The Discovery of Mindfulness Podcast

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Joined: Fri May 01, 2020 6:14 pm

The Discovery of Mindfulness Podcast

Post by JoahM »

Hi friends, on a recent podcast ( ... indfulness), Carl Stimson discussed the spread of vipassana meditation from Asia to the West in the 1960s and beyond, and through these lens analyzed his own experiencing finding the path. If you might find such a talk interesting, would be quite keen to learn what others on this forum think of his thoughts.

Here is more information the talk:

“It’s hard to do anything these days without running into mindfulness. It’s in book stores and app stores, Ted Talks and podcasts, offices and classrooms. But rewind twenty years and that’s not the case, at least outside of traditionally Buddhist countries.” So starts a three-book review written by Carl Stimson, covering Journey of Insight Meditation (1978) by Eric Lerner, One Night’s Shelter (1985) by Bhikkhu Yogavacara Rahula aka Scott DuPrez, and The Quiet Mind (1971) by John Coleman. Writing himself as a fourth character into this study, Carl notes that he belonged to a later generation than these three: “Taking my first course in the early aughts made me less of a pioneer as these three gentleman, but definitely ahead of the McMindfulness curve that has since developed. So, having already witnessed first-hand the transformation of mindfulness from mysterious curiosity to commercialized buzzword, going back to read about a time when so much was still so unexplored generated a kind of nostalgia in me. Perhaps this is like when Americans pine for the ‘simplicity’ of the 1950s or the ‘freedom’ of the Old West—it says more about the psychology of the one doing the pining or the state of current society than about those actual time periods.”

After providing three synopses and reviews of each work, Carl goes on to tackle wider questions as to what, when taken together, they tell us about the growth and expansion of the vipassana movement from Asia to the West.

For example, Carl explores the interplay between karma and accessibility. In other words, he notes how the opportunity to find a capable Dhamma teacher in earlier years was largely dependent upon one’s karma, “being in the right place at the right time.” In contrast, today such possibilities are everywhere, to the point of being overwhelming. This leads Carl to wonder if it’s better to have the teachings largely preserved in more traditional forms in faraway Buddhist countries, accessible to just a small number of people; or to have it widely shared with the masses, even if quite often that means in a much more diluted state.

Carl also focuses on the fact that all three authors—and himself as well—are straight, white, American males. He wonders aloud about the lack of diversity represented in these writings and whether their experiences and perceptions—colored as they were by their positions of privilege—might not inadvertently have had some effect on the resultant mindfulness movement.

Here, he brings his own story into the mix. He notes that while he’s read a number of books covering the “falling in love” part of a yogi’s spiritual journey into meditation, he’s encountered relatively little about what happens in the yogi’s real life after their “happily ever after” book endings. Carl vulnerably discusses the surprising bumps in the road he has faced as a meditator after having fully dedicated himself to the practice, and his struggles to gain insight into the nature of these challenges and the best way to work with them. This ultimately led to a wider appreciation for the stages of development that a meditator goes through on the path, and the need to mature along one’s spiritual journey by becoming more independent and flexible with the practice.
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