The Way of Selflessness
A growing number of people who live outside the Eugene area have asked if there was some way they can personally participate in the Center's teachings and practices from a distance. In response to these requests, we offer a distance studies course which has a similar curriculum as the foundation studies class.
The Way of Selflessness distance studies course is a self-paced introduction to the universal teachings and practices of the mystics from the major religious traditions. The course is divided into eight sequential phases. A minimum of two or three months should be spent on each phase. Typically, students spend three to six months on each phase. Thus, completing all eight phases of the course typically takes anywhere between two to four years, depending on your pace. This arrangement is designed to introduce you step-by-step to the fundamental principles and practices distilled from all the Great Mystical Traditions.
The course includes:
- Listening to recorded talks by Joel.
The core of the The Way of Selflessness distance studies course consists of listening to a sequence of sixty-four recorded talks by Joel, a number of which include specific instructions for doing various kinds of practices. Like the course itself, these lectures are divided into eight sequential phases. Each phase of the course has a corresponding set of eight talks. (There are also five supplementary sets of talks which are recommended but not required.)
- Reading Joel's book The Way of Selflessness.
Joel's book Way of Selflessness serves as a textbook for the course and provides a vital complement to his recorded talks. The book is divided into eight parts which correspond to the eight phases of the course.
- Optionally reading additional books from different mystical traditions.
The Way of Selflessness course has an associated reading list of optional books selected from the world's great mystical traditions. During each phase of the course, you may select and read one or more additional books. (Note: Prior to the publication of Joel's book, the course had a different reading list which is no longer used.)
- Making a commitment to undertake a disciplined meditation practice.
During each phase of The Way of Selflessness course there is a specific meditation to be practiced every day for at least fifteen minutes. Detailed meditation instructions are included in the recorded talks. Because the meditations in the eight phases of the course are progressive in nature, it is important to thoroughly practice one type of meditation before you move on to the meditation in the next phase. (We encourage you to practice at your own pace, but in our experience it takes at least two months to become experientially familiar with the meditation in each phase of the course.)
- Making a commitment to recite and practice precepts in your daily life.
Another key part of The Way of Selflessness course is practicing the Ten Selfless Precepts. We take these precepts not as ideal standards to live up to but rather as tools to help us heighten our awareness of our own conditioning so that eventually we can free ourselves from it. The first four sets of talks contain teachings by Joel on these precepts and how to practice them.
- Receiving personal guidance via letter, e-mail, and/or telephone from a CSS spiritual mentor.
Once you have registered for The Way of Selflessness distance studies course, a CSS teacher or senior student will be selected to serve as your mentor. After you have completed all aspects of each phase of the course, you will compose and send a letter to your mentor, describing your meditation and precept practices, your response to the teachings, and recounting any spiritual experiences or insights you have had. Then, at a prearranged time, you can call your mentor to discuss the contents of your letter and any questions which may have come up about your practice. (In addition, if you live close enough to Eugene to make it practical, you can also attend the monthly meetings of our entire community of practitioners. These meetings provide an opportunity to receive guidance from Joel and support from fellow practitioners.)
- An opportunity to attend silent meditation retreats with the Center community.
After you have completed all aspects of the first three phases of The Way of Selflessness course, you will be eligible (with your mentor's approval) to attend one of our foundational retreats. Although attending a retreat is not a requirement for completing the course, it is strongly recommended as a way to deepen and intensify your practice. In addition, after you have completed a five-day foundational retreat, you will then be eligible to attend any Center-sponsored retreat, including our nine-day retreats which are usually held in the fall.
In summary, each phase of the course involves: 1) listening to eight audio talks, 2) practicing meditation daily, 3) practicing precepts, 4) reading two books, 5) sending your mentor a letter and calling your mentor to discuss it. After you have completed three phases of the course, you will then be able to attend a foundational meditation retreat with our community.
If you think you might be interested in taking the Way of Selflessness distance studies course, it is important for you to first become somewhat familiar with our teacher and teachings so you can make an informed decision. Accordingly, as prerequisites before registering for this course we ask that you first:
- Read about the teachers, teachings, and practices at the Center.
- Read some of Joel's online articles and listen to some of Joel's online audios.
- Read Joel's spiritual autobiography, Naked Through the Gate.
There is no registration fee for The Way of Selflessness distance studies course. However, we do ask you to join the rest of our practitioners in becoming a supporting member of the Center in order to help us continue providing services such as offering this course. As a supporting member, you make a pledge to pay monthly dues for a year. How much you can afford to give each month is completely up to you.
Although there is no fee for The Way of Selflessness course itself, there are expenses associated with obtaining the course materials. The cost of the primary text, The Way of Selflessness, depends on how and where you obtain it. (It could be as much as $27.95 plus shipping from Amazon or as little as $0 if you borrow it from a library or friend.)
As for the audio recordings, you can listen for free online or purchase a DVD with all the audios on it. The total cost for purchasing all eight sets of talks for the entire course is $125 plus shipping for the DVD containing all the talks in mp3 format (see the registration form for more details). Computers with CD or DVD drives can play these mp3 files using commonly available audio media player software.
Finally, if you decide to attend the foundational meditation retreat, the cost is about $300 plus your transportation expenses.
To register for The Way of Selflessness distance studies course, please follow these steps:
- Make sure you have completed all the course prerequisites, as described in the Course Prerequisites section above.
- Read this letter describing Center membership:
- Prospective member letter
- Complete the following forms:
- Distance studies registration form
- Membership pledge form
- New member background questionnaire
Please begin with the registration form. After you submit that, you will be sent automatically to the member pledge form. A link to the background questionnaire form will be included in your confirmation email.
After you have completed and submitted the above forms, send your first month's dues, to:
Center for Sacred Sciences
1430 Willamette St. #164
Eugene, OR 97401-4049 USA
Once we have received your registration materials, we will inform you of the name and contact information for your mentor and details regarding the course reading list. (Note: the audio recordings you order for the course require processing and may be sent separately.) When you receive this information, contact your mentor and ask him or her about any further questions you may have. You are then ready to begin the course.
Note: If at any phase of the course we fail to hear from you for six months, we will assume you have dropped out of the course. If you begin the course but are forced to suspend your studies for some reason, you may (with your mentor's permission) be eligible to pick up where you left off at a later date.