photo 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.
“Concentration is a cornerstone of mindfulness practice. Your mindfulness will only be as robust as the capacity of your mind to be calm and stable. Without calmness, the mirror of mindfulness will have an agitated and choppy surface and will not be able to reflect things with any accuracy.” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
Here’s a little thing on posture from Jon Kabat-Zinn. It’s from his book Mindfulness for Beginners. The full excerpt (if there is such a thing) called “Getting Started with Formal Practice” addresses a number of other topics (what to do with your eyes, sleepiness, protect this time).
The carriage of your body during formal practice is important. It helps if you adopt a posture that embodies wakefulness, even or especially if you feel sleepy. That probably means not practicing lying down, although lying down can be a wonderful way to cultivate mindfulness and wakefulness as we do in various body scans and lying-down meditations. If you set your intention at the beginning of a period of practice to “fall awake” instead of “falling asleep,” then it is fine to experiment with practicing lying down.
Aside from the fact that you can also meditate formally when standing still or while walking, a posture that embodies wakefulness usually suggests sitting, and sitting in such a way that the back is straight but relaxed, with the shoulders and arms hanging off the rib cage, the head erect, and the chin slightly tucked. You can sit either on a straight-backed chair or on a cushion on the floor. As best you can, sit in a posture that naturally and easily embodies dignity and presence for you.
That’s the title of an impressively sweeping history of the mindfulness movement by Mary Sykes Wylie, found on Alternet. If you’ve got half an hour (depending on attention span) it’s really worth digging into. If not, why not break it into small chunks?
The article covers the rise of Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and his successful (though scant) early research. The adoption by therapeutic, and commercial self help movements. It criss crosses historically, touching on the influence of TM and the Benson’s “Relaxation Response”, the Dalai Lama’s Nobel Prize in 1989. Then circles up to the “McMindfulness” article at the Huffington Post in 2013 (read, concerned Buddhists).
It also touches on corporate mindfuleness (read, Google, but many others) and the lack of real, conclusive evidence in the science (largely due to the subjective nature of much of what’s going on).
The article concludes, essentially, “no harm, no foul”, but really if you’ve read *this* far, you should read the article.