Contemplating Impermanence: Death, Dreams and Forgetfulness
Philadelphia, USA 20,21 July 2019
Weeend Workshop Philadelphia, PA USA
5, 6 January 2019
4 October; London for information please visit:
The International Practitioner Health Summit 2018: The Wounded Healer
6 July; London Review
Extracting The Arrows (cancelled)
In the contemplative group we find the group concentrates attention and intensifies effort. This quality of attention and effort helps to suspend our shared habitual patterns. These include automatic postures, attitudes, and speech which result in solidifying “I-making” and “other-making” the classical contemplative arrows of suffering.
As these habits are brought into attention the two arrows are extracted. Members then are free to “rest” in awareness without distraction or a project. Group development integrates the silent and speech practices. What each member says now ignites further awareness illuminating deeper silences.
While individual practice is essential, practice with others avails an empathetic attention, a form of attention generated only with others. Along the way we notice how fear constricts and how compassion opens. We ascertain that awareness is naturally expansive opening always toward what is.
Please join us for Contemplative Group Dynamics practice. The workshop days are open to newcomers and those already familiar with the form. Each day will consist of brief talks, discussion, silent and speech practice. The core group practice of the four foundations of mindfulness will be worked with during each weekend.
5 May 2018
9,10 June 2018
7 July 2018
Presence and Resonance: Introducing Contemplative Group Dynamics
21, 22 April; Philadelphia USA
The Contemplative Group practice serves as a transition between our formal silent practice and the interactions of everyday life. Understanding how we lose awareness is vital to integrating everyday life with mindfulness-awareness. During this weekend we will practice making transitions: from eyes closed to open, from a downward to an outward gaze, from silence to speech, and from the solitary to the group. In doing so we’ll have a chance to see how we react or respond: does our mind become busy or do we relax further?
The group exercises alternating silence and speech are simple and accessible. They are paced sequentially to the four foundations of mindfulness: body sensation, feeling tone, mental events, and experience. This pacing lets participants take doable steps and settle with the group. The presence of the group helps us powerfully reduce distractibility and stay with a given foundation. Resonance with others then provides a natural empathy that supports group development.
Silence and Speech 13,14 January 2018
How is it that the sea or a cathedral generates a powerful silence and a deep feeling? How is it that in these moments the separation between ourselves and the environment softens?
The contemplative group explores this seeming paradox of being in our group environment while being ourselves. By not privileging silence over speech we discover how each contributes to being present together. How, as we open to experience, we become more ourselves. We bring a healthy scepticism to the idea that contemplation is only an internal movement, a mute absorption. Rather our exchanges in the group make real, like the waves and depths of the sea, how speech emerges from silence and how speech gives rise to deeper silences.
The Contemplative Environment 9,10 December 2017
How does the contemplative environment shape what is possible for group members? This question assumes that while individuals constitute the group the group is perpetually constituting the individuals within it. Bringing these dynamics into awareness helps us to see the impersonal nature of these forces, they are like weather patterns.
This practical group inquiry into the relationship of the individual to the group and the group to the individual has a particular contemplative significance. That is, it provides access into a first hand understanding of the selfless nature of experience. We see how experience arises within the shared space rather than being localised “inside.” Hence the environment is inseparable from the experience within it.
Interdependence and Compassion 4,5 November 2017
The group is a rich setting to learn first-hand about interdependence or “inter-being.” Practically this means how we are affecting and being affected by one another moment by moment. Interdependence, as experience, poignantly shows nothing exists in isolation: posture, gaze, speech, emotion, thoughts, and phenomena. Everything depends on causes and conditions. There are no self-existing individuals separate from their environment. The function of compassion is to disclose our interdependence to us, to reduce false separateness and thus unnecessary suffering.
During the contemplative group we explore solitude as related to, rather than separate from sociality. What we imagine as the internal, for example thoughts and feelings, we notice is being in-formed by the environment; how we speak and act, in turn, is forming the external environment. The conceptual boundary between internal and external becomes increasingly transparent as the contemplative group develops.
Typically interdependence goes on outside of awareness, its movement often subtle and seamless, thereby making it difficult for us to grasp our role and responsibility within the process. The structure of the contemplative group slows this process so that we can notice how we show up, or not, for ourselves and others. We notice the difference between fear based defensive silence or defensive speech, and silence or speech that expresses interdependence and compassion.
Attention and Care 7,8 October 2017
What is the relationship between mindfulness, as the cultivation of attention, and care for ourselves, others, and the world? We commonly join attention to care – to be caring requires attention. Conversely the lack of attention is carelessness.
Attention is a common factor of any change process. To alter a pattern, whether individual or group, we have to meet it in attention. When the energy of the pattern is stronger than the energy in attention we are taken by the pattern. For groups these patterns may take the form of flight into the past or future, and the fight energy of irritability and boredom. Such patterns move us away from presence and resonance. They are similar to becoming lost in thought during individual practice.
