This past weekend I did a 3 day Vipassana meditation course in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin as taught by S.N. Goenka.
Vipassana, according to Goenka, is a “nonsectarian” form of Buddhist meditation (I know that sounds somewhat contradictory), with strong similarities to the Theravada tradition in Buddhist practice. The majority of the practice entails observation of one’s breath, observation of one’s body sensations, and as an extension of this observation of all the psychosomatic “material” that emerges from the process. The discipline lies in developing equanimity with all that arises, which leads to insight.
It was my 4th course, and my experience has been consistently positive, this last course no different. It has helped me develop greater equanimity and inner peace, in particular in the face of life challenges. In this most recent course what stood out for me was the consistent way in which this meditation approach helps me tap into my unconscious complexes and dynamics, providing insights that allow us me to create new paths of personal and interpersonal health and wellness.
At least five people throughout my life have been instrumental in guiding me towards meditation practices.
The first was my dad, Claudio, who used to take me to La Gran Fraternidad Universal, a Mexican yoga group and movement. They had a center in East LA, which he used to take me to at the tender young age of 13 or 14. I still remember the freezing cold showers I was subjected to after our asanas, which from memory preceded meditation and / or corpse pose. I also remember the veggie burgers, they were still firmly in the developmental stage in the mid-80s, I’m glad R&D departments around the world continued refining them. Later my dad also introduced me to the work of Parmahansa Yogananda.
Another big influence has been my friend and colleague and PhD supervisor Sohail Inayatullah, who has consistently encouraged me to meditate, mostly through his own excellent example.
Oliver Markley, futurists and researcher of noetic technologies, who I studied with in 2000 in Houston, had a very large influence through his teaching of futures oriented visualization, guided meditation, and psychodynamic therapeutic processes. His suite of different approaches and techniques have had a fairly big impact on my life over time.
I also have to give some credit to my wife, De Chantal, who in 2003 began to attend the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO), began to meditate, and to provide some in-house domestic “modeling”!
However, my late friend and colleague Ken Fernandes introduced me to Vipassana, and the gift he gave me I can never reciprocate, except to be more public about the benefits of meditation, hence this post. Vipassana was the “ proof in the pudding” for me. For many years I practiced this or that type of meditation, without a strong sense of discipline or consistency. It was only have in a 10 day Vipassana course or witness the profound power of the technique in fostering personal and interpersonal health. I don’t think there’s any one path to meditation or inner work, it is really what works for each individual. I love the modern era’s promise of eclecticism across many traditions.
All of which has gotten me thinking about the inner game of futures. I’ve been introduced to lots of thinking and literature that’s helped to provide a window into the “inner”. At the former Australian Foresight Institute I was introduced to Spiral Dynamics, and the work of Ken Wilber. From Sohail I picked up Causal Layered Analysis and Voice Dialogue (Hal and Sidra Stone). All these perspectives and approaches are great resources, and they’ve by now been extensively woven into futures research and facilitation by various practitioners. In fact the last chapter of my dissertation employed a hybrid scenario building process drawing on the multiple-selves / owned-disowned selves approach of Nandy-Stone-Inayatullah, to develop four futures for the alternative globalization movement / process.
But what is most real to me at the moment is not abstract frameworks, ideas, theories or models, but rather how the use of a meditation technique can create such a qualitatively different outlook on the future itself. As much as these abstract frameworks are useful, I think we also need to include the practice of meditation and visualization as core elements in the inner game futures. Oliver Markley’s recent publication “Imaginal Visioning for Prophetic Foresight” is an important knowledge base and legacy. My hope is that our understanding and use of such techniques and technologies be further developed and fused with futures studies to better enable futures of health and well-being.