Introduction to Meditation
A four-week course for beginners to receive in-depth Tibetan Buddhist meditation instructions, practice with others, and experience the benefits of meditation. Offered twice-a-year online or in-person in Missoula, Montana.
Our next course will begin in October of 2023. If you’re interested in attending this teaching either in-person or online, use the form below to receive program updates.
From the moment we wake up until we fall asleep, our minds are working. How familiar are we with what’s actually happening in our minds? And how attached are we to the stories that our minds create? When our minds are untrained, we are likely to experience stress, anxiety, emotional pain and so forth. When we familiarize ourselves with the happenings of our minds, we can uncover and rest in the peaceful state that is always available to us.
In our Introduction to Meditation four-part online and in-person series, we will cultivate habits of seeing and relating to our own inner and outer worlds in a new way that brings us comfort and ease. We will discuss various types of meditation practices and their benefits while focusing on the practice of Calm Abiding (Shamata) meditation.
We will meet for four consecutive weeks, each session will last one and a half hours and will be made up of short periods of instruction followed by many short meditation sessions.
What is Calm Abiding or Shamata Meditation?
Calm Abiding meditation serves as the foundation for all other practices within Tibetan Buddhism. Sometimes spelled Shamatha or Shamata, it is a technique used to develop our power of attention and bring our thoughts to a peaceful state. Then we practice resting the mind in that state, which feels like a vacation for our often scattered and distracted minds.
There are various techniques for developing Calm Abiding, and in this course we will learn and practice the basic techniques found in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Calm Abiding serves as the stable ground from which we can move into practices such as Vipassana (Special Insight) meditations on selflessness and emptiness which serve to uproot our habitual patterns and eliminate obscurations that prevent us from seeing reality as it is.
Among many benefits, regular meditation practice helps us live from a truer perception of reality; the reality that we are all a part of the great ocean of awareness. Through consistent practice we learn to see the whole ocean, not just the surface waves. That ocean (including, but not only, the waves) is the true source of all happiness, and a freedom from suffering. This is
the goal of meditation we’ve all long sought. With these methods, we can make real progress toward that goal—our true home.
Benefits of Meditation
● Improve overall physical, mental, and emotional health
● Decrease stress
● Alleviate anxiety and depression
● Manage chronic pain
● Improve sleep
This program is taught by Justin Kirkwood, a Tibetan translator and Buddhist educator at the Namchak Foundation, who has studied and practiced Buddhist meditation for 20+ years. He has served for many years as Namchak Khen Rinpoche’s interpreter for all of his meditation teachings, personal interviews, and more.
What Participants Can Expect
● Explanations on various kinds of meditations and the specific role of Calm Abiding.
● In-depth instructions and discussions on preparing to meditate.
● Calm Abiding instructions and practice sessions.
● Ideas and advice about integrating meditation into daily life.
Given the cumulative nature of the content, attendance at all four sessions is highly encouraged. Videos will be made available if you are unable to attend all of the sessions.
Who is This Course For?
● Total beginners who want to find out more about meditation.
● Those who attended “Stepping into Meditation and Community” and want to learn more about Calm Abiding.
● Those with some experience meditating but want instruction from a teacher.
● Those who want to learn a specific technique of meditation that they can continue after the class.
● Those who are curious about our Walking the Path program and the practices entailed in the program.
● Anyone curious about Tibetan Buddhist meditation and the practice of Calm Abiding or Shamata.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to be a practicing Buddhist to take this course?
No, no experience is required.
If I am attending in person, do I need to bring anything?
Wear clothes comfortable for meditation and bring a small notebook and a pen.
Is previous meditation experience required to take this course?
No, anyone is welcome to join, from beginners to advanced meditators.
If I miss a teaching, will I have access to the recordings?
Yes, recordings will be sent out within a couple of days after each teaching.
Will there be time to meditate together?
Yes, the class will be broken up into small sets of instructions interspersed with group meditations.
Is Calm Abiding the same as mindfulness?
No, but mindfulness and mindfulness meditation have many different interpretations. Often, mindfulness meditation means “non-judgmental open awareness” and that is different from calm abiding, which is a kind of concentration meditation used to bring the mind to a state of focused rest.
