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.

Grab Bag of Guided Meditations

Truly this an impressive How to Meditate: Links for Guided Meditation Practice from Contemplative Mind in Life. The meditations are led by a few different groups, many loosely affiliated with the Vipassana tradition that spawned today’s mindfulness movement (as one critique put it, “Mindfulness Lite”) First, the meditators that came back from Asia in the 60s. These are the current popularizers of mindfulness you are likely aware of (Sharon Salzburg, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Joseph Goldstein, etc.) and also some of their instructors (S. N. Goenka, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, etc.). There are also meditations by those more aligned with academic research and health and wellness concerns (UC San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine, Diana Winston at Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, Secular Humanist Contemplative Group at Harvard, Zindel Siegel of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy). There are one or two that don’t really fit into these camps (Shinzen Young is one).

What won’t you find here? There’s not much Zen, but beyond that there’s not much in the way of the next generation. This is pretty much a baby boomer’s list – a very specific group that has done much to make popular and make secular. Just an observation. Definitely worth checking out.

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