This is a one year course entailing a thorough study and practice of still-mind meditation and its implications for life and for enlightenment. Starting with the Yoga Sutras, you would go on to explore the literature of other meditation traditions; and a little of the theory of cognitive psychology. It is expected that you would be wishing to teach meditation to the general public, and so Sanskrit terms and yogic jargon will not be used.
The Diploma of Classical Still-mind Meditation gives you a thorough understanding of the principles and outcomes of emptying the mind of thought and conceptualisation. Is it possible? Yes!! It may be that for most people, most of the time, the state of stillness is actually one of quiet awareness of the activity of the mind, and the sublime state is not constant. One thing that becomes obvious, in either state, is that it is the mind that gives us our sense of self, and our sense of what reality is. The fundamental question of any exploration of the mind is, “Does the mind give us an accurate experience of reality and self?”
You will be expected to become able to help your clients or students achieve a personal practice of still-mind meditation, without reference to any religion, philosophy, New Age concepts, and with no visualisation or escapist fantasies. However, there cannot be competence in helping others without first exploring some of the implications of the way we normally use the mind, and the outcomes and implications of practising emptiness of mind. One of the best ways to do that is to use the help of people who have gone before, and left help-manuals behind – for instance in Yoga, Zen, Taoism, Sufiism, even some of the Greek philosophers. Some aspects of Christian mysticism go there too; and modern cognitive theories may approach the question of mind and self, though few go so far as the mystical disciplines.
Therefore, in the Diploma course in still-mind meditation, you will not only learn methods to help others into stillness, but the course will also engage you in study of the Yoga Sutras as the primary exploration of mind, self and reality; and you will read selected extracts in other disciplines, and study some of the modern views of cognition and cognitive self-intervention as well.
A Willingness to practice still-mind meditation on a daily basis
Still-mind Meditation and the Journal
You will be given training in still-mind meditation, through the ACCY Eight Steps to Stillness program; Eight Steps to Stillness is the Learn to Meditate program of the Australian College of Classical Yoga. If you do not have an established practice of still-mind meditation, this will help you to get it happening. If you already have your practice established, the program will help you understand the state of stillness and the processes that obstruct stillness. Also, you must begin to shift from being someone who meditates, to someone who helps others to meditate. As such, observing and partaking of our course will prompt you to think about what is required to assist others.
Part of your training will include keeping a meditation journal. This is provided in template form for you, as it is a disciplined task in developing the “witness consciousness”, ie learning not to take the bait of everything the mind dangles before you.
Exploring Self through the Yoga Sutras
The Sutras give us the chance to look at our way of using the mind and evaluate whether it is realistic or not. If you do look, you might find that all your thoughts fall into two major categories – “I like it” and “I don’t like it” sort of thinking. That is, we see everything through a pleasure/pain, attraction/avoidance polarity, and we filter every single perception through that polarity. This means that we do not see reality as it is! We see through the projection of personal preference. Can you even imagine how much self-discipline it might take to put that view aside and begin to see reality objectively? In fact, the Sutras spend a good deal of time investigating what exactly is the seer in us and what is the seen. You might find some surprises there.
The Sutras investigate the mind, the way we normally use it, and the way we experience ourselves and the world, in great detail. There is nothing in the sutras to be taken on faith – it is not religious doctrine, and it is not a matter of taking up a set of beliefs. It is a ‘look and see for yourself’ approach. The Sutras also point out the sorts of things that keep us in our habitual rut, and they describe the compulsions of any ordinary mind. But happily, they suggest some tools for freeing ourselves from the pull of compulsion. The Eight Limbs of Yoga are the working tools.
Sadhana: the means to make a difference, through Yogic methods
Yama & Niyama: Ethics & Clear mental state
Pranayama: Conscious Breathing
Pratyahara: Mindful sense experience
Dharana: Concentration & Contemplation
Dhyana: Still-mind Meditation
Don't just do something, sit there!
Samadhi: Wisdom Absorption, Transformed Awareness
Understanding of teaching methods
There are some simple ways that a person can be encouraged to sit in stillness, and to be able to get at least a glimmer of understanding of the no-mind state, or even of that radical transformation called enlightenment. “Enlightenment” is in fact the capacity to experience reality directly without the intervention and distortion of mental constructs. But to offer meditation tools effectively, you have to understand how they achieve their purpose.
Competency to teach/communicate.
The other essential aspect of teaching meditation is to be able to put into words information about a state that is empty of words and concepts. You must communicate rationally and analytically about a state that is neither rational nor irrational. This is confusing for many, but a rational communication can be achieved. Irrational statements rely on people trusting your word, because they won’t be able to see anything for themselves. All this achieves is to make some people dependent on you, and to turn others away from meditation altogether, an unfortunate result in either case.
Traditions outside Yoga
Major traditions outside yoga are Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Sufiism, Taoism, Christian Mysticism, and some modern physicalists like Herbert Benson.
Modern Physicalist approaches to Meditation
In particular the work of Herbert Benson is of interest.
The Cognitive view of the Self-Construct
Cognitive psychology comes closest to recognising how the mind produces a sense of self, and then regards it as a real entity. While there will not be time to explore much of the theoretical literature of cognitive psychology, we will at least glance at some of the easiest to use cognitive self-interventions, as a way of helping oneself and others become aware of the way the mind mistakes egocentric distortions for reality.
Risks and Cautions
Should anyone not be admitted to stillmind meditation? Some of the major issues will be explored and methods for screening your clientele, in their own interests.