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forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine

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The CSB 60-Minutes show was one thing – sort of reasonable reporting (http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5637687).

The relatively new glossy magazine, 'mindful taking time for what matters', is quite another ...

The first issue I ran across, a couple of months ago, pictured Arianna Huffington on the cover, in lotus position. Inner cover a two-page glossy ad; one side full page picture of some European-looking male model, maybe with the Italian style sunglasses and stubble beard (don't recall the details), wearing a sort of Indian-looking (or maybe 'Roman-collar') long length shirt; on the facing page, the sales-hype leading off with"for the well-dressed monk."

A third issue recently showed up (at the beginning of December 2014) in our clinic ("February 2015" issue – how's that for being in the present!). I think it's a freebie promotion; we subscribe / pay only for 'People Magazine' (patients love it; we have to watch out they don't carry it off), but we get all sorts of other magazines for free, from 'Scientific American' and 'Archeology Today' (a pretty good one, but last issue had a picture of a huge reclining Buddha statue at some shrine in Southeast Asia, but set the picture reversed: lying on his left side!), to 'Yoga', and then a lot of other magazines – sports, finance, fashion, interior decorating, etc.

This issue of "mindful" opens with another two-page ad, this time "BUDHAGIRL – MINDFUL GLAMOUR". Amid pictures of gold jewelery and a crystal Buddha statue, the text: "a day begins – BuDhaGirl is a story of awareness and new beginnings – beautiful objects and jewelery for bringing the mind back into balance and focus. Our story and our legacy is, simply, MINDFUL GLAMOUR. pause. be aware. be it."

Inside the magazine, a spectrum of 'mushroom method' type, watered-down articles, at best. At worst (in my perhaps biased and cynical view), features like:
(under "Mindful Living") "Food – Sensual, Savory Chocolate…" (about Valentine Day gifts);
(under "Mindful Practices") "ms. mindful on relationships: Make Love a Priority…Valentine's Day – a sweet sexy reminder to wow your mate with passion and appreciation…".

Near the end, "mindful marketplace" (small ads)… much the usual stuff, as eg inTricycle, plus:
"Spiritual Singles – meet yoursoul mate, twin flame, friends, or lovers…"
"Mindfulicious – New, delicious snack bar. The first bar ever to include mindful eating tips for savoring every bite!"
"Mindful Sexuality: Couples Retreats… Deepen your erotic connection as a transformational path; Shift from performance to exporation… passionandpresence.com"

Last page before back cover: "mindspace -- A Welcome Break -- I was going to take a break by going on a silent retreat. But I tripped on the sidewalk and broke my arm instead. It turned out to be a very efficient way to find myself. Everything cancelled. Forced stillness. Wincing with pain. Cursing. But then, lots of time to look at fluttering leaves outside the window. Many hours to breathe. To read. To listen to music. To make lists of favorite desserts. To feel lucky. And happily, that feeling has not evaporated. The break broke a long period of sadness. Suddenly I knew exactly what I needed to do. Inhabit the moment and take care. Does it go without saying than my compassion for everyone shot up a millionfold? Well, it did. We never know when the bad break will come, but come it will. We break. We heal. We break. We heal. [review cycles?] And each time it happens, we can only hope that we will find our way to be better for it."

Inside backcover: "EXPAND WHAT'S POSSIBLE WITH YOUR MONEY… abacuswealth.com/mindful"

Back cover:
Header: "mind the moment – Mindfulness: Now's the time'."
Text: "Mindfulness is having its moment – and we're ready for it…. We've worked with financial management companies, local governments, high tech companies and major research universities to help bring out the qualities of compassion, empathy and emotional intelligence, and to demonstrate how clarity of attention and intention can work togther to achieve greater outcomes…"
Bottom line: "Let us know how we can help you Mind the Moment. Find out how Harvard Pilgrim can bring mindfulness into every aspect of your life. Visit us at www.harvardpilgrim.org/mindfulness ... Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare."

P.S. Pop quiz: Do you suppose they're using 'mindful' (sati) in the sense of 'memory', or in the sense of 'bare awareness'?

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
12/23/14 10:06 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
"P.S. Pop quiz: Do you suppose they're using 'mindful' (sati) in the sense of 'memory', or in the sense of 'bare awareness'?"

Bare awareness it seems haha

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
12/23/14 12:43 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
This designer jeans version of the original idea is ineviatable, and a sign of broad interest. It sounds stupid, but I think it's educational to understand the dumbing down for mass consumption by studying this from other disciplines. Two examples are crossfit for body building and object oriented paradigms for programming. 


http://www.t-nation.com/training/crossfit-the-good-bad-and-the-ugly
"CrossFit is the greatest thing that has ever happened to barbell training, bar none, unequivocally and absolutely.

