10 steps of contemplative practice – Dr. Roger Walsh



Transforming work, service and life into
continuous contemplative practice 


Dr. Roger Walsh 


What are the key steps to living life as fully as possible with as much awareness as possible, moment by moment? There seem to be about 10 crucial steps.

This keynote presentation by Dr. Roger Walsh (M.D., Ph.D., DHL, University of California) from IEC 2018 reveals those steps, and even more. He gives you a clear guide and an answer to „What does the kettle have to do with one’s practice?”

Listen to Dr. Roger Walsh’s presentation:

Scroll down if you would rather read a short summary of the talk.

What is karma yoga and why should we transform our lives into a contemplative practice?

In Indian wisdom traditions, there are different ways to achieve the best versions of ourselves and serve others at the same time. One of them is called karma yoga, where we use our life, our work and our service in the world as our practice.

People who don’t live in a monastery really need some kind of karma yoga to help them clean up, grow up and wake up.

The main text on karma yoga is the Bhagavad Gita; it lays out its 3 core elements:

1. Offer the activity for a larger purpose.
2. Do the work, the service as impeccably as possible.
3. Let go of attachment to the outcome.

There is only one problem with this classic text: it provides this wonderful inspiring idea, but it doesn’t give us many actual practical details on how to do it.

How to practice most effectively and most continuously to be able to
clean up, grow up and wake up.

10 key steps


This first step is already a very advanced practice. Very, very challenging for most of us. Particularly in our modern times.

Whatever you are doing before you begin a major activity of any kind (a project, a long drive, getting into a relationship, etc.), just take a moment to STOP. In that special moment become as present as you possibly can.

Take your time and take 3 deep breaths. If your first thought right after your first exhale is, like you really don’t have time for this, then you should stop and take 6 deep breaths.

2. DEDICATE or OFFER the activity
Offer your work or service to God, to Brahman or to any transpersonal ideal, and the welfare and awakening of all. This practice is not about strenghtening your ego but about dedicating the work to something larger than your little ego.

Why are you doing this? What is it for? Set an intention for the activity. For example, it can be uplifting and a gift to others. Even if you fail sometimes, for sure you will succeed a lot of times.

Do whatever you’re doing as impeccably as you can. For sure you will fail—you are human, none of us are impeccable in anything—but all of us have to make that attempt.

Bring as much awareness as you possibly can to each experience. Both internal and outer awareness. Be aware of the situation and be aware of your own emotional reactions to what’s happening, e.g. your actions, mental state, motivation, other people, their reactions, and your “fluid appropriateness” to the moment.

You have various emotional reactions—explore and work with them. Our tendency is simply to try and push particularly painful reactions out of the way, but just keeping on doing what we’re doing is a great way to burn out. If you are able to retain awareness and be aware of the emotional reactions that come up, then you have a chance to learn and grow from them.

There is a very important thing to recognize about psychological pain: psychological pain is like physical pain. It’s a feedback signal. It’s telling you there is something which needs attention. Specifically, if you have a painful emotional reaction (fear, jealousy, anger), it is pointing to an attachment, craving, or addiction. There is a very precise relationship between the type of painful emotion and the attachment.

This part makes karma yoga a tricky, knife-edge practice: identify and release attachments, especially to the outcome. Letting them go is very close to accepting them, whatever they are.

At the completion of your activity, STOP again.

What can you learn about the situation, about yourself, about your attachments? This is a learning opportunity.

After completing an activity or service, do something paradoxical.
Whatever benefits have accrued to you from doing it (your learning, your insights, your good feelings), intend to offer them to everyone, to the welfare and awakening of all. This is based on a very profound understanding of the mind that what we intend for another we tend to experience and strengthen in ourselves.

And what does the kettle have to do with one’s practice? Practice is like boiling water on the stove. If you put the kettle on for a minute, then take it off and then put it back on again, take it off, and so on, it takes a long time to boil. But if you leave it on the stove and heat it continuously, then it boils and transforms very quickly.

That’s why it is so important to make your practice as continuous as possible. To transform work, service, and life into continuous contemplative practice.
This is the sacred service of karma yoga.

What is this for?


Is this only for living your life as fully as possible? The greater question is, how do you use your practice to serve the world in this time of enormous need and enormous challange?

We live in a unique time of multiple global crises, but there is something that is really important to recognise about these challenges. This is the first time in human history when each and every one of the great challenges we face is caused by humans. The state of the world now reflects the state of our minds, and what we call global problems are actually global symptoms. We need to heal the underlying psychological, social and cultural causes that are creating these tragedies.

In short, we need an integral approach—and to do this well we need to
clean up, grow up and wake up.

This means we need karma yoga and sacred service in which our service to others also serves and heals and awakens ourselves.

We go into ourselves in order to go more effectively out into the world, and we go out into the world in order to go deeper into ourselves. We keep this cycle of outer and inner going until we realize that we and the world are one.

The world is in deep trouble, but the world also rests in good hands—in yours.

So put the kettle on!




MAY 24

14:00 – 15:00 Opening circle and meeting each other 15:00 –  15:30 Thought Leader Key Speech 15:30 – 16:00 Break 16:00 – 18:00 Afternoon process 18:00 Suggested Program: Have dinner with community, socialize, enjoy the spa and the garden together.


MAY 25

9:00 – 12:30 Big Circle

  1. Opening and encounter
  2. Thought Leader Key Speech and sharing
  3. Coffee Break
  4. Open Space Process – offering and choosing workshops, discussions, presentations.

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch and rest 14:00 – 17:00 Open Space (breakout groups) 17:00 – 18:00 Big Circle (harvesting) 18:00 Suggested Program: Have dinner with community, socialize, enjoy the spa and the garden together.


MAY 26

9:00 – 12:30 Big Circle

  1. Opening and encounter
  2. Thought Leader Key Speech and sharing
  3. Coffee Break
  4. Open Space Process – offering and choosing workshops, discussions, presentations.

12:30 – 13:30 Lunch and rest 13:30 – 16:00 Open Space (break out groups) 16:00 – 17:00 Big Circle  (harvesting and closing)

With Love, The IEC team

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