Is Calm Abiding the same as Vipassana?
No, in the Tibetan tradition, calm abiding is the foundation of Vipassana. Vipassana is an insight meditation and calm abiding prepares the mind to gain that insight by focusing and stabilizing it.
What are the benefits of Calm Abiding meditation?
Calm abiding brings your mind’s scattered and distracted energy into focus so that you may focus on one thing in a calm and peaceful way. The benefits of this include gaining a general sense of calm, an ability to focus on the task at hand, a feeling of mentally slowing down and seeing your thoughts more clearly. The traditional and main benefit is that calm abiding prepares the mind for further, more advanced levels of meditation.
What is the difference between the Introduction to Meditation program and Stepping into Meditation and Community program?
Introduction to Meditation is a 4-week program which focuses on the practice of Calm Abiding. Each course session is led by Justin Kirkwood and will offer a blend of teaching instruction and ample time for meditation practice. Stepping into Meditation and Community is a 6-week program intended to introduce a variety of practices including Calm Abiding, Tonglen or Compassion meditation, and Loving Kindness practice. The course is led by a live facilitator, each session is a blend of teaching, with ample time for community discussion. Students spend time in each course session practicing meditation.
Meet Your Instructor!
About Justin Kirkwood:
Justin Kirkwood works as a Tibetan translator and Buddhist educator at the Namchak Foundation. He is a Namchak Khen Rinpoche’s close student and serves as his primary interpreter. Justin began his study and practice of Buddhism and the Tibetan language in his home state of Indiana. He was quickly inspired by the idea of learning Buddhism through the Tibetan language in a traditional setting and so he set off with a one-way ticket to India. By living with Tibetans and avoiding the English language at all costs, he quickly became fluent in Tibetan and began his studies in earnest.
After studying essential topics of functions and categories of mind, Buddhist logic and epistemology, and tenet systems at Sera Monastery and the Thosamling Institute (where he also served as interpreter), he ordained and formally entered the Sherabling Institue for Higher Buddhist Studies (Lungrik Jampeling). There he studied The Way of the Bodhisattva, Collected Topics, the Pamanavarttika, the Treasury of Valid Cognition and Reasoning, the Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way, and other branch topics of Buddhist philosophy. Following his studies, he returned his monastic vows and spent another couple of years receiving practice instructions and doing retreats in Tsopema, an important pilgrimage site of Padmasambhava. He finally returned to the United States after eight years in India. Soon after, Justin met Namchak Khen Rinpoche, and both instantly felt a connection as if they were old friends.
They have worked together as teacher and student as well as teacher and interpreter ever since. Over the years, Justin has studied with and served as an interpreter for many other excellent teachers such as Gochen Tulku Sangak Rinpoche, Jigme Namgyal Rinpoche, Lho Ontrul Rinpoche, Chamtrul Rinpoche, Dzogchen Ganor Rinpoche, Khenpo Tsulnam Rinpoche, Drupon Tsering, Lama Wangdor Rinpoche, and Geshe Tsewang Nyima. His teachers in India instructed him that he must teach when returned home. To fulfill their wishes, he teaches meditation and sutra-level Buddhist philosophy as well as assists Namchak Khen Rinpoche with all his programs and students here at the Namchak Foundation.
What People are Saying
“It’s really easy to understand and apply. Justin has made me understand that I should probably just do less. I was worried more about doing things correctly and that made me miss the point of the exercise.”
“The teaching was very helpful. I appreciate that Justin is so patient and non-judgmental.”
“Very informative. The steps are laid out very well. Justin is an excellent instructor.”
“Justin provides Western students of Tibetan Buddhism an outstanding opportunity to receive authentic teachings. He understands the cultural differences which often limit our abilities to grasp subtle spiritual concepts;he creates a bridge between where we are and where we must go if we wish to truly understand and apply the Dharma.”
Sign up below to receive program updates and course information for Introduction to Meditation.Sign up
Stepping into Meditation and Community
Walking the Path
Join our Community!
Subscribe to our enewsletter to stay up-to-date on retreats, new eCourses, guided meditations,
our retreat ranch, Tibetan Buddhist wisdom, and the Compassion in Action Network.