2019-09-22 six week study course – Transforming Fear into Fearlessness

The Four Noble Truths that form the heart of the Buddha’s teaching invite us to examine our relationship to dukkha: stress, distress, unsatisfactoriness, suffering. Most of us though, have an instinctive resistance to suffering, so we need to practice working skilfully with the different levels of fear that often show up along the path to freedom. As we learn how to release ourselves from the confines of these fears, we’re able to live with greater ease, happiness, and peace, and to connect with the wisdom and compassion that are our true nature.

Each two-hour class will include a short dharma talk, some silent meditation practice, dyad (pairs) practice, and small group discussion.

NOTE: this course is intended for people with some previous meditation and study experience – eg have attended at least one nine-day insight meditation retreat, and are familiar with core Buddhist teachings such as the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path and the Four Foundations of Mindfulness

Week One – Fear in the context of the Buddha’s teachings

Week 1 Talk 1: An overview of the theme

26 mins

Fear as one of the three core unskilful motivations identified by the Buddha; how it is often repressed because it is so unpleasant; the challenges and benefits of beginning to befriend fear


Week 1 Instructions: An exploration of our personal fears

17 mins

Instructions for two written exercises, first naming fears that come up in everyday life, then fears that come up in relation to meditation and dharma practice. Reading out loud of a sample of some of the fears that the participants shared.


Week 1 Resource Sheet

Contains further reading, and suggestions for practicing at home

2019-06-22 six-week course – Week 1 resource sheet

2019-06-22 six-week course – list of fears

The Gift of Fear – David Brazier

Week Two – Fear of dukkha and Fear IS dukkha

Week 2 Guided meditation: Settling, softening, soothing

13 mins

A short guided meditation with an emphasis on settling and soothing the body, heart, mind before starting a study class


Week 2 Talk: Fear of dukkha, and fear IS dukkha

26 mins

Exploring the courage it takes to meditate and to engage with the Buddha’s teachings on the Four Noble Truths, focusing on the First Noble Truth that there is dukkha: suffering, stress, distress, unsatisfactoriness


Week 2 Instructions: The anatomy of anxiety

9 mins

Deconstructing the chain reaction from basic sense stimuli to proliferation and anxiety thought-loops


Week 2 Guided meditation: Exploring physical sensations of anxiety and the antidote of metta 

32 mins

Working in groups of three, each person taking three minutes to name out loud the physical sensations of social anxiety; then a short guided metta meditation before continuing to name out loud the physical sensations associated with metta/kindness


Week 2 Resource Sheet

Contains further reading, and suggestions for practicing at home


Week Three – Second Noble Truth and Compassion

Week 3 Guided meditation: Body, breath, choiceless awareness

15 mins

A short guided meditation starting with physical sensations and the breath, opening to choiceless awareness and meeting whatever our experience is with metta, kindness


Week 3 Talk: Second Noble Truth: craving for sense pleasures; compassion as antidote 

26 mins

Returning to the Second Noble Truth, exploring clinging to sense pleasure as a common reaction to unpleasant emotions, and how compassion and self-compassion offer a more skilful way of navigating anxiety


Week 3 Talk: Mindfulness of Mind

8 mins

A short talk offering definitions of different aspects of mental activity, including thoughts, emotions, moods and mind-states


Week 3 Guided Meditation: Dyad Practice, Mindfulness of Mind

21 mins

Working in pairs naming mind-states out loud using just one word; separately for four minutes each, then alternating back and forth


Week 3 Resource Sheet

Contains further reading, and suggestions for practicing at home

2019-07-06 six-week course – Week 3 resource sheet

Week Four – Comparing Mind and Mudita / appreciative joy

Week 4 Guided meditation: Body, heart-mind, appreciation

15 mins

A short guided meditation attuning to the body and the heart-mind, noticing how we’re relating to experience, and inclining in the direction of appreciation and gratitude


Week 4 Talk: Comparing mind (mana) and appreciative joy (mudita)

28 mins

Exploring the common tendency of the mind to get caught in comparing, and how the practice of mudita or appreciative joy can be both an antidote and an ally, that helps stop mana from arising in the first place


Week 4 Guided Meditation: Dyad Practice, exploring gratitude practice and mudita for oneself

24 mins

Working in pairs, contemplating gratitude for aspects of one’s life, then a short written exercise exploring one’s own good qualities


Week 4 Resource Sheet

Contains further reading, and suggestions for practicing at home

2019-07-13 six-week course – Week 4 resource sheet

2019-07-13 six-week course – list of gratitudes

Week Five – Wisdom and the Three Universal Characteristics

Week 5 Guided meditation: Relaxing the Body, Stilling the Mind

15 mins

A short guided meditation beginning with a brief body scan to relax tension, then using the breath to help steady and calm the mind


Week 5 Talk: Wisdom and the Three Universal Characteristics

31 mins

How seeing into the three universal characteristics of anicca-dukkha-anatta (impermanent, imperfect, impersonal) can support the releasing of anxiety and fear


Week 5 Guided Meditation: Dyad Practice, exploring fearlessness

25 mins

Working together in pairs, taking turns to describe a time of feeling ease, calm, confidence, courage, and noticing the effect this has on the body, heart, and mind


Week 5 Resource Sheet

Contains further reading, and suggestions for practicing at home

2019-07-20 six-week course – Week 5 resource sheet

Week Six – Fear of Freedom

Week 6 Talk: Fear of Freedom

36 mins

Acknowledging that change itself can cause anxiety; exploring some different definitions of Nibbana; and a few suggestions for navigating fear if/when it arises in meditation practice


2019-07-27 six-week course – Week 6 resource sheet