A Year of Living Mindfully
A 12-Month Inquiry on Bringing an Awakened Heart and Mind to Daily Life
Starting in October of 2019
Applications are due July 31
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you maintained a dedicated focus on mindfulness and compassion for a full year?
If you are interested in bringing alive more awareness in your daily life through meditation, study and being part of a dedicated community of practitioners, please read on.
Life in the Fast Lane
Unless you live in a monastery or have managed to engineer genuine simplicity into your lifestyle, it’s easy to forget what’s most important and get caught in the world of demands, stress and the impulse to go faster and “get more done.”
The result is often a blend of anxiety, low energy, self-doubt and a vague sense that you’re missing something — a sense that your life is not aligned with your heart.
The more you feel separate from a full sense of presence, feelings of unworthiness and fear begin to dominate your life.
You forget the mystery, love and awareness that is your source.
Have you noticed the happiest times of your life were when you sustained attention on what was most important to you?
The Alchemy of Transformation
How do you awaken full and compassionate presence? How do you live skillfully in the world?
Great traditions through the ages prescribe the following:
Times of Retreat and Intensive Practice
These elements are the core of the Year of Living Mindfully program.
The Year of Living Mindfully Program (YLM) combines these domains of spiritual life in an integrated format designed to support you in cultivating an awakened heart and mind.
Create and Sustain a Vibrant Daily Practice You commit to a formal daily practice of mindfulness and heart meditations and focus on the daily actions that are most important to you.
Learn How to Bring a Healing Presence to Emotional Difficulty Highly experiential sessions focus on how you can apply your mindfulness practice in daily life and support you in transforming real-time blocks and challenges.
Learn Techniques for Self-Inquiry and Healing You’ll deepen your skills with personal inquiry through RAIN Partners with Body-Centered Inquiry, a process of ‘co-meditation’ that cultivates your capacity to develop and draw on wisdom and compassion.
Connect with a Committed Community of Practitioners Sharing the journey with fellow participants and experienced mentors, you’ll explore the challenges and insights that arise from your practice.
Develop Your 1:1 Interpersonal Skills You’ll learn, practice and work with real-time issues through Non-Violent Communication, Forgiveness practices and other communication tools that foster greater honest and intimacy.
Deepen Your Practice through Retreats You’ll get to immerse yourself in periods of intensive practice.
Tap into the larger YLM Community You can join events and make connections with those who share the journey.
Supportive Mindfulness Methodology: RAIN with Body-Centered Inquiry
You’ll spend the first segment of the program learning about the technology of RAIN. This will includes deeply drawing on the process of Body-Centered Inquiry. RAIN is a process of awakening mindfulness and compassion that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. It’s a profound training in learning how to transform what is between you and feeling free and can be a reliable and deeply transformative tool.
RAIN draws on applying the two wings of mindfulness: Wisdom and Compassion. Originally presented by Michelle McDonald, the concept of RAIN (Recognize / Accept / Investigate and Nurture) has been further developed and refined by Tara Brach.
Jonathan has created a synergistic process called Body-Centered Inquiry. This practice is influenced by the principles of RAIN and Focusing—the ground-breaking work of Dr. Eugene Gendlin that laid the foundation for Somatic Psychology.
Over the course of the year, you’ll deepen not just your understanding of how this transformational co-meditation works, but you’ll refine your skills, moving deeper into the subtlety of the practice as you learn and get comfortable with different levels.
Dharma Study: Main Topics and Themes
Cultivating Wise Intention: Great satisfaction arises when you know what is most important and you design your actions and lifestyle in alignment with your intention. Throughout the year you’ll learn skills for cultivating both clarity and resilience.
Living in the Body: Training in the first foundation of mindfulness is the ground of our year-long program and includes instruction in mindfulness of sensation and feeling. This is a mind / body practice that is a cornerstone to developing a depth practice. More than just being in touch with your feelings, you will cultivate greater wakefulness and a sense of being vibrantly alive and at home in your body.
Healing the Emotional Body: Key to opening the heart is the willingness to explore obstacles to cultivating greater intimacy. In structured settings and homework assignments you will investigate the nature of self and other and how to skillfully work with difficult emotions. You will explore practices that cultivate your capacity for greater compassion, kindness, generosity and forgiveness.
Awakening the Mind: Delving into meditation practice includes both the application and understanding of skillful means, directly investigating the nature of mind, investigating how you can transcend limiting beliefs and exploring what it means to be free from suffering. Through talks, discussion and practice, you will explore essential practices that lead to greater freedom.
Awakening in Relationship: Individually and as a group, you will explore how you can cultivate greater empathy, compassion and kindness as an expression of the awakened heart. You will learn communication tools that will enhance self-awareness and transform your relationships. We will explore topics such as the Bodhisattva path of cultivating compassion, generosity and forgiveness and pragmatic tools such as Non-Violent Communication (NVC).
Cultivating Creativity, Imagination and Joy: Applying mindfulness principles results in the diminishment of greed, hatred and delusion. At the same time it can dramatically increase creativity, imagination, joy and new possibilities. A key element of this program is exploring creative expression and what it means to live fully.
This program is designed for mature and motivated participants who want to deepen their practice and more fully integrate wisdom and compassion into their lives. While this training is not limited to just advanced practitioners, a sincere commitment to daily practice and full participation is essential not just for you, but for the benefit of the YLM community.
If your participation drops below 80% we will evaluate whether the program is a match for you and you may be asked to withdraw.
The following prerequisites are highly recommended and will be considerations for acceptance into the program:
Have at least 1 year of regular meditation practice
Attend or have attended a weekly class or introductory series
Have participated in at least one residential retreat before the program starts. (If you have not attended a retreat, your acceptance will be on the condition you participate in one in the first part of the year.)
Number and Types of Meetings
In addition to daily practice and contemplative study, the program is comprised of:
Two weekend retreats, at the beginning and end of the program
Four daylong retreat
Three half-day retreats
Monthly evening study groups comprised of talks, practice and discussion
Monthly meetings of Spiritual Friends groups
Monthly 1:1 session with a fellow participant. (It’s highly recommended you do 2-4 sessions/month.)
Optional occasional online sessions with Jonathan
An optional 7-day retreat in February for the YLM community.
This following shows our activities through the year. In addition to the following, I highly recommend scheduling a week-long residential retreat during year. IMCW residential retreats are listed below.
Retreat and Class Locations
Retreats, classes and other gatherings will be in the Washington, DC area. Weekend retreats are local and not residential.
We are in the planning stages for an (optional) seven-day retreat at the Seven Oaks Retreat Center in Madison, VA.
Tuition is $1995.00. This amount is exclusive of expenses associated with the highly-recommended optional week-long retreat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let me start by sharing what this program ISN’T.
The Year of Living Mindfully is not:
A academic course studying and analyzing Buddhist philosophy
A book club where you have tons of reading to keep up with
A series of lectures where you passively take in information
Something you’ll get graded on
An introductory program
So then, what IS it?
The Year of Living Mindfully is:
A sustained, sincere exploration of what it means to cultivate an awakened heart and mind
Experiences and inquiries designed to cultivate and deepen a rich and alive mindfulness practice
Being part of a like-minded community of spiritual friends
Learning techniques and practices that enrich your capacity to be more conscious and alive in your relationships
Deepening your understanding of perennial truth through experiential practice and dialog
This is the 10th year of the Year of Living Mindfully. What’s different this time?
A few things set this year apart from past years:
There will be a more systemic presentation of RAIN Partners with Body-Centered Inquiry, including clear levels of training that will support you in integrating the practice.
We will have a more active Mentoring Community, providing you with support and access to resources throughout the year.
We are offering a residential retreat for YLM participants and possibly prior YLM graduates as well, depending on space.
RAIN, Body-Centered Inquiry, RAIN Partners and Focusing are mentioned a lot in the course description. What are these techniques?
RAIN Partners has been developed by my wife, Dr. Tara Brach, as a way to actively explore what is between you and feeling free. It draws on the following: R: Recognize what is present; A: Allow or Accept the moment as it is; I: Investigate the inner experience; N: Nurture what you find with empathy and compassion.
