(Originally posted Jan. 23, 2021 on my Artful Buddhist blog on Substack)
Nearly 30 years ago, before internet, I asked a Buddhist Studies professor what books to use to learn mindfulness meditation.
She was caught off-guard, and replied, “You mean, how to practice it?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Well, uh, I can ask around,” she said, still looking at me like I was an alien.
Admittedly, I was asking about a form of meditation far from her areas of expertise. Plus, scholars and practitioners don’t often mix in religious studies. Her Ivy League PhD experience hadn’t prepared her for a grad student seeking to practice what he was learning.
She soon shared a couple names with me: Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield. I was pleasantly surprised to find their books at a local bookstore.
I started with Goldstein’s The Experience of Insight: A Simple and Direct Guide to Buddhist Meditation, read a couple more, and then moved on to Jack Kornfield’s books.
I then asked myself, “Now what?”
I tried meditating. I bought a meditation cushion. The cushion moved with me for years, even if it simply collected dust.
("POP! Goes the Buddha; ink 9xl2 smooth Bristol; July 2020, @jeffbrackettart)
My personal interest in Buddhist practice has returned, many years later.
In my Buddhism course this semester, I’ve introduced experiential assignments: students meditate, draw, and create a small area of sacred space. Each of these activities, in turn, is connected to their writing.
So far, the discussion-board posts are far more engaged and engaging than what I might see in a normal version of this course. In a virtual teaching and learning environment, the discussions are critical to building community.
My goal has been to begin the course with students experiencing Buddhist ideas. I also promised them that I was going to do the same assignments: drawing, meditating, and setting up an area of sacred space.
Here’s what I’ve done (so far):
· Completed 10 hours of work on a new 36x60 Buddhist-themed drawing (but I did all of that before class started!)
· Started a daily meditation practice.
· Prepared to make a video about the sacred space I’ve set up.
I’m resisting my tendency as an Aspie to share with them long lists of resources on Mindfulness, let alone varieties of Buddhist meditation.
Instead, I’m starting with experience (which we will later critique!)
Upadate: July 2021 -- have completed more than 180 consecutive days of 30-minute meditation sittings, and no intention of stopping.