Origin of the "Raisin Experiement" (and the "Body Scan")

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
Kingdubrock
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Origin of the "Raisin Experiement" (and the "Body Scan")

Postby Kingdubrock » Wed Aug 14, 2013 1:35 am

The Rasin Experiement seems to be a relatively "classic" introductory practice. Always with the raisin. :tongue: Does anyone know the origin of this specific exercise beyond general mindful eating?
As well, would the "Body Scan", as taught in MBSR, be traced through Goenka, U Ba Khin etc or is it older, more cannonical even..?

Thanks,
Mark

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Ben
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Re: Origin of the "Raisin Experiement" (and the "Body Scan")

Postby Ben » Wed Aug 14, 2013 3:41 am

Hi Mark,
Kingdubrock wrote:As well, would the "Body Scan", as taught in MBSR, be traced through Goenka, U Ba Khin etc or is it older, more cannonical even..?

Possibly ancient, but I am not sure canonical. Ven Analayo traced the practice back to ancient Chinese commentarial literature that pre-dates the Vism. It could have been one of the vernacular techniques developed to cultivate vipassana. There is an inference that forms of vipassana bhavana are quite vernacular in the writings of Ledi Sayadaw who referred to them as "insight exercises".
I was actually in Myanmar a few years ago and while I wished to investigate the history of Burmese meditation methods, I found myself at a brick wall as I didn't have the necessary clearances and paperwork to access libraries and archives there.
kind regards,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
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Re: Origin of the "Raisin Experiement" (and the "Body Scan")

Postby Monkey Mind » Wed Aug 14, 2013 3:45 am

The MBSR folks studied under Jack Kornfield, who studied with Ajahn Chah but also with some of the Burmese lineage masters. And I don't think it was their intention to preserve a meditation lineage, but provide a product that was accessible to Westerners who are inexperienced in meditation. Actual product is "watered down".

I learned the "strawberry experiment", so maybe the raisins are a regional thing? :tongue:
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

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Re: Origin of the "Raisin Experiement" (and the "Body Scan")

Postby Monkey Mind » Wed Aug 14, 2013 4:11 am

Hmmm... Wiki sites Thic Nhat Hanh as the uber-inspiration for MBSR. I'm not sure why I thought otherwise...
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

Kingdubrock
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Re: Origin of the "Raisin Experiement" (and the "Body Scan")

Postby Kingdubrock » Wed Aug 14, 2013 5:33 pm

Thanks folks.

In the interest of full disclosure I should mention Im currently writing a paper as part of a masters thesis about the application or integration of Mindfulness within certain non-Buddhist contexts, like education, policy, social inclusion and so on. I have been practing in a few Buddhist traditions for about 14 years. As many others have, after having spent much of that time in Tibetan and Zen traditions, over the last few years I have taken to a sort of "reset" of my practice (and professional life) and have settled into a more Theravadin/Thich Nhat Hanh/IMS/MBSR kind of paradigm.
The MBSR system, which, after having gone through an 8 wk program, I have come to respect as being a basically secular, realistic and practical, yet somewhat rigorous "modality" if committed to, has already been widely studied and written about. Most of this study, as many would know or assume, has primarily accepted Zinn's theoretical and practical assumptions as the starting point and has been trying to assess and even "measure" its affectiveness in a variety of settings. Without getting too much into it, if something has bothered or at least nagged me about The MBSR system, it would be the fact that it tends not to differentiate the origins of their selection of practices. This is fine, imo, in that the average person who tries the program wont care, and for practical purposes the practices are experiential and speak for themselves. If one is learning the practices and wanting to adopt them in their life, this is more or less just great. The problem though is that the program was designed for use in mainly healthcare-oriented contexts, and this attribute I mention, makes the prospect of transferability into new contexts, with sound justification, kind of difficult.
Setting aside the fact that it is not presented as Buddhist per se, and whether or not one thinks isolating mindfulness from the rest of Buddhism is a good or viable thing, it is my understanding that the MBSR program has gradually, since its humble beginnings recognized a need for and incorporated at least aspects things like sila and sangha - which the do, but apparently it wasnt always there. But they do so without really being explicit about it. Again, for the reasons above, for practical purposes this is fine, imo. (Albeit also possibly strategic in terms of maintaining academic, clinical and scientific interest and support).
Also, without getting too into it, I am very interested in Ellen Langer's conception of Mindfulness, which she has almost stubbornly developed, completely independently, with little or no interest in, or even real understanding, of it's Buddhist counterpart. Nevertheless, there are fascinating touchpoints and overlaps with both MBSR and Buddhism proper.
So, after all this, Without wanting to be strident or polemical about it, I am trying to situate or perhaps, loosely "map" these "Western" conceptions within the Buddhist context. The purpose is not to equate, and indeed it is important to highlight differences, some, major ones, but to aid further research and lessen the dependency on Langer and Zinn.

That was long, and I apologize, but I thought it would help in understanding the nature of any questions I may pose.

