Foundations of a Soulmaking Dharma
An online study and practice course guided by Catherine McGee
9 Weeks of practice and focused study of Soulmaking Dharma: re-evaluating emptiness, imagination, sacredness and desire
Online Course Overview
|Application time frame||August 1 - Sept 24, 2019|
|Course dates||Oct 20 - Dec 22, 2019|
|Time commitment||8 - 10 hours per week|
|Prerequisite||3 week-long silent meditation retreats, or equivalent experience|
|Self-Paced components||• Guided meditations
• Video presentations
• Self-reflection exercises
• Short practice assignments
|Interactive components||• Weekly 90 minute small group practice meeting with facilitation
• Weekly sharing on written forum
• Three optional 90-minute whole group meetings facilitated by Catherine McGee
|Small Group Facilitation||Facilitated by experienced students of Soulmaking Dharma
Two Paths to choose from
Online Course Only
Online course and residential course
Completion of this online course is a prerequisite for the Soulmaking Dharma residential program at BCBS January 10-16, 2020. Participants who wish to attend the residential course must complete the online Foundations course in 2019, however it is not necessary to attend the residential course if a student wishes to only participate in the online course.
In addition to completion of the online “Foundations of a Soulmaking Dharma” program, those interested in attending the 2020 residential program are asked to have listened and practiced with the following talks listed here.
This online course is a contemplative and thoughtful look into the Foundations of a Soulmaking Dharma that will prepare participants to engage with the Soulmaking Dharma teachings in beneficial ways.
What is Soulmaking Dharma?
Rooted in the Buddha's teaching of emptiness, ethics and meditative training, Soulmaking Dharma is emerging as one of the flowerings of the Dharma in our times.
Our Buddhist practice reveals to us that perception is empty and malleable and that we inevitably participate in making our world through the ways we sense and see. Understanding this, the soulmaking practitioner learns to open and tune their heart, body, imagination, desire and intellect to form an instrument for soulful perception: sensing and seeing self, others and world in ways that bring more beauty and meaningfulness, and that restore, open and expand senses of sacredness.
Here, the depths and subtleties of meditative practice, the particularities of the individual and their personal journeys, and the gifts, complexities and sufferings of our time can all find a place in a responsive, intelligent, and soulful Dharma.
Soulmaking Dharma teachings rest upon practices of samatha, metta, emptiness, and the emotional/energy body. The Soulmaking teachings are laid out in several hundred hours of Dharma talks by Rob Burbea and Catherine McGee on Dharmaseed.org.
Catherine McGee has been teaching Insight Meditation retreats internationally since 1999, and since 2014 has been collaborating with Rob Burbea in shaping and teaching Soulmaking Dharma. She is a member of the Gaia House teacher council, teaches yearly at IMS, and is a guiding teacher for One Earth Sangha – a web-based sangha exploring Buddhist responses to the climate crisis.
This course requires considerable commitment from participants. We require attendance at weekly virtual meetings, as well as completion of writing prompts and course assignments throughout the program. The required time commitment is roughly 8-10 hours per week. Each week includes:
- 45 minutes of video presentation by Catherine McGee introducing the theme of the week
- 45 minutes of daily practice with guided meditations
- Completion of a self-reflection exercise
- Contribution to discussion boards
- In addition, participants will meet each week in a small group of about 8 with a facilitator via video conferencing for a 90 minute live practice meeting, with guided peer inquiry exercises and discussion around the soulmaking foundation of the week.
- There will be an optional, full course meeting facilitated by Catherine McGee at the beginning, middle, and end of the course.
- A spirit of playfulness and enjoyment will be invited in all of the practices, both alone and together, and an atmosphere of discernment of and care for your particular learning styles will be supported.
The Foundations curriculum includes a thoughtful and contemplative exploration of the following themes from a Soulmaking Dharma perspective.
Tuning the Body Awareness for Soulful Perception
- different modes of mindfulness of the body
- “sensitive to the whole body” – some of the ways in which this can be experienced
- ‘energy/emotional body’ – the what, how and why of attending to the body in this way
- body as an instrument for soulful perception
- restoration of ways of knowing
- the trajectory of body awareness practices for this course
Opening the Dharma of Desire
- the path of unbinding craving and clinging
- views and assumptions about desire in Dharma practice
- recognizing and working with views of self, and the energetic and emotional patternings that arise with desire, e.g. lack, fear, frustration, expectation, entitlement, despair, confusion, etc.
