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.

 

Secular Buddhism — What Got Left Out of Meditation?

buddhaphoto by Riaz Padamsee (creative commons)

Of course, the cultural background for mindfulness meditation is Buddhism. Whether it come from Japan, Tibet, Burma. David Chapman (no relation) digs into the topic of cultural background, cultural imperialism, cultural omission —  in provocatively and incisively. If you’re the least bit curious about some of the history beyond a vague “yeah, it’s Buddhist stuff” then you really should check his stuff out.

For browsing, here are a few of his assertions about how the mindfulness/secular Buddhism that we’ve come to know, came about:

Christianity: Everything offensive to Victorian Christian morality had to be removed, in Asia, in the 1800s.

Scientism: Meditation has to claim to be compatible with “science” and “rationality.” Popular ideas about what’s “scientific” have changed in the West over the past 150 years. What’s left of meditation has survived challenges from each version.

Romantic mysticism: Westerners thought the goal of meditation was a spiritual experience—oneness with all beings, maybe—through attention to the self. Meditation methods that weren’t about spiritual experience, or not about the self, got dropped.

Late 20th-century morality: Meditation had be eco-granola-consensus-therapy-correct in the 1970s through ’90s.

Only something extremely bland could pass all these challenges. That’s what we’re left with: modern “mindfulness meditation.” It’s relentlessly nice and couldn’t possibly offend anyone’s ideological sensitivities.