Happy new year.
Forgive me for my slightly lengthy New Years message but I would like to give you some encouragement for the year ahead.
2017 was a big year for AOM with record numbers of new students joining our retreats. We also saw good numbers of you starting to learn and practice more advanced levels of meditation.
It really feels now that there is a strong and growing Sangha or community of you out there who are ever more committed to the deep and broad exploration of the whole field of meditation that we are offering you.
With my back surgery now behind me it feels like 2018 is the time to push ahead with some of the new and exciting projects we have been working on for you over the past few years.
While I was in hospital I spent some time thinking about how I as a teacher and Art of Meditation as an organisation can better support you as students wanting to learn meditation and incorporate Dharma into your lives. With this in mind we have developed an exciting new schedule for the next few years which is designed to give those of you who are committed to your practice a long-term structure and program of development.
All of you who have started this journey with me know now that meditation is a deeply inspiring and lifelong journey of discovery that has the potential to both enhance the quality of your lives and ultimately bring you to a genuine experience of awakening, liberation and freedom from suffering. It is indeed one of the highest of all endeavours we could embark upon in our lives and I realise that as a teacher it is my duty and responsibility to provide you with the highest quality of support guidance and inspiration that I can.
I am deeply committed to supporting you in every way that I can and in 2018 and we will be launching our Academy of Advanced meditation practice which will lay out a long-term systematic approach for all of you who wish for more structure and guidance as you begin to enter upon the field of higher meditation.
I do of course recognise that many of you seek to work at your own pace in your own way and of course I am here to support you at whatever level you aspire to work.
So we have put together a program of development from the early stages as beginners through your development as learners and intermediates right through to the advanced stages and towards the expert practices of higher meditation. We will be laying this out for you so that you can see what is possible for the growing number of you who are committed to long-term practice with us.
Our meditation curriculum is now organised into a series of levels which outline our long-term program of practice to give you an idea of the possible road ahead should you choose. The Levels build on one another and at each level there is a specific retreat which has a corresponding online course. This is now available to see on the website and for a detailed description of our program please see the AOM Curriculum page. This new structure includes tow new retreats and two new online courses.
I do want to encourage you to not be put off by the idea of long-term commitment to your meditation and gradual and steady progress. Meditation really is a lifetime journey for you to keep investing in all the way through until your final breath in this life and even beyond that. If you are willing to keep investing time and energy into developing your practice it is capable of bringing rewards way beyond what you might initially have imagined.
All too often these days we seek the most convenient and quick approach to everything we do and there has in recent years been an increasing tendency for this attitude to spill over into our spiritual lives.
I am not sure this is the best thing we could be doing. While meditation is now practiced by a growing community of people it seems there is little encouragement out there to really explore it in full depth.
It may seem like a long journey and some of you may doubt your ability to undertake it. But I can assure those of you who are relatively new that we have a growing number of students who have, over the years, completed all of the preliminary practices and are starting to taste the sweet fruits of higher practice and the peace and confidence it brings. These are all ordinary people like you who have worked consistently at their practice over the past 10 or 15 years. They all still lead ordinary lives but have embraced the notion of long-term commitment and practice and the precious rewards it brings.
So whether you are just starting out or whether you have been working for some years now with us I sincerely hope that you all feel supported at the level that you need and that to feel there are exciting things ahead for you with your meditation and spiritual careers.
We are in the process of re-doing the Stillness Program (now Level 0) and the Foundation in Meditation online course (Level 1) with new unpublished material from last years retreats and these will be updated over the next few weeks. We will also be running two new courses (Level 1 & 2) starting on the 1st of February 2018 please find the links below. The pre-requisites for doing these courses are outlined in the course details. If you have recently started the existing Foundation in meditation course you will have access to the new course when it starts in February.
We will also be launching a new course for Advanced students starting around Easter after the long retreat, more details to follow soon.
Please do feel free to contact us with your ideas if you feel you would like to see us offer new services of any kind.
Once my post-op rehabilitation is out of the way I hope also to be able to offer more direct access to me through video conferencing and small group seminars and podcasts.
So I wish you all an exciting year of progress and happiness. Keep your heads down, be patient and work diligently but lovingly and joyfully. Take care of yourselves and those around you and you will find the happiness you seek.
I truly look forward to seeing you all sometime soon.
With love and encouragement you all.