McMindfulness meditation dangers

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mikenz66
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McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 22, 2011 5:42 am

BG 233: Where Science and Compassion Meet, Kelly McGonigal
You can listen or read here:
http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2011/10/bg ... sion-meet/

Vincent wrote:We’re joined this week by Dr. Kelly McGonigal, to discuss her work at Stanford University, where she is teaching compassion-based practices from the Buddhist tradition, taught in a way that pulls from scientific research and appeals to a secular sensibility.


She had some interesting observations about "secular teachings":
Vincent wrote:But there’s one conversation and it happened at the Buddhist Geeks Conference where we were talking about this idea of McMindfulness. That is, presenting secular teachings in a way that from a more deep contemplative perspective you’d go “Oh that’s sort of shallow. That’s not really the whole thing. It’s just a little tiny piece of it.”

Kelly wrote:... when I think of the dangers of a McMindfulness movement it’s not so much the watering down of the practices, but that even if people are doing what some might think of as watered down practices like sitting down and being with the breath, things are going to come up that require kind of guidance or kind of reflection back.

When I first started teaching some of these so called “watered down practices” under the guise of stress management, what I found I that people are able to turn almost anything against themselves including something as simple as breath focus meditation, something that’s supposed to be calming or helpful or relaxing. People will turn it into a way of beating themselves up, a way of trying to control the mind, a competition, an escape from reality. I think the most important thing that we should make sure is not getting lost in the transmission of these things to the masses is that people need a guide for doing these practices or someone to talk to who can offer support.

:namaste:
Mike

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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 22, 2011 6:00 am

Bears repeating:

People will turn it into a way of beating themselves up, a way of trying to control the mind, a competition, an escape from reality. I think the most important thing that we should make sure is not getting lost in the transmission of these things to the masses is that people need a guide for doing these practices or someone to talk to who can offer support.
It points to the danger of what could easily happen when not working with a good, experienced teacher and a supportive sangha.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby Ben » Sat Oct 22, 2011 6:09 am

I couldn't agree more, Tilt.
As you may know I have been a very interested observer of the mindfulness in psychology and education for a number of years.
I think that the whole mindfulness movement is good in the way that it is making meditation a mainstream activity. The downside, and its a huge downside, is that often what is often being taught is so removed from certain important contexts that the practices can be vehicles of harm. I have heard anecdotes of people engaging in secularised vipassana practice only to have some deep rooted negativity manifest in their mind and then find themselves without the support of a teacher/guide or co-practitioners.
But of course, I could just be looking at things through the prism of my own prejudices and conceit.
kind regards,

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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 22, 2011 6:16 am

Thanks Tilt, Ben,

Kelly McGonigal would certainly agree with you. She goes on to note:
The second concern that I have in terms of the secularization is that in the CCARE program we are not watering down the practices. People are doing Tonglen, which can be a very challenging practice, the practice of giving and taking, taking in people’s suffering and giving back compassion. And other practices that are very powerful. And even though we have made the program secular in the core content, I’m finding that people are coming back and reporting experiences that I only know how to respond to with Buddhist ideas. People coming in who are reporting what is essentially the dissolving of the self, the sense, that rigid sense of the self, the personality, the ego. People are spontaneously experiencing this when they do the practices and they aren’t necessarily deeply disturbed by them but they don’t understand what’s happening. And I don’t have the theory or the words from western psychology or a secular field to explain this in way that I find is helpful as how a Buddhist teacher would explain these experiences and what to do with them, how to use them in your practice and other things like that.

The idea that… a lot of people are coming in with certain religious or philosophical beliefs that if you suffer is because something good is going to happen, that good things come from suffering. So many of these ideas that are sort of part of our conditioning or part of our heritage that come up and again I know how to relate to them from Buddhist philosophy point of view. And it’s much more challenging to give people sort of a compassionate way to think about these experiences or these ideas that is not at all tied into Buddhist terminology and philosophy. So that’s what I’m personally struggling with and I’m actually hoping that it’s something that we’re going to talk together, the few of us who are teaching these program who are all teachers of Buddhist ideas in other contexts. How are going to do this in a secular context.