Since the invention of the equipment a hundred years ago, nothing has placed more hands on more barbells than CrossFit. This is what motivated my involvement with them in 2006 – I saw a huge amount of potential for the advancement of strength training."

...

"CrossFit – the program on the website and the methods taught at their "certs" – is Exercise, not Training. Exercise is physical activity for its own sake, a workout done for the effect it produces today, during the workout or right after you're through. Training is physical activity done with a longer-term goal in mind, the constituent workouts of which are specifically designed to produce that goal.

Exercise is fun today. Well, it may not be fun, but you've convinced yourself to do it today because you perceive that the effect you produce today is of benefit to you today. You "smashed" or "crushed" or "smoked" that workout... today. Same as the kids in front of the dumbbell rack at the gym catching an arm pump, the workout was about how it made you feel, good or bad, today.

In contrast, Training is about the process you undertake to generate a specific result later, maybe much later, the workouts of which are merely the constituents of the process. Training may even involve a light day that you perceive to be a waste of time if you only consider today."


For programming you have incredibly intelligent people like Alan Kay talking about the watering down of OO languages, a good talk on it can be found here, at the 30 minute mark, maybe?: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=FvmTSpJU-Xc



The reason I posted these two examples is because this watering down phenomenon is universal, probably occurs in some sort of isomorphic way, meaning, even though they are totally different fields of activity, the watering down occurs the same way. I don't think this is a product of consumerism as much as it is a product of a talent differential. In other words, not everybody can play at the high levels of skill, and because of this differential, you get garbage like this. That's why I don't give too much of a fuck about this watering down anymore. I used to, I still think it's pretty fucking dumb, but when I keep seeing this same dumbing down in different fields, I want to find deeper principles of human nature that are potentially more powerful in prediction and explanation. 

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
12/23/14 2:08 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
I checked it out online, and to be fair, they do seem to have a cover story on "Healing our Vets," which is a worthwhile thing to do. It's mushroomy, but there are some good intentions. 

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
12/24/14 8:01 AM as a reply to Ryan J.
Ryan Kenneth Johnson:
This designer jeans version of the original idea is ineviatable, and a sign of broad interest. It sounds stupid, but I think it's educational to understand the dumbing down for mass consumption by studying this from other disciplines. Two examples are crossfit for body building and object oriented paradigms for programming. 

http://www.t-nation.com/training/crossfit-the-good-bad-and-the-ugly
"CrossFit is the greatest thing that has ever happened to barbell training, bar none, unequivocally and absolutely.
<snip>
"CrossFit – the program on the website and the methods taught at their "certs" – is Exercise, not Training. Exercise is physical activity for its own sake, a workout done for the effect it produces today, during the workout or right after you're through. Training is physical activity done with a longer-term goal in mind, the constituent workouts of which are specifically designed to produce that goal...<snip>"


I don't know enough about this domain to appreciate the details. The exercise vs training contrast -- do you mean, for instance, popularized 'mindfulness' (or Buddhism) as 'exercise', for more immediate and likely ephemeral effect vs 'training' as some serious goal-oriented development (bhavanga)?

For programming you have incredibly intelligent people like Alan Kay talking about the watering down of OO languages, a good talk on it can be found here, at the 30 minute mark, maybe?: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=FvmTSpJU-Xc

This area I'm more familiar with. I didn't catch much specific about OO languages in Kay's talk; he spends a lot time on general ideas about, to paraphrase, 'progress' as in this field as s/t seeming more 'degeneration'. I can agree, for instance, that after all the marvelous work in language principles and development in the 1960s-1970s, things like 'html' are major cultural setbacks. Can you offer examples of OO languages watered down and those not?

Some of the ideas in this talk were familiar, from having read an interview with Kay in Dobbs Journal, ca. 2011 (where he also makes good use of the metaphors of reinventing the wheel vs reinventing the flat tire). Otherwise I'd studied only much earlier stuff of his, like the PARC publications (ca. 1976) on the Dynabook book and Smalltalk 72.

The reason I posted these two examples is because this watering down phenomenon is universal, probably occurs in some sort of isomorphic way, meaning, even though they are totally different fields of activity, the watering down occurs the same way. I don't think this is a product of consumerism as much as it is a product of a talent differential. In other words, not everybody can play at the high levels of skill, and because of this differential, you get garbage like this. That's why I don't give too much of a fuck about this watering down anymore. I used to, I still think it's pretty fucking dumb, but when I keep seeing this same dumbing down in different fields, I want to find deeper principles of human nature that are potentially more powerful in prediction and explanation. 
The historical / cross field comparisions are well-taken, geared to seeing the larger picture of human cultural / social behavior (as in the last sentence). It is, however, unfortunate that fad / popularization phenomena s/t result in the important terms being redefined to the point that it becomes difficult to use them in more meaningful ways; it adds the need for effort to distinquish the popular from the deeper levels of meaning. And also the financial exploitation aspect can lead to giving terms or ideas a dubious reputation.

