Learn a 9-step process of analytical meditation specially adapted to a skeptical 21st century audience. This 12-week course presents a developmental sequence of 9 meditations that help you bring out your best qualities, manage life’s difficulties, strengthen your relationships, and be a force for good in the world. The Skeptic’s Path meditation sequence is based on the thousand-year-old Tibetan Buddhist lamrim (stages of the path) adapted to a secular form. It allows people to experience the profound benefits of Buddhist analytical meditation without requiring belief in spiritual ideas like rebirth and karma unverifiable by modern science.
Registered students have access to weekly video lectures, guided meditations, reflection sheets, quizzes, a private course discussion group, and a live weekly video meeting with instructor Scott Snibbe, with a replay available for those unavailable to attend in person.
Each of the twelve classes teaches one analytical meditation technique to meet everyday challenges like distraction, anxiety, hopelessness, anger, conflict, and craving.
Detailed meditation instructions proactively strengthen the best aspects of your character like self-acceptance, gratitude, compassion, openness, courage, confidence, and wonder.
Class 1. What Is Meditation?
Meditation isn’t just a tool to improve focus or relax, but a way to strengthen the positive qualities we all naturally possess: compassion, kindness, generosity, patience, humor, and finding joy in everyday life. Learn what the difference is between mindfulness meditation, the calming meditation that focuses your mind, and analytical meditation, the active type of meditation that steers your mind toward its best qualities.
Class 2. What is the Mind?
Science still has no agreed definition for consciousness or mind. But through meditation, we can subjectively explore the mind. In the second stage, we ask What is the mind? If the mind is our thoughts, then what is it that observes those thoughts? What are we without thoughts? Do we ever truly see an object, or only its mental reconstruction? And maybe most importantly, how can we transform our mind toward happiness, presence, and connection?
Class 3. The Preciousness of Life
Voltaire once said, “It is not more surprising to be born twice than once.” But whether we believe we have one life or many, it’s easy to take our life for granted: our relationships, possessions, our health, body, mind. In the third stage, we contemplate the miracle of existing at all, from our place at the end of our universe’s 14 billion years’ evolution, to the simple joy of another 24 hours alive.
Class 4. Embracing Impermanence
“Every moment is new” is of the simplest and most powerful Buddhist teachings. In the fourth stage, we talk about impermanence. We tend to cling to things as if they won’t change, but change is the nature of reality. When we embrace impermanence, we prepare ourselves for big changes, and can let go of our fear and anxiety to become more fully present to those around us and make the most meaningful choices day-to-day. Embracing impermanence even helps even to enjoy life’s fleeting pleasures more fully, without fear that they’ll end or craving for more.
Class 5. Mental Cause and Effect
Science has greater and greater mastery in understanding and controlling physical cause and effect, from planets to particles, but we are only starting to understand cause and effect in our minds. Evolution, habits, and society all affect our behavior. In the fifth class we talk about how we can gain conscious control of our behavior, thoughts, and habits.
Class 6. What Do You Do When You’re Alone?
What do you do when you’re alone? When you’re scared, anxious, lonely, or afraid, when you feel strong craving? What do you turn to? Food, relationships, sex, drugs, entertainment, or social media? In the sixth class, we reveal a deep source of strength and support within our own minds that’s accessible to each of us any time we need it.
Class 7. Am I More Important Than Anyone Else in the Universe?
Am I just a little bit more important than everyone else? My happiness, my goals, my relationships? The root cause of our suffering from the Buddhist perspective is this belief, a delusion called ignorance, seen as the true source of all our suffering: from disappointment in the face of life’s setbacks, to the dissatisfaction we can feel even when we get exactly what we want. In the seventh class, we discuss suffering, the ego, and how to find a lightness in life that lets us enjoy pleasure when we have it, be content when we don’t, and accept life’s inevitable pain.
Class 8. The Red Pill of Renunciation
In the eighth class, like Neo’s choice between the red and blue pills in The Matrix, we seek to understand the transient nature of life, our inner habits and outer influences, and develop the courage to let go of anger, craving, and self-centeredness, the real causes of our suffering.
Class 9. What Is Love?
Love is complex in our culture, tied up with finding a single person to satisfy our huge list of needs and dreams who we then grant the exclusive gift of our affection. But love from the Buddhist perspective is simpler, free from attachment. Love, or loving-kindness, is wishing others to be happy. In the ninth class, we explore mind training techniques and modern psychology tools that train the mind in love and compassion, including the powerful method of universalizing that transforms any moment of pleasure of pain into a cause for expanding our compassion.
Class 10. How Things Exist
How do things exist? In your mind, out in the world, or somewhere in-between? In the tenth class we delve into the Buddhist views of the interdependent nature of reality combining traditional Buddhist logic with a modern scientific understanding of physical reality and neuroscience: things can be broken down into parts, things change, and all things are interconnected, coming about through causes and conditions. We also discover that our smartphone contains almost every element in the universe, making it the perfect object of interdependence to meditate on.
Class 11. Who Am I?
Are you your body? Are you your mind? Are you a collection of thoughts, memories, and neural connections that might be uploaded into a computer to live forever? This last topic discusses the root of our problems – the illusory way we see our self as independent from the world and others, and how to break through that illusion to discover our deep interconnectedness with all of nature and all other beings.
Class 12. A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment
In the final class, we meditate on all 9 topics in order—the mind, preciousness of life, impermanence, cause and effect, refuge, letting go of suffering, renunciation, compassion, and the interdependent nature of reality—the ordered stages of understanding ourselves and reality that progressively develop the mind toward its best qualities, and a life of connection and meaning.