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.

 

When Meditation Becomes Problematic

Interesting interview of Leigh Brasington by Willoughby Britton. They chat about what happens when emotional issues come to the fore. Often people come to meditation to relax or relieve anxiety — so it can be a nasty surprise when disturbing unresolved issues boil to the surface. Working with an experienced teacher is invaluable in such situations.

Pema Chodron’s “How to Meditate” — A Minor Classic?

book
photo by Aravind Jose T (creative commons)

Here’s a review of How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind I wrote a couple years ago. What I like so much about the book is that, beyond being a competent how-to manual, it addresses the difficulties — many of them emotional — that meditators often face:

Recommended. I have read quite a few meditation books and this is one of the better ones, for sure. The key is the subtitle — because really only section one is devoted to the technique of meditation. After that this book rather artfully addresses various difficulties meditators face — whether it be the ceaseless wandering of the mind, the surge of unpleasant emotions, the discomfort of crossed legs.

The book is actually more like a handbook of psychological difficulties one might encounter during meditation, and some very handy suggestions as to how one might deal with them. It’s interesting to me that Chodron studied under Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. I believe it was he that said Buddhism would come to the West as a psychology.

The writing is fresh and direct and mostly steers clear of jargon. She writes about meditation in ways that are just different enough from other things I’ve read that I found myself underlining quite a lot in the book. Many of her book covers note that she is the author of “Things Fall Apart” — perhaps one day they’ll note that she’s the author of How to Meditate. She might just have a minor classic on her hands

The Mess

An allusion to the previous post — the Messy Truth about Meditation. Here’s another Britton quote, where she describes what some meditators have in store for them, and have no idea it’s coming:

Britton says, meditation has a shadow side, familiar to experienced meditation teachers but almost never mentioned in the popular media—that is, the not uncommon tendency of some people when they begin practicing in earnest to freak out (lose ego boundaries, hallucinate, relive old wounds and traumas, experience intense fear, and even have psychotic breaks, as well as exhibit strange physical symptoms, like spasms, involuntary movements, hot flashes, burning sensations, and hypersensitivity). These effects are well documented in Buddhist texts as stages along the long, hard path to inner wisdom, but they haven’t been studied in the West and aren’t featured in mindfulness/meditation brochures. Britton is one of the first to begin researching these phenomena seriously…” According to Willoughby Britton, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown.