Introduction to Contemplating Impermanence: Death, Dreams, and Forgetfulness

 Lawrence J. Ladden and Jale Cilasun

26 October 2019, 10:30am – 4pm

London Mindful Practitioners

To Register please contact Nick Pole at London Mindful Practitioners

Death, dreams, and forgetfulness each express the truth of impermanence. Our mindfulness practice shows that the present moment is fleeting, and that something new is always emerging. Sadly our intention to be present is easily forgotten and we drift in thought and into emotional reactions. Dream-like preoccupations cloud our attention, and how easily we forget the brevity of life.

This one day program will use mindfulness and group process to explore our relationship to impermanence. The workshop will have three integrated aspects:

First, we will practice mindfulness in silence and as a group with speechContemplative Group Dynamics. As with individual practice the group notes sensations, feelings and thoughts. A common observation about Contemplative Group Dynamics is that it “makes it easier to stay present.”

Second, we will practice select contemplations on death and dying such as working with fear (from Steven Levine’s “A Year to Live”); discuss our responses; and then in dyads consider what would require your attention if you had a limited time to live. While the life review (even a brief one) relies on memory it can highlight unfinished personal and interpersonal themes which require attention. Because our workshop time is limited we will only outline certain themes; whereas a fuller exploration requirers a different context. For example, feelings or past relationships that have been kept outside of awareness must be approached slowly and with great care. We will have a chance to discuss a year-long group starting next year that will work with these themes in great detail.

Third, we will explore dreams as expressions of impermanence.  We can notice how our mind generates feelings and actions that feel real, only to see upon awakening their constructed nature. We will briefly discuss the Western Lucid Dreaming literature/research and the Eastern dream yoga literature. Additionally we will discuss the Social Dreaming approach which uses dream material as expressions of social and cultural realities or constructions, rather than exploration of a personal unconscious. How do our dreams, for example, illuminate meditative culture and our collective ability to be wakeful?

Members are kindly asked to make an effort to remember their dreams in the days before the workshop. Then during the workshop we will introduce an exercise to bring in the dream as an object of mindfulness-awareness, rather than something to be interpreted or analysed. 

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify how formal mindfulness practice enacts a first-hand relationship to impermanence in relation to sensation, feeling, and thinking.
  2. Identify the role of mindfulness in cultivating acceptance toward  human expressions of impermanence:  separation, illness, aging and death.
  3. Identify and practice the difference between meeting experience with awareness versus avoidance.
  4. Define the difference between being mindful and identifying with one’s constructed mental activities (e.g., thoughts, dreams, fears).
  5. Describe the benefit of a group mindfulness practice using speech to mutually recognise and contain emotion.