Embracing Impermanence and Imperfection:

Bringing Compassion to Life


With Martine Batchelor, Laura Bridgman, and Gavin Milne

Everything changes. Nothing is perfect. Yet when we turn toward life just as it is, wisdom and compassion arise. This profound online course explores impermanence, imperfection, and conditionality as doorways to an awakened heart.


Enroll today and study at your own pace.

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The Heart of Buddhist Practice

Students will benefit from a meditation program that encourages direct insight into the changing, selfless nature of reality while cultivating heart qualities. In fact, it will become clear that the result of embracing impermanence and imperfection is the compassionate wish to be of benefit to others. A major focus will therefore be bringing our path of practice into relationships, work, and family life. We'll look at how we can creatively engage with the world around us and how we might find wise responses to the problems and crises of our time.

A twofold program of meditation

This course will deepen your understanding of the impermanent, imperfect, conditional nature of experience. When this is seen, the heart opens to life and embraces the changing flow of existence, just as it is. This is wisdom, and it gives rise to equanimity—a protective quality. As our capacity to accept change and imperfection increases, resistance gives way to kindness and caring. We no longer fear and despair, but embody the most appropriate attitude to an imperfect, transient world: compassion.

To support this transformation, we offer a special intertwining of two paths:

  • 6 insight meditations to understand the flow of impermanent, imperfect, and impersonal conditions that constitute experience.
  • 6 brahmavihara (divine abode) meditations to cultivate supportive qualities of the heart and help us open to reality.


Buddha statue with two candles
Dead leaf and petals

Nuanced understanding

When we begin meditating we might have conceptual knowledge of impermanence, imperfection, and conditionality. We understand intellectually that things end, that they depend on cause and effect—but this understanding may not inform our emotional habits or behavior.

As the contemplative life unfolds, we intuit impermanence and imperfection a little more deeply. However, we may misapply these teachings: "Oh, that's life. Things are impermanent. Too bad."

This course offers a more empathetic route for our development. When we really grasp impermanence, compassion arises. We become comfortable with impermanence and imperfection, and so can turn to face our problems and those of others with compassion, equanimity, and wisdom.

The teachers
Experienced teachers

Martine, Laura, and Gavin are respected teachers associated with Gaia House, an insight meditation center in England.

Martine on video
30+ video teachings

14 presentations, 6 guided inquiries, 12 guided meditations, and more. Captions are provided for all videos.

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Discover fundamental truths

Insight into impermanence, imperfection, and the emptiness of self is the core of Buddhist practice.

Young man carrying children in meadow
A path for real life

This is a program of practice and inquiry that works in everyday conditions. Your life—family, work, relationships—becomes your practice. What better teacher is there?

Laura meditating in front of Kuan Yin statue
Timeless methods

The approach used here is to turn toward experience, just as it is, as taught in the tradition of the Thai Forest monks and the Burmese teacher, Sayadaw U Tejaniya.

Path with autumn trees
Clarity on your path

Connect ancient teachings to your life today with the help of clear examples, teaching stories, inquiry, and reflection.

How the Journey Unfolds


Unit 1: Impermanence — Beyond Clinging and the Gift of Change

This was the key insight of the Buddha: experience is fleeting. Even the most sublime state of concentration eventually subsides. When we truly understand this, we cease clinging to the pleasant, stop pushing away the unpleasant, and find true peace. Now instead of avoiding the truth of impermanence, we face it with compassion for ourselves and others. And with wisdom, we begin to perceive the gift of change. No unhelpful habit, and no difficult situation is permanent. We can bring about changes.

Unit 2: Imperfection — Dukkha, Unreliability, and Pain

Everything that depends on conditions is necessarily imperfect. Why? Because conditions change. Even the most pleasant and satisfactory situations we have experienced in the past cannot guarantee our happiness now. And life contains much that is truly difficult to bear.

However—with maturity, realism, and wisdom—we can embrace and appreciate a wider range of experiences. Compassion becomes possible when we accept and understand imperfection deeply.

Unit 3: Conditionality — Not Self and Emptiness

By this point in the course, we're really getting a feel for how experiences are fabricated by conditions. This also applies to ourselves. As the play of impermanent, imperfect, interdependent conditions, we are not separate from this changing, imperfect world. This realization opens the door to great compassion for the world and our fellow beings.

