What is Awakening? Part I

Course Description

In this course, Tina gives an overview of awakening across various wisdom traditions, including Theravada Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Hindu Traditions, and non-dual teachings. She provides in-depth instructions for 2 out of 4 categories of meditation practice rooted in tradition and confirmed by neuroscience: Heart-based and Focused Attention Meditation. In addition, she conducts guided meditation sessions for the above two categories that can be used as additional instructions to practice on our own. Tina clarifies misconceptions and highlights the importance of embodiment and integrating the spiritual experience into everyday life. She concludes the course with the topics of cessation, transformation, and transcendence, which will help us to tune into our own “flame for awakening”.

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Course Lessons

1. Program Overview

In this section, Tina introduces the What is Awakening Program and its main components. She briefly covers four main categories of meditation practices that are used to categorize practices across all traditions and that have been confirmed by neuroscience. Also, she talks about the main topics and techniques within each category that are covered in the program.

2. Course Introduction

In this introductory section, Tina talks about the intent behind the What is Awakening Program and presents the course structure.

3. Stages in Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism

In this lesson, Tina talks about four stages of practice in Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism, which include Sila – right living, Samatha – purification of the mind, Vipassana – purification of view, and Rigpa – a taste of awakening. She explains the importance of each stage and demonstrates the connection of those stages to practitioners’ meditation journey and daily life. She also illustrates how each stage corresponds to each meditation category that will be taught in this course.

4. Four Categories of Meditation Practices

In this lesson, Tina presents the four categories of meditation practices. The first category is heart-based meditation practices, including Bodhicitta and Brahmavihārās. These practices cultivate loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity and are essential for maintaining our open-heartedness in the face of a variety of life situations. The second category is focused attention practices – Samatha, which is critical for unifying the mindstream and develop a laser-like focus needed to cut through our normal perception of reality to a more fundamental one. The third category is open-monitoring practices, which are essential for purifying the view by investigating our internal and external moment-to-moment experience. The fourth category is self-transcending practices, which can help open the dimension of non-duality, leading to awakening.

5. First Category: Heart-based Meditation

In this lesson, Tina deep dives into the first category: heart-based meditation practices. She starts by describing our role and responsibilities as practitioners and how our behaviors and practice affect the collective consciousness. Tina also talks about the importance of heart-based practices in our meditation journey and why we should consider practicing them. Finally, she provides an in-detail overview of Bodhicitta and Brahmavihārās practices.

6. Guided Heart-based Meditation

In this section, Tina conducts guided Bodhicitta and Brahmavihārās practices of Metta (loving-kindness) meditation. This section will serve as an instruction for us to practice heart-based meditation on our own.

7. Misperceptions About Awakening

In this lesson, Tina talks about common misperceptions about awakening that are prevalent in society today. She discusses topics such as awakening being not a one-time event but more of a staged journey; awakening not making people perfect or completely eliminating their suffering; awakening being available for anyone willing to explore; and others.

8. Definition of Awakening

In this section, Tina introduces the definition of awakening based on multiple traditions. She talks about the 51% rule where our identity shifts from a sense of self (ego-self) to a more fundamental ground of being. She covers aspects of awakening in various traditions, including no-self, non-duality, emptiness, and unity/oneness. Also, Tina talks about the stages of awakening in Theravada Buddhism: Stream Entry,  Once returner, No returner, and Arahant.

9. Awakening in Buddhist Traditions

In this lesson, Tina explains how awakening is seen in Buddhist traditions. She provides a short overview of the Theravada model of awakening, Zen model of awakening (Mahayana Buddhism), and Tibetan Buddhism model of awakening (Vajrayana Buddhism). As Tina mentions in her speech, the lesson’s intent is to provide an opportunity to explore different ways of understanding awakening and choose the one(s) that feels right for us.

10. Awakening in Hinduism and Non-duality

In this lesson, Tina explains how awakening is viewed in Hinduism and compares this view to the one held in Buddhist traditions. She explains aspects of the awakening journey related to insight practices, energetic and physical realms, and views on the path. Also, she talks about dimensions of non-duality that we can experience on our journey to awakening.

11. Transformation and Transcendence

In this lesson, Tina talks about another way of understanding the awakening journey – through the lenses of transformation and transcendence. She starts with transformation elements of the journey that relate to working with our personality, conditioning, patterns, and hindrances and then moves to transcendence elements of the journey that relate to the experience of our deeper nature. In addition, Tina covers the stages of transformation and transcendence.

12. Cessation

In this lesson, Tina explains the phenomenon of cessation, which can happen on the journey toward awakening. She explains what cessation is and what happens when we experience it.  She also covers cessation from the point of view of different traditions.

13. Second Category: Focused Attention Meditation

In this lesson, Tina deep dives into the second category of meditation practice: focused attention. She provides a brief background and explanation of what the focused attention category of meditation is. Tina covers the reasons to practice it, including concentration, thinning the sense of self, and purification of the mindstream. She then provides in-detail instructions for the Samatha meditation as taught in the Pa-Auk Sayadaw lineage. In addition, Tina explains what is cultivated through the practice of Samatha, including the capacity to let go, building space around our stories, the ability to not identify with our patterns, conditioning, and defensive mechanisms, and the ability to rest in the object of meditation to settle in our deeper nature. Tina also covers the topic of the focused-attention category of meditation, serving as a foundation to practice the other categories.

14. Guided Focused-Attention Meditation

In this section, Tina conducts guided Samatha meditation. Before the guided meditation, she provides instructions related to objects of attention, posture, and supporting elements to maintain concentration.  This section will serve as an instruction for us to practice Samatha on our own.

15. The Enlightenment Drive

In this section, Tina talks about the drive for enlightenment that we tend to experience as a yearning for a state of awakening or for getting in touch with our deeper nature.  She starts with the basic human drives, including the instinct for survival and self-preservation, the sexual instinct, and the social instinct. Tina also discusses how compulsive behavior for better, bigger, and newer is something we need to be conscious of in our awakening journey. She also talks about how the psychological aspect of the sexual instinct can overlay where it becomes compulsive and excessive, leading toward imbalance. Finally, she talks about the drive for enlightenment that some of us experience and how the other instincts become subsumed under it. Tina discusses various ways we tend to feel and experience that drive and how we can put those feelings into action. She also provides suggestions on maintaining motivation and inspiration for awakening when dealing with challenging situations, complex personality material, and basic instincts.

16. Course Conclusion

In this section, Tina summarizes the material covered in the What is Awakening Program Part I and provides a brief overview of the material that will be covered in Part II.

Tina Rasmussen

Tina Rasmussen

Tina is a meditation teacher who leads retreats and offers spiritual guidance and mentoring to practitioners worldwide. Her mission as a teacher is to foster awakening and its embodiment in worldly life through the application of authentic, rigorous Buddhist and modern practices.

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