Karuna Training: Cultivating Intimacy through Compassionate Exchange
By Melissa Moore
We live in a time where we connect within a second of space and time around the world. We can connect with millions on social media platforms simultaneously! And still, person to person, family to a family member, lover to partner to spouse, friend to friend; we possess a deep longing to be seen, heard, understood, and authentically met in a heartfelt, compassionate presence.
As a practitioner of Contemplative Psychology and as a teacher, I’ve seen how we are starving to death for genuine heart connections. We’re forever seeking a mutual exchange versus regular exchanges encountered daily, fraught with jockeying for position, domination, and status. You know the interactions I’m speaking about, where we or someone else is vying for position, importance, confirmation, and approval.
This jockeying for status can be subtle; we notice how someone tells us about their excellent plans for the weekend at work; all the while letting us know how their projects are so exotic or expensive. Or we can sense when a family member makes non-verbal assumptions while we’re talking, and we instantly feel a lack of approval. These interactions are all conditioned habits of mind, and learning to hold our habitual ways of exchanging with others with loving-kindness is a path of awareness in Karuna Training.
Recently I heard A.H.Almaas talk about the importance of bringing our instinct for companionship and community to conscious awareness. He labeled this instinct for intimacy, Intimacy consciousness. He said, “Intimacy with consciousness and intimacy with others is how the heart matures and ripens.” He emphasized how intimacy is not immediate, that we have to create a path of surrendering to our interconnectedness with the world. This path of surrender is what we talk about in Karuna Training as the practice of compassionate exchange.
I’ve personally experienced intimacy consciousness and witnessed participants discovering this consciousness through my many years of leading Karuna Training. In addition, the two-year training cultivates a thirst for an open experience of non-duality or interconnectedness with others and the world. In Buddhism, this experience is called shunyata, or the discovery of our true nature, unbound openness.
We merely glimpse this openness in the beginning, but with practice and intentionality, we eventually incorporate a baseline trust in non-dual exchange. We learn to lead with selfless surrender in our interactions, to be present and available to others. Karuna Training is about learning to trust in intimacy consciousness, an open-hearted exchange with our world.
The world’s seen and unseen forces are magical, available to be communicated with, longing to make contact, and an open-source in which to resource ourselves. Karuna Training is a place to grow trust in intimacy, love, respect, and kindness toward ourselves first and then others. The entire training is held within a closed community cohort, and in this field of familiarity and like-minded aspirations, we practice living in a mutually beneficial compassionate exchange.
Karuna Training begins May 4- 7, 2022, with an in-person retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center. This next program will prove to be exceptional for many reasons! First, we are returning to the home where other Karuna Faculty and I first learned Maitri Space Awareness (MSA). I am experiencing a full circle, a sense of the training coming home. Secondly, we have access to the Maitri Rooms, a first time for Karuna Training. Third, we offer a hybrid program with in-person retreats and online courses. This new curriculum allows more accessibility and integrates better into one’s life.
The Maitri Rooms are a physical structure housed at SMC specifically for the practice of Maitri Space Awareness. The rooms are immersive experiences of the five colors; white, blue, yellow, red, and green. Each room has a shape and colored windows that correlate with the different postures. The practice is to take specific postures within each room for a designated time and afterward wader aimlessly in nature. Through Maitri Space Awareness we are attuning to the nuance of energetic awareness and our lens on reality Maitri is never done without the complement of mindfulness-awareness.
MSA is the crucial method by which Karuna Training marries Tantric Buddhism with a western Psychological experiential process. Yet we are non-denominational in that one doesn’t need to be a Buddhist or any kind of therapist either. Instead, the training and methods introduced in Karuna cultivate making deep friends with ourselves exactly as we are, without trying to fix or change ourselves. Eventually, the second part of the training extends our conviction of basic sanity toward others. We practice doing so through open-hearted inquiry, deep listening, and hearing practice, which we call compassionate exchange.
We are gathering together and filling up the next Karuna Training cycle in May 2022 at SMC! A few seats are still open, so apply now to reserve your place for an extraordinary two-year certificate journey of deep community, compassionate reflection, and to learn how to resource ourselves with our emotions in our lives.
Please check us out in the upcoming SMC offering by Melissa Moore
About the Author: Melissa Moore
Melissa Moore Ph.D. Steward of the North American Karuna training since 2014, and co-founded Karuna Europe in 1996. Melissa has her MA in Contemplative Psychotherapy from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and her Ph.D. in Psychological Anthropology from the California Institute of Integral Studies.
Melissa has been a student of Vajrayana Buddhism and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche since 1979. Melissa has taught Karuna Training in nine countries and in four states in the U.S. Melissa has an extensive background in mental health, treatment design, and training front-line providers in evidence-based practices. Melissa recently published The Diamonds Within Us: Uncovering Brilliant Sanity Through Contemplative Psychology; find out more about the book here: https://thediamondswithinus.org.
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