Christina Feldman: Meditation as Cultivation
In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken interviews Christina Feldman, co-founder of Gaia House in England and a guiding teacher of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. Christina has been teaching insight meditation retreats since 1976, and has recently been involved in the dialogue between cognitive therapies and Buddhist practice.
This interview took place at IMS, at a time when Christina was conducting a retreat for professionals in fields such social work, education, and criminal justice who teach mindfulness in the context of their respective places of work. She stresses the importance of these individuals having a grounded practice of their own in order to enhance their abilities to effectively teach their students and clients.
Christina reflects on the word “mindfulness” as a translation for the Pali term sati, and discusses the more nuanced meanings of sati that can be missed when using “mindfulness”. She suggests “present moment collectedness” or “present moment recollection” as alternatives that encompass more expansive dimensions of the word. Christina continues on to share how we can use this present moment as an object for meditation, describing it as a means of “stripping away of the extras” and what it really means to practice that. We learn a more investigative, relational attitude towards meditation, and why this can lead to a much more profound experience of what the present truly is.
We then hear Christina’s thoughts on bhavana or “cultivation.” She addresses the many ways we participate in cultivating our lives and minds, and how powerful it can be to take on a more engaged and aware exploration of what we’re cultivating, as well as the. She outlines her own practice when she is going through troubling or difficult times and speaks to the importance of guarding against the proliferation of thoughts and actions that contribute to further suffering.
Finally, we hear the story of how Christina first encountered Buddhism as a teenager in the 1960’s, including the time when she began practicing Tibetan Buddhism as a student of the Dalai Lama, Geshe Rabten, and Ling Rinpoche before meeting S. N. Goenka and transitioning to the Theravada lineage. She also details her motivations for opening Bodhi College and describes her teaching project with other experienced scholars and practitioners, including Stephen Batchelor, John Peacock, and others.
About the Interviewee
Christina Feldman is a co-founder of Gaia House. She has been leading insight meditation retreats worldwide since 1976. She is a guiding teacher of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts and is the is the author of a number of books, including Woman Awake, Way of Meditation, and co-author of Soul Food. Recent books include Silence and The Buddhist Path to Simplicity.