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TonyB last won the day on March 22

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  1. Hi everyone, Thank you for commenting on this topic, I have read all the comments with interest. I just wanted to let you know that I included a basic teaching of the 5 precepts in a Foundation in Mindfulness course I recently delivered. I took care to emphasise that these are not commandments but recommendations. The feedback I received on including a discussion about this was overwhelmingly positive; of course it might be the case that I just 'got lucky' with a group who are naturally ethically minded but nevertheless it was good to get positive feedback. Here are some of the comments I received in feedback forms: "Good to know. Was interesting to see how these precepts are the foundations for the practice. Think it was worth doing. Don't feel the need for any more knowledge about it though." "I think it makes sense!" "I am all for it. It speaks directly to our inner being and so we recognise it as true and worthwhile. It goes very well with Loving Kindness" "I enjoyed learning about the precepts. I feel like they offer guidance on how to live mindfully and ethically. I don't understand them to be strict and have no problem in them being included in a mindfulness course." It also prompted some reflection from one participant who struggles with addiction to painkillers about whether this may be affecting her ability to practice with more dedication. That particular participant is actively engaging with support services to come out of addiction, so it was useful for her to consider the 5 precepts as an additional motivation to come out of her addiction. I found an article recently by Thich Nhat Hanh on the 8-fold Noble Path, https://www.mindfulnessbell.org/archive/2016/02/dharma-talk-the-eightfold-path-2 in it, he talks about the 5 precepts as arising form the insight that comes out of mindfulness (extract from the article copied and pasted below): "Mindfulness is the foundation of all precepts. When you practice the Five Precepts, you see that they are not imposed on you by someone else. They are the insight that comes out of mindfulness: “Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I vow to protect all life. I vow not to kill.” That First Precept is born from mindfulness of the suffering caused by the destruction of life. Precepts are a concrete expression of mindfulness. If you don’t practice the precepts, you cannot say that you are practicing mindfulness. To practice mindfulness means to practice the precepts in your daily life." This resonates with me because in my own life I have experienced a personal transformation, as my practice has developed I have found that the way I live my life has naturally aligned with the 5 precepts - I no longer take any intoxicants because the desire to indulge in them fell away. On reflection looking back at my personal journey with meditation I can see how the initial experience of being in an environment (a retreat) where I took a vow to abide by the precepts gave me a taste of what life can be like when lived in alignment with them, I was able to then experience how drinking alcohol (after returning to life outside the retreat) gets in the way of being able to practice meditation on a regular basis for example. With Metta Tony
  2. Dear Gillian, Thank you for your response and for sharing the link to the article in the Inquiring Mind. Thank you also for deleting the second posting, much better to keep the conversation streamlined. I have read the article with much interest and there is much that stands out to me! First of all the finding that 'these precepts have been, I think, curiously under stressed by the vipassana community'. This is certainly not my experience, I have attended Vipassana retreats in the tradition of S.N.Goenka in Australia and the UK over the past 20 years, so maybe in this article, Gil is referring to the other vipassana retreats in the USA such as Spirit Rock and the Insight Centre in Barre. From my experience, the five precepts are certainly taught as a fundamental element on every single retreat in the Goenka tradition and their importance is stressed very highly. From this perspective, and from my own experience of working with the precepts and testing them in my own life, I agree with Gils initial point that "as the Western Vipassana movement evolves... the precepts can become increasingly helpful on our spiritual practice". The next point of interest for me is the quote from a vipassana meditation teacher "Precepts are not the main interest; wisdom and meditation are". What this represents for me is that in practice there appears to be a significant difference of focus of importance between the Goenka Vipassana tradition and the other American Vipassana centres. I think Gil Fronsdal's analysis as to the potential reasons for this difference are probably on point in terms of concerns from teachers about alienating people, however, if this were actually true, we should expect to see a significant lack of interest from westerners in attending the Goenka Vipassana retreats, when in fact their popularity consistently outstrips their capacity to offer places. At least in the UK for example, over the past few years if I wanted to book a place on a retreat (capacity of 180 people per retreat so not exactly small), I would have to register within a day or so of the course being advertised on line - about 2 months before the date of the retreat. This is almost akin to booking a ticket for Glastonbury Festival! From my perspective also, there is a clear difference between western ethics as commandments (with their religious connotations) and how they are presented through Vipassana retreats in a very practical way as leading to specific consequences that can be tested and experienced directly through sensations on the body, changes to the rhythm of the breath and agitation in the mind. This process offers an opportunity to 'critique' the validity of the precepts through one's own direct experience. This brings me to the section you pointed out which is referenced as 'perhaps the most important reason for the relative absence of discussion of the precepts' being the complexity of ethical dilemmas in real life situations. I have considered