and perspective-taking point of view. I never really thought of Awakening as something attainable, so I haven’t done more than sort of skim Culadasa beyond the beginning of the Jhanas. But now, reading Daniel’s book, I wonder… I feel I should be thinking about taking this more seriously, going further, his language about it being doable is very exciting to me, but am not sure. Previously, every time I even read or heard about the Jhanas, my eyes glazed over, I wrote them off as something interesting but that I could never attain, but … why not? I think my concentration abilities are average, and don’t seem to have deteriorated yet too much due to age… on the other hand I don’t seem to have progressed very far in the past 3 or so years, though that might be largely due to no guidance.

Are there teachers around who would be interested in talking to me about what I could realistically hope to achieve, at my age, with my (self imposed) limitations in the time and money I’m ready to invest? Can anyone point me in the right direction? Thank you, Oh Dharma Overground Community, for any feedback or advice you can give me.
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Brandon Dayton, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Beginner looking for a teacher

Posts: 480 Join Date: 9/24/19 Recent Posts
I've sent you a PM. Welcome to the forum! This place can be a great support for your practice as well.
Kathy Joyce Cosley, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Beginner looking for a teacher

Posts: 5 Join Date: 6/26/20 Recent Posts
Thank you Brandon!
Martin, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Beginner looking for a teacher

Posts: 294 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
I'm very fond of Chamonix and that whole region. If there is no sitting group in Chamonix, perhaps there is one in, Geneve, for example. It is nice to sit with other people sometimes. Personally, I have only ever done weekend retreats because my family and work life doesn't really allow for long absences, and while I am sure that retreats help, I think it is possible to make progress at home too. I don't think age is a bit impediment but I only started going at this stuff hammer-and-tongs this year and I'm 57, so I'm biased. You mention the jhanas. As a confirmed skeptic with a scientific background and no interest in the supernatural, I can tell you that they are, in fact, shockingly real. I just finished a sit ten minutes ago, which I started with the first three jhanas, and they still seem improbable to me! It's quite an eye opener. If you are interested in the jhanas, you might consider reading Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington. He comes at things with an approach quite similar to Stephen Batchelor.

There are various online teachers. Poking around this forum you will find several mentioned and indirectly reviewed.
Sam Gentile, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Beginner looking for a teacher

Posts: 1252 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
Martin:
I'm very fond of Chamonix and that whole region. If there is no sitting group in Chamonix, perhaps there is one in, Geneve, for example. It is nice to sit with other people sometimes. Personally, I have only ever done weekend retreats because my family and work life doesn't really allow for long absences, and while I am sure that retreats help, I think it is possible to make progress at home too. I don't think age is a bit impediment but I only started  going at this stuff hammer-and-tongs this year and I'm 57, so I'm biased. You mention the jhanas. As a confirmed skeptic with a scientific background and no interest in the supernatural, I can tell you that they are, in fact, shockingly real. I just finished a sit ten minutes ago, which I started with the first three jhanas, and they still seem improbable to me! It's quite an eye opener. If you are interested in the jhanas, you might consider reading Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington. He comes at things with an approach quite similar to Stephen Batchelor.


There are various online teachers. Poking around this forum you will find several mentioned and indirectly reviewed.

I'm pretty sure Brandon set her up with Abre.
Kathy Joyce Cosley, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Beginner looking for a teacher

Posts: 5 Join Date: 6/26/20 Recent Posts
Thank  you! I will indeed start poking around more in this amazing site.
atrahhdis, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Beginner looking for a teacher

Posts: 27 Join Date: 1/5/19 Recent Posts
Hi Kathy,

In order to bypass the limitation of your tight budget (BTW I have as tight budget too), you will need a teacher that uses the generosity/Dana model.

Unfortunately, this is rare in pragmatic dharma community, as the majority of teachers ask extraordinary amounts for one on one sessions. 

However I can suggest you one, but I would prefer to do it publicly.

Does anyone know wether we are allowed to openly suggest teachers or not BTW?
Kathy Joyce Cosley, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Beginner looking for a teacher

Posts: 5 Join Date: 6/26/20 Recent Posts
Thank you very much for your answer. I will explore this site thoroughly and learn all I can, I appreciate the responses I've gotten already to my query.
atrahhdis, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Beginner looking for a teacher

Posts: 27 Join Date: 1/5/19 Recent Posts
atrahhdis:
Hi Kathy,

In order to bypass the limitation of your tight budget (BTW I have as tight budget too), you will need a teacher that uses the generosity/Dana model.

Unfortunately, this is rare in pragmatic dharma community, as the majority of teachers ask extraordinary amounts for one on one sessions. 

However I can suggest you one, but I would prefer to do it publicly.

Does anyone know wether we are allowed to openly suggest teachers or not BTW?