Unit 4: Compassion and the Three Characteristics

This is where it all comes together. Throughout the course so far, we have been turning toward the reality of our experiences, just as they are: impermanent, imperfect, and unsupportive of a separate self-identity. Now we dive into exactly how compassion arises as a result. We’ll cultivate compassion as not just a feeling but an impulse toward engagement, toward action that relieves suffering—our own and that of others.

Unit 5: Nowhere to Go — Family Life, Work, and Relationships

There are no special circumstances needed for wisdom and compassion to arise, only a willingness to be with experience—whatever it may be. That’s just as well because who lives in ideal circumstances for meditation and inquiry all the time? Nobody!

This unit is all about practicing right where you are, in the changing, imperfect flow of life. And perhaps there is no better place to embrace impermanence and imperfection than amidst the realities of relationships, work, parenting, and caregiving.

Unit 6: Creative Compassion and Wise Responses

As we leave behind habitual responses to impermanence and imperfection, we gain confidence in our capacity to respond creatively to change and suffering. Here we explore the wider issues of our time, such as the climate crisis. In doing so we’ll cultivate an attitude of creative compassion and responsiveness that’s grounded in Buddhist wisdom.

Curriculum


This is a 6-unit course. You are invited to study at your own pace and will retain ongoing access to the course. Each lesson will offer 45-60 minutes of video teachings. There will also be prompts for reflection, optional quizzes, and a communal discussion board. As part of your training, the teachers will suggest a program of inquiry and guided meditation for you to explore between units.

  Welcome
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  Unit 1: Impermanence — Beyond Clinging and the Gift of Change
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  Unit 2 | Imperfection — Dukkha, Unreliability, and Pain
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  Unit 3 | Conditionality — Not Self and Emptiness
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  Unit 4 | Compassion and the Three Characteristics
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  Unit 5 | Nowhere to Go — Family Life, Work, and Relationships
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  Unit 6 | Creative Compassion and Wise Responses
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  End Summary
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Martine Batchelor

Martine Batchelor

Martine studied Zen Buddhism under the guidance of the late Master Kusan at Songgwang Sa monastery until 1984. Her Zen training also took her to nunneries in Taiwan and Japan. From 1981 she served as Kusan Sunim's interpreter and accompanied him on lecture tours throughout the United States and Europe. She translated his book The Way of Korean Zen. Following Master Kusan’s death she returned her nun’s vows and left Korea.

Martine is the author of Principles of ZenMeditation for Life (an illustrated book on meditation), The Path of CompassionWomen in Korean Zen, and Let Go: A Buddhist Guide to Breaking Free of Habits. Her latest book is The Spirit of the Buddha. She is the teacher of the online courses, Knowing How it Feels: Creatively Engaging with Habits and, with Stephen Batchelor, Secular Dharma.

Laura Bridgman

Laura began meditating in her early teens and ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1995. She was resident at Amaravati and Chithurst monasteries under the guidance of her teachers Ajahn Sumedho and Ajahn Succito. Laura left the monastic tradition in 2015 and is now Staff Support Teacher at Gaia House, a retreat center in Devon, England. She has spent extended periods practicing with the Burmese teacher Sayadaw U Tejaniya. Laura taught Beyond the Inner Critic, a Tricycle Online Course, with Gavin Milne.

Laura Bridgman
Gavin Milne

Gavin Milne

Gavin has been practicing Insight Meditation since 2004 and was invited to train as a teacher under the guidance of Yanai Postelnik in 2015. Inspired and influenced by other paths, Gavin is particularly interested in exploring practice wherever we find ourselves—whether in the midst of family life or responding to the wider issues of our era. Together with Laura, he is a co-teacher of Beyond the Inner Critic, a Tricycle Online Course.

Testimonials

This course presents profound and complex insights in a way that is easy to absorb and practice. The teachers wisdom is thoughtfully and humbly presented, providing a workable model for my own practice.
This is a beautifully taught, well structured course that gives you new perspectives and practices (off and on the cushion). It breathes new life into your relationship with impermanence, imperfection and conditionality, even if you’re a long-term practitioner.
Amazing introduction to the often challenging subject of impermanence and change. Beautifully facilitated!

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