Monday, June 09, 2008

Teaching meditation in Turkey - and in Turkish...

FWBO News is delighted to present this report from Vajracaksu, the WBO's only member teaching and practicing in Turkey.

"Greetings from Turkey, Istanbul to be more precise. Some of you will know that I’ve been living and working in Istanbul for a few years now, doing some meditation and Dharma teaching. In fact in August it will be 5 years! Time flies!

"Last November, for the first time ever I led a small meditation course in Turkish. Doing the course in Turkish was a very big thing for me, and successfully completing it gave me a big confidence boost. Actually, it went well - I gave practical homework each week and sent out 3 emails a week to remind and encourage us to practise, which I think worked well.

"At a small day event on meditation in January one woman showed great determination because she travelled from Bursa – by coach it was about a 10 hour round trip! Later in January and February I led a meditation and Buddhism course entitled, “Words are Powerful: Principles of Communication.” It was based on the speech precepts, in fact we studied Ratnaghosa’s excellent pamphlet, “Just a Word...” As usual, I gave ‘home tasks’ - for example, when studying ‘harmonising speech’ our daily practise was to be particularly mindful when people asked to have their greetings, their ‘salaams’, passed onto someone (this is a very common custom in Turkey). I also suggested we be particularly mindful when people speak well of others behind their backs and to make a special point of passing on these words to the person concerned.

"During the last class – this is something I typically do now – I got us all to reflect on what we’ve learnt during the course and to write ourselves a letter with our reflections; then one or two months after the end of the course I post these letters off to remind ourselves of some of the things we learnt. I think this is an appreciated and effective little exercise.

"In February after much resistance (and hard work actually), I managed to complete recording a meditation CD. I did this at home, it’s not brilliant quality but it’s OK, it’s good enough. The CD includes six meditations in English and six in Turkish, some being sessions of guided Alexander Position. Already its proving to be useful and helpful.

"Last month (in May) I was invited back to Bilgi University to give 3 presentations on meditation to their students. Bilgi University is one of the most prestigious private universities in Turkey. I'd been there last year as well. I spoke on “Meditation: The Natural Medicine”, and covered some of my own experiences of meditation plus summaries of some research into meditation providing evidence for the physiological and psychological benefits of meditation. We had time for questions and lastly an opportunity to practise a short meditation.

"And lastly - right now - I’m in the middle of leading a 5-Week Mindfulness Meditation Course in both English and Turkish. It the first time I’ve led something in both languages, it’s quite challenging actually but I manage. Actually, I typically find it a privilege guiding people into a sense of stillness. This is the first course that I’ve made full use of the Meditation CD and people seem to be finding it very useful. The homework for this week is in two parts: to practise a short meditation every day (with one day off!) and perhaps more challengingly, to take one or two deep breaths whenever we notice that we’re criticising ourselves or others in thought or word. An interesting exercise! I look forward to people’s report back next week.

"I won’t make any definite promises but now I’ve broken my silence in this website, I hope to write more regularly.

"Kind wishes to the reader.

"Vajracaksu (Istanbul) PS - you can contact me here.

"...just like a beautiful flower which has colour and also has
perfume are the beautiful fruitful words of the person who
speaks and does what they say."
The Buddha

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