Distance studies course

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 curriculum is divided into eight sequential phases. This arrangement is designed to introduce you step-by-step to the fundamental principles and practices distilled from all the Great Mystical Traditions.

We advise that at least two or three months should be spent on each phase of the course in order to benefit from the practices. 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. 


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 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. This is optional and not a required part of the course. (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 personal letter, e-mail, phone, or video contact with 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 each phase of the course, you and your mentor will discuss how you are doing with the various practices, any difficulties you may have encountered, questions you need answered, and insights and/or experiences you have had. (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 other teachers 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 selected sections of The Way of Selflessness, and 5) consulting with your mentor. After you have completed the first three phases of the course, you will then be eligible to attend a foundational meditation retreat with our community.

Course Prerequisites

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 teachers and teachings so you can make an informed decision. Accordingly, as prerequisites before registering for this course we ask that you first:

Course Expenses

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 member of the Center in order to help us continue providing services such as offering this course. As a 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 (e.g. whether you borrow it from a library or friend, buy it used, or buy it new). As for the audio recordings, you can listen for free online.

Course Registration

To register for The Way of Selflessness distance studies course, please follow these steps:

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 membership dues.

Once we have received your registration materials, we will inform you of the name and contact information for your mentor. When you receive this information, contact your mentor and ask them 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.