this and my response to it is that the way the five precepts are taught on Goenka Vipassana retreats stresses two key elements. First the importance of intention for all actions and second the focus on our direct experience of the consequences of performing 'unwholesome actions' and particularly on our ability to practice meditation - to develop insight, equanimity and compassion. There is a great quote from Jack Kornfield in the 'Clinicians Guide to Teaching Mindfulness' which I think nails it - “It’s hard to sit down for a peaceful meditation after a day of stealing, lying and killing“. I personally don't buy the argument of complexity as being a valid reason - although I can certainly see how some teacher might avoid discussing ethics as a result of it. This avoidance however seems to me to be out of sync with one of the core aspects of mindfulness - that of turning towards difficult experiences, emotions, sensations, of opening our hearts to them, of working with them. As Gil says later in the article "We may not find uncomplicated or satisfying solutions to ethical dilemmas, but we may come to better understand the complexity of some situations - or the unnecessary complexities that we sometimes create". I would go so far as to say that the avoidance of dealing with ethical complexity and difficult situations is potentially significantly problematic for mindfulness teachers and the mindfulness movement in general in terms of long term consequences. Of course there are many situations in life where we are faced with a choice between two options where someone ends up being harmed. We just have to work through it and the more present, mindful, compassionate and responsible we are able to be in that situation the better. When the 'sh*% hits the fan' we all want people who can keep calm, dispassionate, think clearly and compassionately and take appropriate responsibility, including helping clean up any resulting mess and ensuring follow up action, learning from the situation, future risk mitigation etc. The issue here is that if I haven't established a practice with a clear appreciation of the precepts (which are there to support development of the practice), my mindfulness practice may well have been frustrated so the consequences for me and everyone else involved in that situation are going to be affected - result, more suffering than otherwise might have been the case. My overall impression of the standpoint Gil takes here is that the five precepts should be part of mindfulness teaching and the more I reflect on this the more I think its important and should be included. I agree with the points Gil makes about the potential pitfalls of teaching the precepts - of leading to self-condemnation or self-righteousness and the suggestions made for how to avoid those. On the other side of the coin, I agree with the suggestion to present them as protections, recommendations on how to live safely - to 'create an environment of safety'. Here's a metaphor I have found useful to explain the importance of the precepts: Bicycles have always had brakes. If someone offered to sell you a bike without brakes, (assuming you understood the importance of brakes), you would probably say no; or arrange for brakes to be fitted pretty quickly. Brakes protect us, they help keep us safe. The ‘five precepts’ or ‘Sila’ as they are traditionally know, are like the ‘brakes’ to the ‘bicycle’ that is mindfulness meditation practice. Just like with brakes on a bike, you don’t have to use them, but knowing they are there, how to use them and why it’s probably a good idea is important isn’t it? As mindfulness teachers then, if we don't include sharing an appropriate teaching of the five precepts with students, then its a bit like selling someone a bike (who's never ridden one before) without brakes...isn't it? So as a result of reflecting rather deeply on this issue, I have decided to included teaching the five precepts in a mindfulness course I'm running at the moment. If you are interested I will let you know how my class respond and what issues (if any) arise from it. Thanks again for your kind response and especially in sharing the article with me. With metta! Tony
  3. Hi everyone, Having recently completed the online training handbook, I'm now piloting a mindfulness course to complete the work needed to qualify and the course is going really well. I've loved the training so far. Its come to my attention that there seems to be quite a bit of controversy in the wider mindfulness meditation community about the absence of the 'five precepts' (sila) from most mindfulness training courses and the wider social and political implications of this omission. Prior to taking this course, my previous experience of mindfulness meditation has been mostly in attending Vipassana meditation retreats, where there is a very clear and strong focus on the importance of the five precepts as being essential for the personal development in mindfulness, so on reflection I assumed this as a given, however, whilst the precepts are discussed in the handbook and in the 'Clinicians Guide', the focus here seems to be solely on the teacher's own practice and not on explicitly embedding these even as suggestions in course content. My questions here for you all are: 1. Has this issue come up for you and if so, how have you addressed it? 2. Are there any specific reasons why you think the five precepts are not taught on mindfulness courses Thanks! Tony
  4. Hi Gillian, really interesting to read about your experience with acne and how that led you onto exploring holistic practices. Its so true that at the time, thinking of the experience as a blessing is the last thing we are willing to entertain, but with the benefit of hindsight we can see how without that, we might never have found our way to developing insight and a more nourishing relationship with ourselves. I also suffered with acne as a teenager and into my 20's. I remember at one point (probably after reading a lot of self-help books) deciding that I would try shifting my mental reaction to the suffering and simply see what happened if I didnt react to it and found that the flare-ups started to calm down. I now see acne or cold sores as simply an indication that my psyche is out of balance and a reminder to pay more attention to how I'm treating myself.
