Training Series: Contemplating Impermanence

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps 20. And yet it all seems limitless.”      Paul Bowles.

Contemplating impermanence can be considered the root of all reflective practice.  Offering as it does a no non-sense yet gentle way to lean into what is difficult. This year-long series will consider how our relationship to impermanence is core to our development as practitioners and to one another. All life-changing events be they health, work, relationship, ageing benefit from our attention and care.

Each study day will be structured as a contemplation of change from both the individual and group perspectives. The individual perspective will take inspiration from Stephen Levine’s text “A Year to Live” an experiment the author conducted with himself wherein he treated an entire year as if it was his last. His text makes recommendations for organising the year with  specific guided meditations and themes for discussion. We will use selections of the text to structure the individual contemplation of change. 

The group perspective will contemplate how impermanence is active in each moment of group activity. We will use the structure of the four foundations of mindfulness applied as a group (Contemplative Group Dynamics). By starting slowly with body sensation we can explore the body as an active process of change. Within the contemplative environment we notice how the described sensations and feelings resonate with others. This ethic of sensitive observation, articulation, and resonance develops through feeling tone, mental events, and experience altogether.  The group provides a container for the sometimes powerful emotional energies evoked by grief and change. This helps these energies to be met in awareness rather than avoided. As with ritual or ceremony the group paves the way to the integration of change. Our shared intention to be present with one another during poignant moments is meaningful and healing. 

As a complement to Steven Levine’s text, our talks and discussion will consider two time honoured expressions of life and death: the Buddhist model of the Wheel of Life and Dante’s Divine Comedy. These texts illuminate situational patterns created by wholesome and unwholesome actions which result in freedom or imprisonment, relationship or isolation. While profound philosophy and poetry they are also “the stuff” we work with during individual and group mindfulness practice. Brief articles integrating the contemplative aspect of both works will be provided.

It is our intention that regular practice in this manner will help participants bring awareness of impermanence more fully into their daily lives. That by not taking things for granted we can offer a caring attention to our unfolding lives.


27 January – 29 December 2019 (12 days on the last Sunday of each month)

10:00 am – 5:00 pm

£ 1200

Bloomsbury Psychotherapy Practice

4th Floor, Hamilton House,  Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BB