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Re: Origin of the "Raisin Experiement" (and the "Body Scan")

Postby Ben » Wed Aug 14, 2013 10:07 pm

Greetings Mark,

Its also one of the concerns that I have with the secular mindfulness movement. Having said that, I think Kabatt-Zinn's approach is probably the gold standard. For a bit of context I think you should have a look at Russ Harris's "The Happiness Trap". It is essentially SN Goenka's/U Ba Khin's vipassana meditation method stripped of sila and sangha.
Craig Hassell is someone else you might find of benefit. He teaches at Monash University in Melbourne (Australia) and has been an exponent of mindfulness-based approaches in medicine.
My wife teaches mindfulness meditation at a school to students and staff.
kind regards,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com

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Re: Origin of the "Raisin Experiement" (and the "Body Scan")

Postby Kingdubrock » Thu Aug 15, 2013 5:27 pm

Hi Ben,
Thank you very much for the kind greeting and suggestions. Its funny, I have probably walked past the Happiness Trap a half dozen times. It caught my eye but I never looked through it. Definitely will next time im in a bookstore. :-)

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Re: Origin of the "Raisin Experiement" (and the "Body Scan")

Postby Kingdubrock » Thu Aug 15, 2013 5:37 pm

Monkey Mind wrote:Hmmm... Wiki sites Thic Nhat Hanh as the uber-inspiration for MBSR. I'm not sure why I thought otherwise...


Now that you mention it, I think I thought otherwise as well. However TNH did write a preface to Full Catastrophe and is included in the book recommendation section. While I was conducting my "lit review" I found a thesis by someone that placed an overt emphasis on TNH as being possibly the most influential popularizer of mindfulness. And it had been so long since I had read or listened to TNH (while still being directly influenced by him and recommending him to others), that I was like, "oh yeah!". I had been focusing so much on Langer, MBSR (and related systems) and IMS people. I wonder if its a case that he is so ubiquitous and influential and accessible, especially to new Buddhists (like myself when I was starting out) that I took him for granted.
Interesting.

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Re: Origin of the "Raisin Experiement" (and the "Body Scan")

Postby Monkey Mind » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:41 am

I participated in an MBSR class, and I think the instructor of the class emphasized a Korfield/ Burmese connection. It might have been his personal bias, who knows.

Unlike many of the American Zen folks I've met, TNH seems very knowledgeable regarding the Sattipathana Sutta and the Anapanasati Sutta. I have no idea if that is typical for his lineage, or if he engaged in special studies.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

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Re: Origin of the "Raisin Experiement" (and the "Body Scan")

Postby chownah » Fri Aug 16, 2013 4:51 am

What is the raison experiment?
chownah

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Re: Origin of the "Raisin Experiement" (and the "Body Scan")

Postby Kingdubrock » Fri Aug 16, 2013 4:09 pm

chownah wrote:What is the raison experiment?
chownah


http://www.werrycentre.org.nz/site_reso ... ercise.pdf

Actually Im not sure were or if it is actually called an experiment or where I picked that word up. If you look around it is usually called an exercise or meditation.

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Re: Origin of the "Raisin Experiement" (and the "Body Scan")

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Aug 17, 2013 12:05 pm

Kingdubrock wrote: I had been focusing so much on Langer, MBSR (and related systems) and IMS people. I wonder if its a case that [TNH] is so ubiquitous and influential and accessible, especially to new Buddhists (like myself when I was starting out) that I took him for granted.
Interesting.

I don't know about your own thoughts, Mark, but it's certainly the case that TNH is one of the two authors most prominent on the "Buddhism" or "Other religions" (!) shelf in every bookshop I've been in. HHDL is, of course, the other.
Both of them are indeed ubiquitous and accessible, and that makes them enormously influential: if their work is a starting point for so many of us, it frames the way we will look at what we discover later.

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Origin of the "Raisin Experiement" (and the "Body Scan")

Postby Kingdubrock » Sat Aug 17, 2013 3:38 pm

Kim OHara wrote:
Kingdubrock wrote: I had been focusing so much on Langer, MBSR (and related systems) and IMS people. I wonder if its a case that [TNH] is so ubiquitous and influential and accessible, especially to new Buddhists (like myself when I was starting out) that I took him for granted.
Interesting.

I don't know about your own thoughts, Mark, but it's certainly the case that TNH is one of the two authors most prominent on the "Buddhism" or "Other religions" (!) shelf in every bookshop I've been in. HHDL is, of course, the other.
Both of them are indeed ubiquitous and accessible, and that makes them enormously influential: if their work is a starting point for so many of us, it frames the way we will look at what we discover later.

:namaste:
Kim


Yes, thats true. I have had a good number of teachers, some "famous", some not. All have influenced and shaped my thinking. But recently I have rediscovered Thich Nhat Hanh and reassessed his importance to me, probably due to the nature of my thesis work. Indeed, when I think back, a collection of audio cassettes that I bought (back when audio cassettes were still a thing), called, I believe, The Present Moment had a more direct and lasting influence on me than possibly any other resource or book since. At least on a formative or experiential level. I think I made the transition from generically "spiritual" to "Buddhist" from that collection.
HHDL was important to me as well, but not as influential. I never read any of his more "popular" works, but did at various times have his more specific works on subjects like Kamilashila's meditation treatiese, some stuff of the Kalachakra and so on. The former sunk in more than the latter though.
I think the other people that fall into this category would be Pema Chodron and perhaps Surya Das. Both of which I enjoyed deeply early on.


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