  5. Great question, wow there are so many examples of this! Many years ago, when I started a new job, I started to develop what I know interpret as stress and anxiety related symptoms in my body. I became very ill and lost a lot of weight (I was already very thin so losing weight was potentially dangerous for me). I was fortunate to find an experienced naturopath who provided compassionate and practical support to help me get on the road to recovery and self-healing, she helped me to gain more awareness of and sensitivity to the effect of different foods on my body, introduced me to cranio-sacral therapy and invited me to consider whether there may be emotional issues that I needed to address. This experience I now regard as an opportunity for me to develop more sensitivity to my body, thoughts, feelings and to experience the power of the inner wisdom of my body. It led onto seeking out professional counselling in the following years help to address underlying emotional issues which helped me to heal personal wounds in myself and with my parents. What appeared first as a challenge now seems to me to have been a catalyst and invitation for me to get more curious about myself, my personal suffering and to develop self compassion and appreciation for the body.
  6. Hi Gillian, thank you! Great to know a bit more about you aswell. The natural environment is also one of my passions, in my previous job, I developed the good habit of taking time out in the middle of the day, to walk in the local park and ground myself by simply sitting on the grass or leaning against a tree. I found that simply allowing myself to connect with nature helped to calm and revitalise me, so simple yet so powerful! Nature based meditation practices sound amazing, I know a few people who are not really interested in formal meditation practice and are real nature lovers, they have often said that for them just being in nature is their meditation, I suspect you will find a lot of people will be interested in this way of connecting, a great way to make meditation more accessible. I look forward to hearing more about your work. Best wishes Tony
  7. Hi Gillian, I am aiming to work with people who work in the helping (health, community, social care) and arts based professions, who already have a basic interest and/or curiosity about mindfulness as well as people who are more experienced in mindfulness. Within this broad category of people, I am aiming to focus specifically on people at specific life stages: a) Newly qualified and practicing professionals at the start of their career - to nurture strong resilient foundations, self awareness and self-compassion to balance with any burgeoning sense of ambition b) Established professionals with a young family and/or ageing parents - to nurture a sense of space and calm, better flow and harmonious relationships c) Professionals looking for a change, re-evaluating their career choice, values The reason I have focussed on these life stages is because it was at these points in my life that I realised the importance of mindfulness meditation for me to prevent burnout from stress and overwhelm, to recognise the necessity of looking after myself first always, to better care for others. Great question by the way! Best wishes Tony
  8. Hi Teniele,  great to meet you, i love the sound of your children's stories, are any available to view online or to buy?  

    Best wishes


  9. Hi Stacy, great to meet you! Wow a 10 day yoga retreat in India sounds amazing, I'd love to hear more about that. I'm also intrigued by what your offer will develop into, sounds like a great combination! Best wishes Tony
  10. Hi everyone! Its great to be part of this community and I'm looking forward to connecting with many of you soon. So, my name is Tony Bamforth, I live in North London England and I'm sat at my desk at home right now looking out the window (when i take breaks from typing), its a cloudy fresh day and I can hear the sounds of traffic below in the street, the wind blowing through the trees, there are birds flying past my window and I'm feeling relaxed and happy. I live with my partner of 8 years - Fernando and two friends from Spain - Lena and Natali. We are all students right now which is great, Fernando studying Interior Design, Lena studying Film and Natali Fine Art. Last year I quit my job as a CEO of a community development / arts / social care / advocacy organisation working with people with learning disabilities, and took some time out to think about what was next for me. I have always wanted to be a teacher and recently decided that mindfulness will be a fundamental part of what I will teach. During my career so far I've gained extensive experience in person centred planning (coaching made accessible for people with learning disabilities), leadership, governance, strategic development, quality assurance, finance, marketing, managing people, designing and delivering projects, workshops and lectures and much more. I also have practitioner qualifications in NLP, Holistic Massage Therapy, Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology. I am planning to develop an online course in the near future combining mindfulness with the other skills I've picked up along the way. After a little research online, comparing and contrasting different offers I decided that this was the best fit for me. There are many reasons I chose this course, the main one being I quickly felt I could trust Sean. I am familiar with the Spirit Rock Centre; the Insight meditation tradition in the US and the connections with my own meditation practice, so recommendations from teachers I have known about for many years such as Jack Kornfield provided reassurance that the course would resonate with me. I have been a Vipassana meditation student for many years now, having sat and served on over 15 retreats over the past 20 years (in the tradition of S.N.Goenka) and have experienced significant benefit and positive change in my life as a result of my practice. I now meditate daily every morning and evening. Another reason was the wealth of resources available, particularly the ability to use white label documents for my own practice when I am ready to start teaching, and also really important was the opportunity to be part of a community of people studying the same course as me, so we can share our insights, thoughts, questions and learn from each other. I am passionate about our ability as human beings to heal and transform ourselves, our relationships and our communities and thrive from being part of work which promotes and nurtures opportunities for people to do more of this. I very much enjoy music, art, film, dance, theatre - all the arts basically, and I'm willing to get involved in most arts based opportunities; though I can get pretty competitive at Karaoke... I'm really interested to know what ideas other students have for making use of this training, to integrate it into their lives, businesses and work. Finally I want to express my gratitude to Sean and all the other folk involved in developing this training and community, may we all make best use of the learning and opportunities available here for our own good and the good of all beings. With love and metta to you all! Tony
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