Spotlight on Meditation Classes
ITP is one of the few accredited institutions in the world that offers a broad range of Masters and Ph.D. level courses in various fields related to Transpersonal Psychology. The following is a list of courses on meditation practices taught in the past. The particular electives offered by the Institute vary at any given time. The school tries to be responsive to the particular interests of the current student body and aims to have the curriculum reflect those interests. Information on current classes can be found in the academic catalog.
The only "tool" you really own is your consciousness: this includes your skills to perceive, to reason, to emotionally evaluate, to control your body, to access your instincts and higher faculties, etc. While high levels of development of consciousness are needed to cope adaptively with the world, especially in interacting with others, our educational system strongly tends to assume that we already have great skill in managing our consciousness, and spends its time filling us with more and more content to be managed. On many occasions you need to focus your attention in spite of distraction or conflicting emotions. The enormous amount of maladaptive perception, thought, feeling and behavior in everyday life, among people who are stuffed with more intellectual knowledge than most of the "wise" people in history ever had, testifies to the results of not teaching basic skills in understanding and using consciousness.
Contemporary psychology is just beginning to become aware that one of the most significant psychological dimensions affecting people's behavior is, to use Harvard psychologist Langer's term, "mindlessness." We now have enormous numbers of both experimental and clinical demonstrations to show that much of the time we live inside a kind of waking daydream. This means that our perceptions are often distorted and biased, as are our thinking and emotional evaluations. Consequently our behavior, based on biased and distorted understandings of our selves, of other people and of physical reality, is not only maladaptive but pathological in a way that further affects and distorts other's perceptions and reactions to us, in a vicious cycle.
G. I. Gurdjieff was an early pioneer in taking internal skills for developing awareness, perceptiveness, and wisdom, taught in the East, and experimenting with ways of making them accessible to modern Westerners. This course uses two books by the instructor and one by Gurdjieff's best-known student, P. D. Ouspensky, to provide conceptual scaffolding for the idea that we tend to live in a waking daydream, as well as drawing on modern psychological research. The primary emphasis, however, will be on learning and practicing techniques to bring attention back to basic perceptions of self, others, and world in the moment in order to produce more accurate perceptions of world and self.
In science, theory and understanding rest on fact and observation, data. A brilliant thinker, working with biased and inadequate data, will come up with intellectually (and emotionally) stimulating theories that are wrong: they don't really explain reality. Similarly in life, our beliefs and concepts can be no better than the data they are based on, so this course will constantly pull attention back to the raw data of perception and stress checking our concepts and understandings against this improved perception/data. While useful for everyone, these techniques should be especially valuable for counselors and therapists, where accurate perception of the client is of the essence.
Buddhism and Meditation
The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the central concepts of Buddhism, such as suffering and liberation from suffering, impermanence, self/no-self, emptiness, and enlightenment. These concepts are studied through discussion as well as experiential inquiry. The major Buddhist schools of thought and practice—Theravada, Zen, and Tibetan Buddhism—are taken up for detailed study. The unique forms of inquiry and meditative practice of each school are explored through guided meditation exercises.
The course is divided into three segments of 3-4 weeks. The first is focused on Theravada (text: What the Buddha Taught), with an emphasis on the basic teachings of the Buddha in the Pali Canon. The second explores Zen (text: The Zen Teaching of Master Lin-Chi, and Dissolving the Self: Zen Training in an American Monastery), and the last segment introduces Tibetan Buddhism (text: The Tantric Distinction).
Transpersonal Research Group: Meditation and Well Being
The purpose of this course is to involve students in experimental meditation research. Students will be asked to locate participants who have never before practiced meditation, instruct the participants, administer questionnaires, meet with them weekly for three weeks, practice the meditation with them, and interview the participants each week. In the assigned readings and in seminar meetings, we will study research methods, including experimental design, psychological assessment, issues in the study of meditation, qualitative and quantitative issues in the evaluation of data, and writing for publication. This project will be a pilot study evaluating meditation methods for studies examining the effects of several meditation techniques on physical and mental health, quality of life, and spiritual experience across the adult lifespan.
Psychology of Meditation
This course explores concentration and mindfulness methods of meditation, with a focus on physiology and psychotherapeutic aims of meditation. It provides an overview of the relationship of meditation to a variety of spiritual traditions.
Students will be encouraged to understand the place of meditation within the general field of spiritual development, as well as understand the basic distinctions between concentration and mindfulness meditation practices. Each student will review one spiritual tradition in some depth and demonstrate knowledge of the relationship of meditation to that tradition. With regard to the psychotherapeutic applications of meditation, students will learn to understand the psychophysiology of stress and the application of meditation as an aid in stress management, the psychotherapeutic implications of meditation practice, and the complex dynamics of introducing meditation practice into psychotherapy.