So I read the FAQ and I assume that it's OK to openly discuss about teachers. As I mentioned yesterday, a teacher that accepts dana/generosity would be the most appropriate for you. Based on my own research, the only pragmatic teachers I found that use this model are Vince Horn (and the rest of Buddhist Geeks team too) and Cedric Reeves:

https://meta.buddhistgeeks.org/about/transgenerosity

https://www.cedricreeves.com


I've done some one-on-one sessions with Vince Horn and an online team course with Cedric Reeves and I can confirm that they indeed both use dana model.

Unfortunately the discussion about teachers is still not open in our (pragmatic) circles and this is why I wanted to discuss about it here and not with a PM. Most of the ones I know come from the USA and have a fixed (high) rate. This makes it difficult for (even wealthy) practitioners from around the world.

Ex. I come from southern Europe, I don't have any financial issues and I would say that I'm in a far better situation when compared to the majority of people in my country and yet I cannot afford rates of 80/100/120 USD/hour, given the fact that the frequency of the sessions is 1+/month (some students prefer even 1/week).

I don't blame the teachers that do this of course, as many of make their living out of this.

Anyways, I wish you good luck with this task, and please let the community know (even with a pm if you don't want to write a post here) about your findings!
Kathy Joyce Cosley, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Beginner looking for a teacher

Posts: 5 Join Date: 6/26/20 Recent Posts
Thank you so very much! I will reach out to one of these people and will be in touch as my practice progresses.
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Lewis James, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Beginner looking for a teacher

Posts: 155 Join Date: 5/13/15 Recent Posts
atrahhdis:
Unfortunately the discussion about teachers is still not open in our (pragmatic) circles and this is why I wanted to discuss about it here and not with a PM. Most of the ones I know come from the USA and have a fixed (high) rate. This makes it difficult for (even wealthy) practitioners from around the world.

Ex. I come from southern Europe, I don't have any financial issues and I would say that I'm in a far better situation when compared to the majority of people in my country and yet I cannot afford rates of 80/100/120 USD/hour, given the fact that the frequency of the sessions is 1+/month (some students prefer even 1/week).

I don't blame the teachers that do this of course, as many of make their living out of this.
Yeah, it's very interesting to me, as a European earning a good salary relative to my peers, I could not concieve of paying the rates some of those American teachers charge. Literally made me gasp with some I've contacted. I've discussed this issue with a couple of them, it seems that "secular meditation coach" is seen as a sort of therapist/medical role, which Americans are already used to paying for through the teeth (on lines of credit, possibly?). Also, a large part of the audience seems to be retirees, who already have their lives fairly comfortable and stable, probably own property, and have disposable income in terms of retirement funds.

For example, I have had courses of EMDR therapy here in the UK, with an experienced therapist, and those sessions cost me £30 for an hour. One of the teachers told me they also had courses of EMDR therapy in the US, and the equivalent price was about $200 per session.

That said, if you really explain your situation, many of these teachers will agree to a much lower fee, or even consult with you for free if they have availability. I have personally received great generosity with one of these teachers, who has spent quite a number of hours with me for no charge when I was going through a rough time.
Ben Sulsky, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Beginner looking for a teacher

Posts: 118 Join Date: 11/5/19 Recent Posts
Hi Kathy,

It sounds like your practice is good, which is probably 90% of it imo.

I went through a similar arc as you, where I had a home practice in the pragmatic/mahasi tradtion and eventually wanted to see what the community was like, what a teacher would be like, and what a retreat would be like.

I haven't been thrilled with the local sitting groups I've tried, mostly because it seems to be more devotional/philosophy/psychology/community and less about learning to practice well and actually practicing well.

Retreats tend to be pretty good from my experience and reports I've heard.  The hardest part for me was mostly ignoring the philosophy/psychology parts and just feeling free to not talk or listen to anyone and practice intensely on my own.  It's empowering to be around a bunch of other people practicing intensely and it's very helpful to be in a retreat center where the social space is carved out to meditate all day, and all your material needs (food, bed) are met well enough to practice well but most distractions are removed or are taboo.  If you are capable of taking a more lighthearted view of the teachings that might seem dogmatic, then you might gain more from the philosophy/psychology parts than I was able to. Retreats are also very helpful for normalizing your experiences.  The A&P seems less exotic when you can observe 30% of retreatants going through it, or w/e.. as do the other insight nanas. 

Teachers are very helpful as well, but I think tough to navigate.  At the end of the day, it seems like practicing vipassana just leads to some fairly predictable brain changes that take place over years, and this all happens at levels that words can't really touch.  I find it's very tempting to turn my teacher into my psychologist/confidant, where if I'm in the dark night and having a shitty time I ask them to tell me it's going to be OK, and if I'm flying high I want to be praised, and this mostly isn't helpful although it feels very good.  It also takes a long time to find a teacher who you connect with and who you trust enough, and trusting too much too fast is probably worse than being a bit cynical, see for instance https://eudoxos.github.io/saints/html/saints.html.  I think it is good to trust your own practice and what is going on in the present moment above all else.

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