The true significance of the group is actualised when as a group we can sustain attention and not be taken by such social habits. This staying in attention and opening to the group expresses the care in the group, of the group, for the group.
The 17th International Symposium of the Group Analytic Society International – Crossing Borders: Social, Cultural and Clinical Challenges, Berlin
Presence and Resonance 22,23 July 2017
This July our theme is Presence and Resonance. We will continue to explore how we move from silence to speech, from the solitary to the social whilst sustaining mindfulness-awareness. The cultivation of open attention, free of distraction or preoccupation, lets us appreciate others and our shared environment. When we are “here” ever-fresh moments of resonance and connection pop-up. During practice the sense of individual and group presence becomes stable and clear giving rise to deeper and stronger resonance.
The contemplative group practice helps familiarize one with letting attention rest in open awareness and not constricting inward. This resting in presence supports, and is supported by, our natural capacity to be in resonance and attuned to others and the environment. We notice that empathetic resonance has its own flow, assuming shared forms during exchange and dialogue.
The Arising of Shared Experience. April 22, 23 2017
Penn Program for Mindfulness, Philadelphia USA.
During mindfulness practice we learn to notice more and more details of our inner experience. Perceptions, feelings, and thoughts are constantly arising; we practice by acknowledging these events, touching them, and letting them go. The result is less reactivity and a greater inner steadiness that allows us to remain in balance even when the world outside seems chaotic.
Our practice is usually solitary. What might this process look like when shared with speechin a group? Contemplative Group Dynamics explores this question by alternating practice periods of silence and speech. The group proceeds by sequentially noticing body sensation, feeling, mental events, and experience (the four foundations of mindfulness). The result is greater sensitivity to how we affect one another and a growing sense of shared experience and awareness.
Insight into how shared experience arises develops as we relax and open within the group environment. We travel between internal and external experience, between silence and speech, and between the private and shared. Gradually these distinctions become transparent bringing resonance and empathy alive.
1) Participants will identify how the group climate shapes our capacity to see and hear one another.
2) Participants will observe and identify individual or group factors which help or hinder the movement from internal to external attention, and from silence to speech.
3) Participants will observe how resonance and empathy are integral to open and flexible attention.
The workshop will consist of individual and group practice, reflection, talks, and discussion.
The workshop is for those who have completed the Penn Program for Mindfulness 8-week Foundation in Mindfulness program or its equivalent.
Still Gaze, Still Mind. April 2nd 2017
London Mindfulness Practitioners Group. London.
Exploring the role of the gaze during mindfulness practice, with Contemplative Group Dynamics
Lawrence Ladden and Jale Cilasun
If we are accustomed to practicing with eyes closed what happens to our attention as we open our eyes? What happens to our attention when we make eye contact? And how might the gaze itself express attention or distraction?
Contemplative Group Dynamics uses the methods and values of individual mindfulness practice and applies them to the group context, bridging formal solitary practice with our shared experience in a group. The group climate shapes our capacity to see one another. The method clarifies how we leave the group and take refuge in our thoughts; by noticing this we then have a choice to return to and for one another.
The practice is relevant for group specialists, meditation teachers and students interested in how the group may provide a relational context to cultivate mindfulness-awareness.
Generosity and Compassion 4,5 March 2017
Contemplative practice has always been associated with community due to its supportive and caring attention. Compassion brings us to our common humanity, literally the common space we share in real time.
In practice Contemplative Group Dynamics works with the transitions between silence and speech and between solitude and sociality. This movement between the inside and outside is how we connect to the group/world and how the group/world connects with us. It occurs only through interaction with others rather than in imagination or memory. Generosity and compassion are experiences of opening to our common humanity.
When we encounter obstacles along the way how do we continue? The contemplative group uses the methods and values of individual mindfulness practice and applies them to the group context. The method clarifies how we leave the group and take refuge in our thoughts, by noticing this we then have a choice to return to and for one another. We also see the kind interest circulating in the group toward the detail of our moment to moment experience. Such interest catches our attention, a compassionate flow is encountered, and we are moved beyond self-concern.
Collective and Individual Patterns. February 2017
We will inquire into how intersubjectivity is understood within a contemplative approach to mind. The classical meditative psychology (Yogācāra) that informs individual mindfulness practice, also contains a view of intersubjective experience. This view is organised around the metaphor of the common seeds which are intimately related to language-use. Language-use, and the shared categories and concepts that it is based on, gives rise to intersubjective perceptions of the world.
In addition to silent practice the contemplative group practices using speech. This gives us a chance to explore how language gives name and form to the flow of experience. With individual practice we hold in attention individual patterns; with group practice we hold our collective patterns in attention.
Still Gaze, Still Mind 7,8 January 2017
We most immediately observe distractibility when one is not behind their eyes, lost in thought. Eye contact or its absence is one way we open to or close to the other. The capacity to have eye contact however is inseparable from the group atmosphere. The three reactions (or poisons) of attraction, aversion, and indifference will be explored so that we may notice how they automatically activate the mind removing it from its natural stillness and openness.