AN ONLINE COURSE WITH LAMA WILLA MILLER
19 FEBRUARY - 17 MARCH, 2019
Many of us enter the spiritual path seeking to embody qualities we imagine exist in those who are wiser and more loving than ourselves. Or we might pursue the path unconsciously seeking the perfect parent we never had. We all yearn to be healed, to leave our suffering behind, to become better, more whole, more complete.
But is the wholeness we seek really “out there”? For that matter, is the teacher we seek really “out there”?
In this four week course, we will explore the view and meditation of natural awareness, a mode of contemplative practice that takes the field of moment-by-moment experience as the ultimate teacher.
In this mode of practice, stability of mind is found not by striving for a future state of peace, but rather by accessing innate qualities of spaciousness, clarity and boundlessness that exist here and now.
In such a practice, nothing that arises in the mind, no matter how turbulent, is rejected or exiled. Rather, every emotion, feeling, sense perception and thought becomes an opportunity to delve more deeply into relationship with one’s own fundamental wakefulness. In such a practice, study and learning happens primarily in the classroom of present-moment awareness.
In this course, you will learn the view of natural awareness, learn its core meditation practice (called “non-meditation”), develop the skill of befriending thought and emotion, and explore the unity of love and wisdom.
The Wonder of Awareness
The first week will introduce the distinction between relative mind (the discursive, thinking, monkey mind) and ultimate mind (the steady, luminous, open, unimpeded mind).
The latter, in the traditions of Himalayan Buddhism, is called natural awareness (nyukme sem).
Natural awareness is our key to freedom. It is the key because it is the part of us that is already free. This awareness is the backdrop of our moment-by-moment experience, but it is not easy to see.
Seeing natural awareness happens in two ways.
The first is the “way of allowing”, which is essentially learning to profoundly relax.
The second is the “way of recognition”, which involves recognizing awareness through accessing its qualities.
Natural awareness has three fundamental qualities:
The first week’s module will explore these three fundamental qualities and how we can recognize them in our present-moment experience, on and off the cushion.
Recognizing these qualities are like seeing the guru face to face.
Freedom in the Palm of Your Hand
The second week will introduce the root practice that helps us access natural awareness. That root practice, ironically, is a “meditation” called non-meditation.
Non-meditation is not absence of practice; it is a methodless method. Non-meditation involves relinquishing effort, deeply letting go and letting be.
When we fully let go and let be, the quiet whisper of natural awareness is eventually heard above the noise of the content of our thoughts.
While non-meditation ultimately requires no method, a process of five steps helps ease us into that effortlessness.
These steps are:
This module will guide you through each step. These steps gradually help you recognize that freedom is not in the future: it is right here, right now. When you deeply let go, freedom abides in the palm of our hand.
Thoughts Are Your Friends
The third week will explore the role of “appearances” (thoughts, feelings, sensory perceptions and more broadly the dualistic experiences of conscious life) in a practice of natural awareness.
Unlike in a basic mindfulness practice, appearances — in and of themselves — are not distractions.
Appearances, rather, are the display of your natural awareness. The stickiness of our own mind, our fundamental dualistic clinging, is the problem. It is the glue that holds samsara together.
In the practice of natural awareness, how we deal with appearances matters a great deal. This module will explore how to befriend the diversity of our own experiences — our thoughts, feelings, perceptions — as a doorway to opening to the gaze of non-dual awareness.
This entails a practice of working to suspend the voice of the inner critic, of loosening up around our tendency to judge our feelings and habits as good or bad. It entails befriending the shadow. It entails self-compassion.
Integrating the Practice of Natural Awareness
The Practice of Natural Awareness is easily integrated into daily life, because natural awareness is not a passing experience; it is who we most fundamentally are. We are practicing the moment we let go of effort and rest in our natural state of being.
Nevertheless, we are cultivating the ability to recognize this fundamental natural state of being.
To cultivate this successfully, supportive practices are crucial. These supportive practices include mindfulness meditation (shamatha), benefactor practice and practices of compassion and service.
Supportive practices exist on the close periphery of the mandala of Natural Awareness Practice.
This module will explore some of those supportive practices.
Four Recorded Teachings
Filmed in high definition with teachings and experiential exercises to help you bring the practices into your daily life. Released each Tuesday, these teachings can be watched at your own pace throughout the week. Each recorded teaching is roughly 60 minutes.
Each module includes a guided meditation to support you in experiencing the week's teaching directly and deeply in your own practice.
Four Live Sessions of 60 minutes
This is your chance to connect with Lama Willa live, ask questions, clarify your understanding and share what’s coming up for you in the course. Ask your questions on screen using your webcam, or via text. The power of being included and heard can offer great benefit in your process.
Live Session Dates and Times
Interactive 1: Sunday 24 February - 9am PT (LA), 12pm ET (NY), 5pm UK (London), 6pm EU (Paris) Interactive 2: Sunday 3 March - 9am PT (LA), 12pm ET (NY), 5pm UK (London), 6pm EU (Paris) Interactive 3: Sunday 10 March - 9am PT (LA), 12pm ET (NY), 4pm UK (London), 5pm EU (Paris) * Interactive 4: Sunday 17 March - 9am PT (LA), 12pm ET (NY), 4pm UK (London), 5pm EU (Paris) *
All live sessions will be recorded and made available for those who are not able to attend the live times.
* Due to daylight savings time, interactive sessions 3 and 4 will start 1 hour earlier than sessions 1 and 2 for those living outside of N. America only.
Join in a virtual online sangha where you can come together with other like minded souls, learning and supporting each other.
Willa B. Miller, PhD is the Founder and Spiritual Director of Natural Dharma Fellowship in Boston, MA and its retreat center Wonderwell Mountain Refuge in Springfield, NH.
She was authorized as a dharma teacher and lineage holder (lama) in the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism after completion of two consecutive three-year retreats in the nineties.
She has also practiced in the Shangpa and Nyingma lineages.
In 2013, she received a doctorate from Harvard University in Religion, and is currently Visiting Lecturer in Buddhist Ministry at Harvard Divinity School.
Her academic teaching interests include Tantra and the Body, Buddhism and Ecology, and Buddhist Contemplative Care, among other topics.
Willa is interested in the practical integration of meditation into daily life, and has participated as an advisor in several scientific studies on meditation.
Her teachers and guides have included Kalu Rinpoche, Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, Lama Norlha Rinpoche, and others.
She currently derives inspiration for her practice and teaching from Lama John Makransky, Anam Thubten and Tsoknyi Rinpoche. She lives in Arlington, MA with her husband and two dogs, and frequently visits Wonderwell Mountain Refuge.
© 2019 Realize Media, Ltd.