:anjali:
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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Oct 22, 2011 12:00 pm

Kelly McGonigal ... goes on to note:
... it’s much more challenging to give people sort of a compassionate way to think about these experiences or these ideas that is not at all tied into Buddhist terminology and philosophy. So that’s what I’m personally struggling with and I’m actually hoping that it’s something that we’re going to talk together, the few of us who are teaching these program who are all teachers of Buddhist ideas in other contexts. How are going to do this in a secular context.

I think it's do-able, but not on the spur of the moment. The 'skeptical Buddhism' movement is already approaching it from one direction (by chucking out all the untestable 'non-essentials' to leave a Buddhism which is in fact secular as well as rationalist) while the secular meditation teachers look like approaching it from another (how to deal with the consequences of a meditation practice not grounded in an ethical and philosophical framework).
Somewhere between them lies a set of teachings based in the dhamma but framed in English terminology and not inconsistent with modern science (even if not always verified by science).

:namaste:
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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby danieLion » Sat Oct 22, 2011 12:10 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:Kelly McGonigal ... goes on to note:
... it’s much more challenging to give people sort of a compassionate way to think about these experiences or these ideas that is not at all tied into Buddhist terminology and philosophy.
not at all?
See: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=10076&start=0
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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby Jhana4 » Sat Oct 22, 2011 3:10 pm

A similar discussion came up a few weeks ago in my sutta study class.

Many of us started off with the local branch of a group that follows a monk who strongly emphasizes mindfulness in a way that the groups in his name seem to present mindfulness as an end in itself.

We all agreed that had some good in it ---- getting people to see things they usually don't.

However, we all agreed that robbed mindfulness of much of its power.....that many more benefits could be had by emphasizing to be mindful of just a few things like the 3 marks of existence instead of getting lost blissing out on noticing the bubbles in the dishwater or the taste of an apple.

Learning samatha with mindfulness to watch strong feelings come and go and seeing that all feelings are impermanent, for yourself, directly......is immensely healing.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby daverupa » Sat Oct 22, 2011 3:26 pm

There's probably a useful distinction to be made between the benefits of making meditation an accepted, even common, cultural practice, and teaching Buddhist bhavana. They aren't necessarily the same, nor do they necessarily blend into one another. It might be the case that many of those looking for a mindfulness-based practice are wholly uninterested in the Dhamma, and are instead simply looking for a stress management tool to add into their lives.

If teaching Buddhist bhavana, it is my opinion that it shouldn't capitulate to the common denominator of stress reduction - those sorts of classes are a dime a dozen, and Buddhist bhavana offers something more comprehensive given that its methodologies are underwritten by the Dhamma.

Furthermore, I'm in favor of a Western/American iteration of the Dhamma, one which can stand on its own among the extant cultural iterations (such as the Sri Lankan, Thai, and Burmese iterations). The Secular and Rationalist approaches are a component of this, as IMS and CIMC and Spirit Rock attest.

As I see it, the primary problem going forward is going to be how the Vinaya becomes integrated into the burgeoning American/Western iteration exemplified by these communities.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 22, 2011 7:35 pm

Thanks for the comments. I wasn't thinking of this in terms of the development of "secular buddhism" (of course, that's also an interesting issue) but more in terms of, as Dave puts it:
[quote=daverupa]... benefits of making meditation an accepted, even common, cultural practice[/quote]

What I found interesting was the observation that even apparently "safe" techniques taught without any apparent baggage could rapidly lead to the arising of issues that really needed expert guidance.
Kelly wrote:...I found I that people are able to turn almost anything against themselves including something as simple as breath focus meditation, something that’s supposed to be calming or helpful or relaxing. ... I think the most important thing that we should make sure is not getting lost in the transmission of these things to the masses is that people need a guide for doing these practices or someone to talk to who can offer support. ...

