While we have witnessed over the past 20-30 years, an explosion of popular as well as scientific interest in meditative practices and their potential to foster greater mental and emotional well-being, the focus of The Baumann Institute will be on the scientific investigation of “direct path” or “non-dual” approaches to awareness and the discovery of well-being. In contrast to awareness practices that emphasize mental-emotional change, development, cultivation and control, direct path teachings affirm that awareness is already present and that it is therefore not necessary to change or alter phenomenal experiences in order to recognize and stabilize in and as awareness. The direct path approaches emphasize that nothing needs to be altered in order to become more aware because awareness is already present as the basis of all perception.

Alongside this view of awareness as always and already present as the basis of all phenomenal experience, the direct path traditions state that lasting mental-emotional well-being is realized, not by trying to alter, modify or otherwise transform afflictive states, but by simply allowing all states – positive, negative or neutral – to spontaneously arise and self-release. One then recognizes and becomes increasingly confident in the recognition that thoughts, feelings and sensations, regardless of their nature, are dependent upon and are the dynamic expression of naturally occurring awareness.

In this talk, we will be invited to consider that however well intentioned they may be, our efforts to either avoid, control, or alter disturbing mind states and experiences cannot possibly lead to an abiding sense of peace for the simple reason that such strategies invariably end up conditioning us to believe that our well-being is dependent upon the presence or absence of particular states or experiences.

Speaker: John Astin

John Astin received his PhD in Health Psychology from the University of California, Irvine and completed postdoctoral training at the Stanford University School of Medicine. From 2000-2002, he served on the faculty at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Since 2002, he has held an appointment as a research scientist at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, CA where he serves as the co-director of the Mind-Body Medicine Research Group.

Along with his scholarly pursuits, John is also an accomplished singer, songwriter and recording artist having produced 6 albums of original spiritual-contemplative music that are distributed worldwide. He is also the author of Too Intimate for Words, and This Is Always Enough, collections of poetry and prose reflections on the nature of non-dual awareness.

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