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
12/24/14 10:22 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
Hi Chris,

IMHO, the problem is that in a few years, when people start having negative experiences as a result of mindfulness meditation (Dark Night, dukka nannas, etc.) there will be a big hoohaw in the press about how mindfulness is bad for you, etc. etc. We've seen this movie before, it is what happened with psychedelics in the '60s. Naturally, lots of people who do "mindfulness lite" won't go deeply enough to really get into the dukka nannas, but for others it may trigger an A&P experience and if they are somewhat psychologically unstable, they may interpret the subsequent dukka nannas as reflecting on their own self-worth or something like that, rather than just part of the process of coming to intuitively understand the three characteristics.

Unfortunately, there's no support infrastructure in place for people who have had negative experiences. Stanislasw Groff's Spiritual Emergence Network is defunct, a victim of underfunding and not enough people who were trained psychotherapists volunteering to help.  There are some academics doing research into negative experiences like Willoughby Britton at Brown, but almost all meditation teachers never talk about it, a consequence of the mushroom method. Though more and more psychotherapists are starting to do mindfulness training, most psychotherapists don't have a clue about how to deal with someone having a meditation freakout, and neither do the teachers quite frankly. Really severe cases are rare, in one of her videos, Willoughby talks about a guy that Jack Kornfield told her about who killed himself a couple years after having a bad experience on a retreat. But there are plenty of others who have difficulty, and it often takes 2-3 years for somone to recover from a retreat that went awry.

I don't know what the answer is. MCTB is certainly helpful. The main reason I published my memoir, Silicon Valley Monk, is that I'm hoping people who are having difficulty can connect with it and see that others have had those kinds of problems too. But these all seem to be candles in the wind of the American commercial marketing machine that is now geared up and rolling around mindfulness.

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
12/25/14 5:59 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
I picked up a copy of Mindful just the other day in Whole Foods while buying some groceries, noted that a simple blurb by my friend Jud Brewer about mindfulness and craving was in there, and while looking through it, I found it fascinating to be Mindful of my reactions, which included disgust, amusement, sadness, cynicism, condescention, disappointment, and a host of similar reactions.

In some ways it is like complaining that children's books have little cute pictures, as, from a Mindfulness point of view, most consumers of this stuff are basically, as Christopher Titmuss would have put it, "thumb-sucking kids on the spiritual path", and so I can at once see that getting this stuff out there, even in preposterously watered-down, exploited, bastardized, pathetically-infantile, hyper-commercialized style is better than nothing, and yet it is truly vile from another equally valid point of view. Can we be Mindful as we hold those two points of view in ourselves and vomit while we relish the joy of them spreading the "dharma" in that form to those who probably can't handle anything more than that?

In this, am I needlessly and profoundly dismissive of the actual capabilities of these fine consumers? Perhaps, and, if so, hopefully things like that magazine and similarly watered-down magazines (into which category I unfortunately throw Tricycle and Shambhala, though I haven't read them in years owing to similar reactions in the past) will encourage those who want more to look deeper into these things.

May all beings find the dharma they are capable of handling skillfully,

Daniel

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
12/25/14 10:53 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:


May all beings find the dharma they are capable of handling skillfully,

Daniel

Greetings Daniel,

Mindfulness based stress reduction is fast becoming an intrinsic part of clinical psychology these days but without the dharma for minds not so enclined. much the way yoga stretching exercises are being practiced by millions but without the eastern belief systems.  Do you think such practices can be just as beneficial without the eastern dharma teachings?    

Thanks, Alin

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness_%28psychology%29
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vr2ATJkxzGA  

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
12/26/14 2:22 AM as a reply to Alin Mathews.
There is clearly data that basic MBSR stuff helps some people to moderate degrees sometimes in various ways, and I am tempted to say something as a follow up, such as, "just like knowing your ABC's helps you read," but that might not be fair, as for some it does become more than that.

Still, it is pretty early-education level most of the time, and the part about it not just missing the deeper stuff but somehow cultivating this weird arrogant dismissal of the deeper stuff, as if it was somehow the end all and be all of insight meditation, is a strange but oft observed side effect of teaching PhDs and MDs and the like the MBSR material, which is a tragic loss and odd glass-ceiling producing effect, in that plenty will then stop there, when they might have really liked to know about the deeper stuff and might even have been able to reach it, had they been part of a program that considered things beyond its reach.

