Given the overwhelming result of the recent poll you may be interested to know the results even if you will never attend a AICS retreats. Overall there was about 10% of you who voted; with the total number of votes recorded being twenty-one.

Here are the results to the question: what is your preferred retreat length?

7 days = 11 vote or 52% of the vote
10 days = 4 vote or 19% of the vote
14 days = 4 vote or 19% of the vote
21 days = 1 vote or 5% of the vote
30 days = 1 vote or 5% of the vote

With 52% of the vote, seven day retreats is the clear winner. Not unexpected I might add. Although, I did expect the result to be closer.

Then, continuing on the theme of meditation and retreats,  you may be interested to know that I have been speaking to a retreat centre regarding AICS retreats with the first to be scheduled for later in the year—probably October/November—should everything go to plan.

In other news: I have been working hard on the essay for this years Australian Meditation Conference http://www.australianmeditationconference.com.au. Tickets are still available, as they are for the one-day seminar on Mental Dysfunction and Meditation to be presented the following day.

I will be extending the material from the conference and seminar into course content for week-long AICS retreats moving forward. Thus far, I have written over 3,000 words of guided meditations; more than 5,000 words on the various cognitive, conative and affective imbalances that engender an unhealthy personal narrative—that is, the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves. Here is an unedited sample randomly copied from one of the sections of the conference paper:

The tendency towards an ongoing narrative—arising out of the mental imbalances of craving, conceit and views, to which the phrase proliferating tendencies (papañca) is traditionally used to describe the entire process—has been aptly characterized as “the tendency of the worldling’s, that is, an ordinary person’s imagination to break loose and run riot”. However, the tendency of conceptual proliferation is more than simply letting the imagination or discursive thought run free. It is perhaps better understood as a narrative, albeit one in which we are unaware that we are both the central character and its author. This dispositional narrative is, therefore, the tendency to misconstrue the nature of the narrative, following from an initial refracted cognition of the central character of that narrative. However, it is important to notice that underpinning this process of narration is the reified bifurcation of a subject of experience and the experienced object. For even if what is being experienced is merely a thought or mental image broken loosed from reality, it has only done so in the mistaken belief that the narration and its characters are really real, as aposed to merely conventionally real. This, in the Buddhist tradition, is what is known as reification (samāropa, sgro btags). Reification or superimposition is a cognitive process of imposing onto reality a mode of existence that is not really there viz. intrinsic existence. One may ask: what is the cause of this narrative? And the answer would be: the phenomenal structure of consciousness is embedded with an appearance of intrinsic nature, such that we believe in the givenness of these appearances. It is the givenness of these appearances, which in turn, color an ongoing narrative and thereby lead us to grasp at the central character of that narrative so tightly that it is in a sense dispositional. By strongly adhering to these appearances—and the subsequent narrative—we are bound to this obsessive-compulsive delusional disorder we call Saṃsāra. However, there is good news, and that is, this narrative is not inherently innate. We therefore have the potential of overcoming this simple cognitive mistake, and thereby—as the Buddha stated 2600 years ago—obtaining freedom from it.

While this is all quite technical, most of the course material is not. I am, however, trying to balance traditional ideas and ways of expression with those of contemplative science; deep philosophical ideas with simple meditations. Not to mention catering for new comers and old-hands (from all traditions) alike. I do think however that learning to think outside of your comfort zone is part of the process of expanding your mind. Therefore I see no harm in having some technical information in the course content.

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