Body-Centered Inquiry is influenced by the work of Dr. Eugene Gendlin, including his work on Focusing—a mind/body process he developed over thirty years ago. He was working at that time with Carl Rogers at the University of Chicago. After studying thousands of hours of clients working with therapists, Gendlin discovered it was not the skill of the therapist or what the therapist was doing that resulted in successful transformation. What made the difference was what the client was doing internally.
People who checked in with a bodily 'felt sense' were much more successful in contacting and working through issues that kept them from being happy and free. Gendlin went on to extensively study and quantify how this process works. Focusing has had a huge effect in the realm of therapy and mindfulness in general, pioneering the development of somatic psychology.
Body-Centered Inquiry is my adaptation of this fundamental technology with the practice of meditation and mindfulness.
What does this have to do with meditation practice?
The first foundation of Buddhist meditation practice is 'mindfulness of the body.’ When you are aware of the body, you are truly 'here and now.' This practice helps you train your awareness to more quickly move from the cognitive realm to the direct 'felt sense' experience. It also trains you to discern more distinctions in the internal process, allowing you to more quickly and skillful stay present to what is arising in the moment and, in particular, to move through challenging experiences such as physical pain and emotional and mental turbulence.
Many dharma teachers recommend learning Body-Centered Inquiry and Focusing as a tool for understanding the dharma.
Do we do RAIN Partners and Body-Centered Inquiry throughout the whole year?
You go deeper and deeper.
Over the course of the year, you’ll be guided through a series of trainings and inquiries that will refine your understanding and experience of the practice. In so doing, you’ll develop not only your skills for self-inquiry, but your capacity for intimacy with others.
We’ll spend more time on techniques in the first part of our year and then refine these tools throughout the course.
By the end of the year, you’ll have developed powerful skills for your meditation practice, for understanding the nature of the dharma and as a way of relating better to with others.
You’re expected to do a 1:1 partnership with an assigned partner each month. Many participants opt for 2-4 sessions per month.
Is there a lot of homework and reading to do?
I've done enough year-long and multi-year long trainings to know that life has extensive demands and the last thing we need is the stress that comes with keeping up with a long bibliography. Throughout the year, you will get regular updates with suggested short readings and resources you might find useful and inspiring. The course does have an optional reading list, but only a few key books are highly recommended.
What if I miss a session?
Life happens. You are expected to make a solid effort to be part of your small group and regular 1:1 RAIN Partner session.
What if I get too busy to participate in the sessions?
Your acceptance into the program assumes you are making this program a priority in your life. If your attendance drops below 80%, we’ll have a conversation about your intention and what you need to stay engaged. If your participation remains low, you may be asked to withdraw. Please carefully consider whether you can make this commitment. If you decide to drop out after the first month, you will still owe the full tuition.
What are the monthly evening classes like?
The monthly gathering is made up fo some time to connect with others, a guided group meditation, a presentation and interpersonal meditation in a 1:1 format or small group exploring a topic or theme. Quite often there is time for group discussion and questions.
Monthly classes are metro-accessible and will be held in Washington, DC. We are in the final negotiations to have our meetings at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church located at 4201 Albemarle St. NW. There is ample street parking and restaurants nearby for those who like to connect beforehand. I have found that this location best fits the criteria for finding a place that is mutually inconvenient for most everyone in the DC metro area.
What are the retreats like?
Retreats have a specific theme and are heavily experiential. They can be a profound way to deepen your practice and understanding.
What are the Spiritual Friends gatherings like?
Spiritual Friends groups provide a time to come together and cultivate a sense of community in the more intimate setting of a small group. You’ll practice with others, share what is going on and how you are bringing mindfulness and compassion to what is arising in your life. Your group will be anchored by a mentor.
Can I do 1:1 sessions with a guide?
Some of the mentors will be available for 1:1 exploration.
What are the requirements for applying?
This program is designed for seasoned practitioners. Acceptance will be skewed toward those who:
Have an active practice
Have participated in a residential vipassana retreat
Attend a regular meditation class
If you have not participated in a residential retreat, your acceptance is contingent on you attending a seven day vipassana retreat during the first third of the Year of Living Mindfully. We are planning a seven-day residential retreat at Seven Oaks Retreat Center in Madison, VA.
Sincerity is the most important attribute. If you feel called to take part but are concerned you may not have enough experience, contact me and we can talk more.