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
12/26/14 1:22 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
You know, I always thought the "mushroom factor" Daniel talked about was people who did mushrooms and decided to meditate to try to get the same effects. emoticon  Maybe "worm factor" is better...

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
12/26/14 4:36 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
You know, I always thought the "mushroom factor" Daniel talked about was people who did mushrooms and decided to meditate to try to get the same effects. emoticon  Maybe "worm factor" is better...
It's called the mushroom factor because the idea is that you keep people in the dark and feed them shit, which are the conditions mushrooms grow in. emoticon

Appropriately, at the Goenka retreats, the (delicious) food has a lot of mushrooms in it. Not the psychoactive kind, though.

I gave up doing mushrooms after bad side effects (paranoia) and realizing that they're "like looking at the mountain with binoculars and thinking that you're there," as it's been said, but I would love to be able to get some of the same effects from meditation. Hopefully soon!

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
12/29/14 3:31 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
There is clearly data that basic MBSR stuff helps some people to moderate degrees sometimes in various ways, and I am tempted to say something as a follow up, such as, "just like knowing your ABC's helps you read," but that might not be fair, as for some it does become more than that.

Still, it is pretty early-education level most of the time, and the part about it not just missing the deeper stuff but somehow cultivating this weird arrogant dismissal of the deeper stuff, as if it was somehow the end all and be all of insight meditation, is a strange but oft observed side effect of teaching PhDs and MDs and the like the MBSR material, which is a tragic loss and odd glass-ceiling producing effect, in that plenty will then stop there, when they might have really liked to know about the deeper stuff and might even have been able to reach it, had they been part of a program that considered things beyond its reach.

Thanks Daniel, i won't fire anymore questions at you, as i'm hoping youre enjoying a much deserved break this festive season.

But i have to say i am surprised that you see those practicing non dharma MBSR as weirdly arrogant and dismissive of the deeper stuff when it's origins (in eastern terms) are acknowledged on wikipedia for anyone wishing to go east. 

So far nothing indicates that eastern dogmas are essential for accessing deeper levels of insight and peace. in fact that eastern teachers believe their methods and ideologies are the only way to uncover our inherent benevolence and that any other alternative will only result in superficial inferior development is (to me) the height of arrogance.  

That said, AF is not without it's weird arrogance either. let's face it, to believe that one man melodramatically discovered/attained freedom from the entire human psyche at (eg) precisely 5.15pm on Wednesday of whenever, is absurd. the awakening of human intelligence and it's resulting well being has been an ongoing gradual process for centuries. It hasn't happened overnight no matter how much an individual consciously speeds up the process. even sudden experiential realisations are the culmination of considerable observation, contemplation and experimentation plus being fortunate enough to be born into a culture condusive to it, preferably with less staunch socio-religio-beliefs, to parents who encouraged freedom of thought and social awareness, with physical health and time for introspection. 

For example many less warring nations ie scandinavians, Australians, New Zealanders etc, although not yet fully aware of the potential to offload 'all' psychological baggage, have already offloaded many superstitions and traditional doctrines that larger populations geographically closer to each other are still ruled by and mercilously rule each other with. an exploration into non dharma awakening is simply more natural for de-culturing nations that never existed centuries ago. i would not be surprised if they end up going deeper than the east ever did.  

as i see it, humanity is only superficially fighting over theologies and territories and arguing over which sutta is the truest. at root they're fighting over emotion driven beliefs 'about' them. modern societies just want the facts and the more the merrier and sensible and connected humanity will be. it doesnt have to be so complicated. 

apoz for the lack of vocab but writing isn't my thang. 

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
12/26/14 8:41 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I often have to remind myself that people who are interested in watered-down, commercialized, mushroomy meditation paradigms are probably not capable of handling deep insights very well. It is frustrating to see this kind of stuff being spoon-fed to the masses, but insight meditation is ridiculously powerful when done properly, and perhaps it is for the best that most people have never encountered the hardcore stuff. Calculus is awesome, but it would not be wise to thrust it upon a first-grader who only knows how to add and subtract, regardless of the benefits of learning calculus.

The problem, as I think we all know, is that some of these mushroom folks may cross the A&P in their practice. The best way to handle this is greater awareness of the dark night, and I hope that the recent trends in transpersonal psychology and organizations such as the Spiritual Emergency Network will lead to this goal. 