- skills with the arising of desire – including 'opening to the current of desire’
- the necessity of ‘eros’ for soulmaking
- discriminating and uncoupling ‘eros’ from craving and clinging
The Place of Imagination
- defining terms for a Soulmaking Dharma: ‘image’, ‘psyche’ and ‘imagination’
- suspicions of and restrictions on the use of imagination
- discerning what allows imagination to become a contemplative faculty
- recognizing how ‘image’ is already operating when you are devoted to something
- the necessity of imagination for soulmaking
- imaginal perception: sense of ‘dimensionality', 'unfathomable beyonds', ‘eternality’, ‘irreducibility to a single meaning'
The Necessity of Ideas
- acknowledging the power of ideas, and recognizing that concepts and conceptual frameworks are inevitably operating in the forming of any perception and in the shaping of our sense of self, other and world in any moment
- recognizing how concepts operate in meditation practice; artful use of concepts in meditation
- recognizing and loosening attachment to ideas to which we unconsciously default
- knowing the issues that arise for you when working with ideas and intellect
- inquiring into the kinds of ideas and conceptual frameworks that can support soulful perception in meditation and in sensing the world with soul
Emptiness and its Implications for Soulfulness
- different understandings/realizations of emptiness within the Buddhist tradition, and their implications for the possibilities of soulmaking
- Kaccayanagotta sutta (SN 12.15) and the middle way between the assertion of ‘real’ and ‘not real’
- conceiving of practice as the development of flexibility and skill with a range of 'ways of looking'
- The 'spectrum of fabrication of perception' – papanca, bare attention, practices that significantly lessen fabricating, and skillful fabricating
Relationality and the Necessity of Twoness
- roots in the Four Divine Abidings (the Brahmaviharas)
- the necessity of ‘twoness’
- ‘loving and being loved’
- ‘seeing and being seen’
- ‘autonomy of self and other’
- ‘humility’, ‘trust’, ‘reverence’, ‘grace’, ‘beauty’
A Soulful Relationship with Dukkha
- developing the range of skills for working with dukkha
- approaching emotions via the ‘energy body’
- agency and surrender, doing and not doing
- ideas about dukkha on the path of practice
- ensouling dukkha
- narratives of healing
Your Inheritance of Soulfulness
- your access to these possible ways of knowing: imaginative; emotional; conceptual; aesthetic; ethical; somatic; intuitive; instinct for soul
- reflection on the gifts, sensibilities, perspectives and dukkhas of all your lineages, human and more than human
- which of the 28 elements of 'sensing with soul' are already doorways for you and which are more vague?
Application Process and Criteria for Selection
Please note that the application for this course is quite detailed, and will require some time to complete. Applications close on September 24. After an application is submitted, it will be reviewed by the BCBS Online Programs team and the course teacher. Applicants will be notified as to their admission status regarding both the online and residential course by September 22.
The prerequisite experience for this online course is having sat three week-long silent Insight meditation retreats. If a participant does not have this experience but feels prepared to participate in the course, there will be an opportunity to describe equivalent experience on the application.
The prerequisite experience for the residential program participation in the online Foundations of a Soulmaking Dharma course, as well as experience listening to and practicing with the talks presented here, (also posted on the retreat application page) prior to the residential program January 10-16, 2020.
Acceptance into the program is contingent upon a short virtual conversation (approximately 10 minutes) with BCBS staff to ensure clarity of commitment and comfort level with technology.
Small group meeting times and full course meeting dates are listed here and on the application form.
A Diversity of Souls
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-355-2347 ex. 16 to share any feedback regarding ways that we could make the application process or participation in the course more accessible for you or others.
This online course will follow the Buddha's principle of ethics as the foundation for Soulmaking practice. Participation in this course is supported by group commitment to respect and non-harming, applying to both communication with others and also to one's personal relationship with the practice.
Program Fee, Teacher Dāna and Scholarships
The course fee is $450. This does not include financial support for Catherine. As is customary at BCBS, there will be an opportunity to offer dāna at the end of the program.
We are committed to making this program accessible to all. Financial assistance is available to help supplement the course fee. Requests for financial assistance may be made in the registration process. If accepted into the course, a 30%, 40% or 50% scholarship can be selected on the registration page, and it will be applied directly. If the financial assistance need is over 50% of the course fee, there is a space to indicate what amount of the course fee would be affordable, and we will offer what we can to accommodate the request. We generally only offer financial assistance one time per person per year so as to make this support available to as many students as possible.
Applications Open: August 1
Applications Close: September 24
Initial Accepted Applicants Notified: October 1
Pre-course Interviews and Registration: October 6-10
*If accepted, course payment will be required within 3 days from virtual interview
Enrollment Period: October 13-16
Fall 2019 Course Dates: October 20-December 22 (no meetings held the week commencing 11/24)