Welcome to the MA Q & A, a new series of interviews featuring YOU, our members.
We already know you as meditation teachers, but let’s fill in some of the gaps.
It seemed fitting to start at the start with one of our founders and Patron, Dr Craig Hassed, he also just happens to be member number one on the roll!
MA Q&A with Dr. Craig Hassed
A mindfulness meditation teacher of 31 years, Associate Professor Dr. Craig Hassed OAM has been working within the Faculty of Medicine at Monash University since 1989. There he developed and integrated into the medical curriculum the world’s first mindfulness-based healthy lifestyle course. He was also the founding president of Meditation Australia and the Association’s first member.
Craig teaches meditation “anywhere and everywhere to anyone who’ll listen”. With Monash University his “home base”, he also has “lots of invitations to speak outside of Monash within various health, educational and professional settings”. His teaching, research and clinical interests include mindfulness, mind-body medicine, lifestyle medicine, integrative medicine and medical ethics.With Dr. Richard Chambers he has co-authored two free online Mindfulness courses in collaboration with Monash University and FutureLearn, both of which are rated by Class Central among the leading online courses in the world.
Craig features in documentaries ‘The Connection’ and ‘My Year of Living Mindfully’. He is also a lifelong Richmond supporter.
What’s the story behind your first meditation experience?
As a disillusioned 19-year-old medical student, falling behind in my studies, I needed something to help me get back on track and to have some clarity about where I wanted to go in life. For some reason I thought meditation might help. Not knowing what it was or having read any books on it, I thought it probably had something to do with sitting still and paying attention – so that’s what I did! I didn’t know what to do, so I decided not to do anything. I didn’t know what I was meant to experience, so I didn’t try to experience anything. I just sat and watched, intuitively practicing a ‘choiceless awareness’ form of meditation. Over time, the body dissolved, the mind dissolved and I was left in a simple state of pure awareness. It was profoundly peaceful.
That experience, more than anything else, set a direction for my life and work. Afterwards I felt a quiet resolution to continue my studies, and the rest as they say “is history”. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t until a few years later that I started practicing meditation as a daily practice.
How long – and how often – did you meditate for today?
I practice 2 x 30-minute daily meditations: one before breakfast and one before dinner (I call them my “full stops”). I do this along with lots of mini-meditations as I go about my day-to-day life (my “commas”).
Do you use a Meditation App?
I have never used an app and never use guided meditations (no mobile phone either). I have no problem with recommending apps for people who feel like they might be useful, in which case I recommend Smiling Mind (I’m an ambassador) or the UK Headspace.
What meditation practices are you personally finding beneficial during this particular time of the COVID-19 pandemic?
I practice the same meditation I have used for the last 30 years. Rather than improvise with many different meditation practices, I prefer to dig in one place and dig deep.
What or who inspires you?
Every day I read or listen to something from a wisdom tradition, to start the day and to finish the day. I always prefer to go to the source rather than read somebody’s interpretation. My go-to preferences are anything from the Shankara tradition, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramana Maharishi, Plato, Zen, Sufi writers and Shakespeare. I also enjoy history and science but never read fiction.
How might you be changing or adapting your teaching practice at the moment, to accommodate the physical limitations brought about by COVID-19?
I think the principles of teaching meditation are the same, albeit online at the moment. The distance between teacher and student is a drawback but we have to make do, the best we can, in the current environment. It is interesting to note that there has been a significant increase in the interest in meditation over recent months, which is a reflection of people recognising the need they have for inner stability in unstable times.
Do you sing in the shower?
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a meditation teacher?
Meditation can be seen as an esoteric thing, or separated in some way from the rest of life. If you want to reach the vast majority of people, then use simple language and make it practical and relevant. Connect the practice of meditation to the other 23 hours in a person’s day. Listen to what is important for the person, then help them to relate the meditation practice to their life and what matters to them.
What’s the most inspiring or loveliest thing you’ve seen or experienced today?
My wife, Deirdre.
Dr. Craig Hassed can be contacted at email@example.com
Interview: Dr. Craig Hassed
Edit: Megan Spencer
Questions: Karen Stone & Megan Spencer
© Meditation Australia 2020