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
12/26/14 11:59 PM as a reply to J C.
Most mushrooms are actually symbiotic with trees, exchanging nutrients and contributing to a "forest network".  They eat delicious wood, not shit.  emoticon   See, "worm factor" is more scientific (though, to be fair, I'm not sure worms eat shit either).

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
12/28/14 7:19 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
Most mushrooms are actually symbiotic with trees, exchanging nutrients and contributing to a "forest network".  They eat delicious wood, not shit.  emoticon   See, "worm factor" is more scientific (though, to be fair, I'm not sure worms eat shit either).

Some do eat it but they prefer to call it manure - it’s a matter of taste. Most mushrooms also require some light in order to fruit properly.

Yes, I think worm factor might be more technically correct if one wants to stick with the manure/darkness thing - and there are manure worms so no problem there - but not real catchy.

Just to stay on topic, when up in the mountains hunting for mushrooms, I practice bear awareness.

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
12/29/14 6:27 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram :
...
May all beings find the dharma they are capable of handling skillfully,

Here's a gloss on this – another of Daniel's tathagata-style sayings.

1) 'Dharma' has levels and levels of meaning. Here a readily available (general) meaning can be taken as just anybody's self-proclaimed teaching. As in those sutta stories of umptine recluses / acetics / Brahmans following the dharma of this or that other teacher or tradition, who show up to question G. Buddha, to check out his dharma, which actually might have been a sort of fad in those days. The other pivotal (in my view) term is 'skillfully', which can be taken as"whatever helps them (and possibly others)", i.e. as 'kusala' broadly defined ( commonly translated these days as "profitable", "skillful", "wholesome").

2) To evoke a level of meaning towards the other end of the spectrum (from mindful magazine readership):

'Dhamma'
(pardon the switch to Pali spelling) as specifically G.Buddha's teachings, and as transformed into a quasi-technical term in the Abhidhamma, meaning, roughly, the universe of those mental events (aka identifiable 'states', 'processes') that constitute the playground or domain for practicing those teachings. (Also possibly comparable to usage of observable 'sensation' in a DhO context.)

And thus one sees the launch pad for the entire ediface of the Abhidhamma endeavor in the opening line of the its first book, the Dhammasangani:
"Katame dhammā kusalā?"

"Which are the states that are good?"
(Caroline A. F. Rhys Davids' renders of 'kusala' as 'good')

3) And, at the risk going seriously esoteric, here's a view of the Abhidhamma use of the term 'dharma' (from the DhammaWheel forum some time ago):
"
Re: no (khandhas)aggregates?
bytiltbillings » Thu Nov 28, 2013 6:29 am

Piatigorsky (In his study of the Pitaka Abhidhamma texts, THE BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY OF THOUGHT, p 182) puts it: “From the point of view of consciousness, it can be said that, when consciousness is conscious of one’s mind, thought, or consciousness directed to their objects, then it is ‘being conscious of’ that may be named ‘a state of consciousness’ or a dharma.”

Piatigorsky (THE BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY OF THOUGHT, p 146) explains: “the meaning of each abhidhammic term consists (or is the sum) of all its positional meanings and of all positional meanings of its connotations.”

Nyanaponika quotes a sub-commentary to an Abhidhamma text: "There is no other thing than the quality borne by it." {(na ca dhaariyamma-sabhaavaa an~n~odhammo naama atthi). Abhidhamma Studies, page 40}. Which is to say: "We simpy cannot say that 'a dharma is... (a predicate follows)', because a dharma, in fact, 'is' no thing, yet [it is] a term denoting (not being) a certain relation or type of relation to thought, consciousness or mind. That is, dharma is not a concept in the accepted terminological sense of the latter, but a purely relational notion." --Piatigorsky, THE BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY OF THOUGHT, page 181.
"
(Note: Piatigorsky's using a phenomenological analysis here.)

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
1/5/15 6:57 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Chuck Kasmire:
Just to stay on topic, when up in the mountains hunting for mushrooms, I practice bear awareness.


Ha! emoticon

RE: forget MTCB2, get 'MINDFUL', the magazine
Answer
1/6/15 10:03 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel, I think your last sentence holds the key. In the most optimistic scenario, I can't see more than 10% of the population getting into hardcore Dharma in the next 50 years. But I would say at least 50% of the population can (or is interested enough to) learn to be mindful of there breath, mindful of how emotions are expressed through sensations in the body, etc...and this is an incredibly valuable tool. It takes somebody from being caught up in every snag and hook their hyperactive mind launches at them, to being able to objectify some of it and recognize it for what it is...what a profound relief! So that is at least 40% of the population that might benefit significantly from Mindful magazine, or Echart Tolle, or Arianna Huffington, or whoever else. That's a big deal!