And that without any instruction in such matters:
Kelly wrote:I’m finding that people are coming back and reporting experiences that I only know how to respond to with Buddhist ideas. People coming in who are reporting what is essentially the dissolving of the self, the sense, that rigid sense of the self, the personality, the ego. People are spontaneously experiencing this when they do the practices and they aren’t necessarily deeply disturbed by them but they don’t understand what’s happening.

:anjali:
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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 22, 2011 8:17 pm

daverupa wrote:The Secular and Rationalist approaches are a component of this, as IMS and CIMC and Spirit Rock attest..
Have you ever done any retreats at IMS?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby daverupa » Sat Oct 22, 2011 8:26 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
daverupa wrote:The Secular and Rationalist approaches are a component of this, as IMS and CIMC and Spirit Rock attest..
Have you ever done any retreats at IMS?


I have not; my statement is founded on sociological research comparing and contrasting these communities with immigrant temple communities.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 22, 2011 8:52 pm

daverupa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
daverupa wrote:The Secular and Rationalist approaches are a component of this, as IMS and CIMC and Spirit Rock attest..
Have you ever done any retreats at IMS?


I have not; my statement is founded on sociological research comparing and contrasting these communities with immigrant temple communities.
Then in other words you have really no idea of what you speak. While IMS does not require one to be a Buddhist, every retreat I have attended there was certainly Buddhist in the flavor of what was being taught. References to the suttas and commentaries were the norm. There was nothing stripped down in terms of either the doctrine or practice. That it may not follow the immigrant model of what goes on at the local wat, it does look and feel very much like what goes on in a retreat setting in Asia, which I certainly would not characterize as big "s" Secular or or big "r" Rationalist. Maybe you mean something else.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby daverupa » Sat Oct 22, 2011 9:04 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Then in other words you have really no idea of what you speak...


Nevermind, good sir. I'm too exhausted for this, today.

:anjali:

tiltbillings wrote:Maybe you mean something else.


Yup. Some other day, perhaps.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 22, 2011 9:05 pm

I haven't been to IMS either (I once was driven past Spirit Rock in the way to a beach, but I don't think that counts either).
However, I haven't noticed any significant difference in Dhamma as represented by talks I've heard from IMS stalwarts, such as Joseseph Goldstein, and what I've learned at an "Immigrant Temple". Which isn't surprising seeing as one of the "products" of IMS was the book "In this very life", based on U Pandita's lectures there.
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pandita/

In any case, what I was trying to discuss in this thread was meditation taught with no mention of Buddhist concepts whatsoever, and how it was interesting that a teacher involved in one of those organisations found that various issues (such as anatta) popped up apparently spontaneously.

:anjali:
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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 22, 2011 9:20 pm

mikenz66 wrote:In any case, what I was trying to discuss in this thread was meditation taught with no mention of Buddhist concepts whatsoever,
That certainly is not so for IMS.

and how it was interesting that a teacher involved in one of those organisations found that various issues (such as anatta) popped up apparently spontaneously.
And that is not surprising.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:06 am

Greetings,

There is no Buddhist meditation without Right View.

Beyond that to "McMindfulness", I'm not qualified, nor particularly interested to speculate.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:29 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

There is no Buddhist meditation without Right View.
Are you sure? Sounds like a speculation to me.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:32 am

Greetings Tilt,
tiltbillings wrote:Are you sure? Sounds like a speculation to me.

Sounds like sutta to me.

MN 117 wrote:"One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one's right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one's right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right view."

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:34 am

Hi Retro,

That's the interesting point. Where does this "right view" come from, how unique is it, how much do you need, and at what point does lack of instruction in it block progress?

In the Canon it is said that some attained stream entry with very little instruction
Sariputta for example: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... saristream

Though the meditation techniques being taught are not taught with any formal Buddhist explanation, they are Bhuddist-derived teachings, and seem to be bringing up at least some of the same things you'd expect in a Buddhist context (insight into anatta, etc...).

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: McMindfulness meditation dangers

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:38 am

Greetings Mike,

I think the "run & circle" indicates mutual reinforcement and iterative development of those components, where Right View is the central anchor.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)


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