Week 1: Perspective
Some basic psychology, drawn from neuroscience, helps us understand how we can change.
After this session, participants will understand how this course works - they will understand that they will be given tools to explore their own unique experience.
Participants will also understand that the brain is a predictive engine and understand the implication of this that thoughts are predictions not truths.
To begin, the instructor introduces themselves, giving some information about their own previous life struggles and how the Odoki Method, or related, has helped them.
Then, each participant is asked to express what their reasons are for participating in this course. What does the participant want to see be different?
Exercise: Body Scan
The session starts with a short, 10 minute led body scan meditation. In this meditation, participants are guided around their physical experience, encouraged to notice what is happening in their body. They are encouraged to return to sensation if they find themselves thinking, and given permission to do this without self-judgement. The aim in this practice is to encourage exploration. There doesn’t need to be a goal, e.g. you don’t need to cover the whole body, for example. It would be possible to spend ten minutes just exploring sensations in the feet. Can I feel my toes? If not, what happens if I wiggle them a little? What pressure is there of feet against floor/etc? What parts of the foot are don’t have contact with the floor?
In this practice, participants are encouraged to explore the range of their experience, noticing the many things that are there, and how sometimes they are subtle and hard to find, but still present.
Presentation: Course Approach
This presentation introduces the course’s approach. The point of this course is to equip participants with the tools they need to work effectively with their own experience. Given their own experience is unique - no-one in the world has ever existed with this array of experience - the particular tools they will need will be unique.
Therefore, we cannot give participants a one-size-fits-all package and expect it to work. Instead, we will introduce participants to a number of approaches, and encourage them to try each approach out, and note which approach has the most beneficial effect. Experimentation here is not just allowed, it is encouraged. If a participant has an idea of something that they think might work, they are encouraged to try this out. The instructor will also be on-hand to support participants in this.
Exercise: A Household Object
Participants are asked to pick up a household object, e.g. a mug. They are then asked the (rather obvious) question: what do you have in front of you? They will likely say, “a mug”, or the like.
Then, we ask them, imagine we meet a martian that has never seen a mug (or whatever they chose). What would that martian see? Hopefully, they will recognise that the martian would see shape and colour. If they don’t see that, we guide them towards that observation.
Once we’ve got there, we ask them what happens differently when we look at the object? Can they see that they know it is a mug because they have seen mugs before? This shows that the object actually exists in memory and concept rather than in perception, it exists more inside ourselves than it does in the outside world.
Presentation: The Brain as Predictive Engine
The human brain cannot see the outside world. It is encased in a hard case - the skull. It finds out what is happening in the outside world via our sense organs. These provide raw information to the brain and the brain has to interpret this. To do this, it looks for patterns - where in previous experience has it seen this set of conditions before? Can it, on the basis of this comparison of current experience and past memory, form an idea of what it is that is in front of us? When we are looking at a car or a chair, this process is pretty straightforward. However, it is less straightforward when we try to answer questions such as, “are they lying to me?” In these scenarios, we can easily find ourselves with a case of “prediction error”, like when we see a snake, then later realise it is, in fact, a branch.
This observation is something we shall explore a lot in future weeks.
We shall conclude with a simple meditation where, after arriving in their bodies, participants are encouraged to pay attention to the sensations of breathing, noticing where in their body sensations related to breathing occur. Having noticed the sensations of breath, they are encouraged to locate one sensation, preferably in their torso, related to breathing. They simply stay with this sensation, noticing how it changes over time with the coming and going of the breath.
In this exercise, the participant is learning to stay with one thing. Curiosity is still developed, but this time just looking at one single aspect of experience.
Each day, participants are asked to do five minutes of meditation, alternating between these two practices: scanning and focusing.