Mindfulness 2.0 – The New Wave of Meditation Teachers

candlesphoto by Gabriel Garcia Marengo (creative commons)

There are a few common themes here. Firstly, none of these people are associated with the mainstream, baby boomer driven Vipassana movement (Mindfulness 1.0). If that’s a bunch of gobbledygook to you — perhaps a few names will help: Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein, Sylvia Boorstein, Jon Kabat-Zinn, etc. Without being too unkind, Mindfulness 2.0 has no association with the self-indulgence of the 1960s. No hippies. No fetishizing Asian culture.

Secondly, there is another critical difference. The first group generally won’t talk about progress or attainments in meditation practice. If you were taught meditation from a Mindfulness 1.0 affiliate — through MBSR, Spirit Rock, the Insight Meditation Society or one of their offshoots — then you sit down, you do various practices, your practices deepen — but there’s no talk of progress. In fact, the idea might sound quite odd to you. Progress?

There are some interesting historical reasons that progress or attainments are deliberately not talked about. There’s an argument for it. But Mindfulness 2.0 folk would argue it leaves a lot of people practicing aimlessly, in the dark about what some of their experiences may mean, or how they could be getting more out of their practice.

If this makes you curious, here are links to a few of those Mindfulness 2.0 practitioners.

  • Daniel Ingram. One of the founders of the Dharma Overground, which includes his book MCTB (Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha).
  • Kenneth Folk Meditation instructor. Very pragmatic: I have attainments in meditation. Here’s how you do it.
  • Vincent Horn. Founder of the website Buddhist Geeks. Despite its name Buddhist Geeks is inclusive of other traditions. The site has its own particular techie flavor.
  • Willoughby Britton. Researcher at Duke University. Here’s an Atlantic profile about her Dark Night of the Soul project.
  • David Chapman. A very analytic and thoughtful critic. Some find him overly reductionistic, but often provocative. Here’s his piece on What Got Left Out of Meditation, which covers a kind of reformation and cultural editing that happened to Buddhism and meditation.
  • Jay Michaelson. LGBT activist and many other things. Author of Evolving Dharma. This book gives a terrific overview of Mindfulness 2.0, and the link is to a podcast discussion of the book on Buddhist Geeks.


Dan Ingram on the Progress of Insight

Daniel Ingram discusses how the expectations were set high at the beginning of his meditation practice. People were expected to make progress. Part 1 of a 3-part video. One of his conclusions? Hardcore commmitment does not sell.

I was lucky enough to be taught by some people who were very into hardcore real practice… Real states, real stages, real attainments… it was a small subset of people in which progress was expected rather than considered unusual or strange. Where meditation was discussed… [like anything else you would do]

It was interesting to see. Where I came from everybody was talking about it and they were doing it and they knew how to do it and they were telling each other how to do it… in comparison to what I found when I went out into the bigger wider dharma world and started noticing this thing. There was this massive dichotomy between people that were just doing it and talking about it and it was normalized and straightforward and relevant and essentially making progress of some kind — and this other world were doing something really different and they weren’t really getting anywhere from my point of view. Maybe they were doing something that felt useful for them…

Something Lacking in the Secular

4708898966_12ffe42883_oMelancholy by Leland Francisco

A first-person reflection — not religious — but finding the secular version of meditation somehow lacking. The post also introduces the somewhat controversial thoughts of Daniel Ingram. The original post ran in “Meditation Los Angeles.”

Still meditating, but having less to say about it. Still doing the MBSR class, but don’t have much to say about it. It’s the secular version of meditation, and body scans, and a little yoga. A kind of caterer’s platter of techniques for beginners.

I doubt very much they’ll ever talk of liberation, and while religious Buddhism turns me off I miss the jazziness of implied freedoms in the offing.

For those seeking just that kind of jazz, I recommend the page (it’s Daniel Ingram) from where the quote comes. It’s about the lack of focus, in most secular, insight meditation practices on the Three Characteristics, those being, as the writer translates them, Impermanence, Suffering, and No Self. Here’s the quote:

Somehow this exceedingly important message just doesn’t typically seem to get through to insight meditators, and thus they spend so much time doing anything but looking precisely moment to moment into the Three Characteristics. They may be thinking about something, lost in the stories and tape loops of the mind, trying to work on their stuff, philosophizing, trying to quiet the mind, or who knows what, and this can go on for year after year, retreat after retreat, and of course they wonder why they don’t have more insight yet. This is a tragedy of monumental proportions, but you do not have to be part of it! You can be one of those insight meditators that knows what to do, does it, and finally “gets it” in the grandest sense.

The wonderful Jack Kornfield has an interesting section on Wisdom in one of his recent books where he covers this issue, in typical, wise, non-dismissive, instructive fashion.

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