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Cultivating the Dharma, Understanding the Brain

03 May 2022 2:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Finding a way to give people a 21st Century insight to promote an understanding of ancient Buddhist practice is what Alex Lerner and Ken Lenington are offering in a one-day online workshop May 14 called “Cultivating the Dharma, Understanding the Brain.”

The workshop will give participants an opportunity to more deeply penetrate the workings of their minds by understanding their brains. It will have added dimensions beyond what has been offered in the past and will be suitable for practitioners at all levels of experience. It will be from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

“I’ve been exposed to many theoretical models for understanding psychology and mind,” Alex said in a recent interview with Mindfulness Matters,“but I have never come across anything as comprehensive as Buddhism to take on the deep understanding of why we suffer and how that continues to happen in modern life.

“With a mindfulness practice, we have the capacity to counter the deep conditioning that we have cultivated over many years and which causes us to continue to follow a path of suffering and chasing symptoms,” Alex said.

“Our mind is incredibly complex but nevertheless, mutable,” Alex said. “We need to understand why our brain is operating the way that it does and most important, because of the adaptation of neuroplasticity, that it has the incredible capacity to change how it functions.  Making the change, however, is the result of an active and deliberate process rather than a passive one, and it therefore, takes intention, commitment, discipline and practice.”

Alex, a retired ob-gyn physician from Tampa, unceremoniously and unintentionally encountered Buddhism after he retired from clinical practice. Throughout his medical career, his orientation had mostly been based on the physical body, but when he retired, he became interested in the mind.

“What is wrong, what hurt, what needed to be fixed was my job as a trained surgeon,” he said. “When I was focused on healing the body, I was trying to make it whole or ‘right,’ but I never thought deeply about making my focus be the impact of the mind.” After Alex took an eight-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class, which was his introduction to meditation, it led him to sangha, which led him to a spiritual path, which was quite foreign to him.

“It is quite remarkable to see how a 2,600-year-old tradition is right in step with 21st Century findings in neuroscience regarding the function of the mind. It is interesting to be reminded that the only thing that the Buddha had to develop his insights and practice was his extraordinary observational ability to see and understand the human condition and how it functioned as people lived. Those observations from 2,600 years ago now align with what we have learned from 21st Century technologies.

“If you can give a person a reason why their brain works in a certain way, maybe we can give that person some assistance to help them understand how to change how they use their brain.” 

For the most part, we’ve been conditioned to exist in a material world, which we needed to master on a non-spiritual path. Is that prescribed path to happiness working as promised?

How do you change that which you have trained yourself to do for so long? Were we born stressed and overwhelmed? Why do most of us have a negative bias? Why are we preoccupied with the future?

The workshop will explore these questions as well as exploring our emotions as part of the human condition. People say, “I can’t help it, I’m just angry or anxious,” but where did that come from?  What is the Buddhist and neuroscientist's understanding of an emotion? 

The workshop will also help participants understand the “self” that Buddhist teachings tell us is a fabrication but that we are conditioned to believe actually exists. Why does it seem so counterintuitive to think that we do not really exist as a separate and independent self? Can we come to see the “self” as a “useful fiction,” designed to help us navigate the relative, or worldly, world as a convenience? 

Ken, a retired psychiatrist and addiction specialist from Asheville, NC, will add depth in discussion of Dharma and its correlation to neuroscience.

Both Alex and Ken are ordained members of the Order of Interbeing and are long-time members of FCM. Ken is a leader for numerous workshops, retreats and intensive practices. 

Florida Community of Mindfulness, Tampa Center
6501 N. Nebraska Avenue
Tampa, FL 33604

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