Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Exploring modern Theravāda interpretations of the Buddha's teaching.
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Kim OHara
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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by Kim OHara » Wed Nov 15, 2017 11:54 am

dharmacorps wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 9:08 pm
I discovered meditation through MBSR years ago and found Theravada Buddhism from there. At the end of the course, the teacher said "to learn more about where this comes from go to access to insight". For me this was perfect, but I realize there are many variations on MBSR. But I do feel it provides some tools for modern, secular people, which make it more likely to understand Dhamma. JKZ's books are a good starting place if you are coming from an atheistic and skeptical background. My only criticism is it is superficial if not deepened.
Agreed on all counts. I think this is the best way of looking at him and his value to western society.

Many non-Buddhists, like you, have arrived at Buddhism via MBSR - which is a good thing.
Many others have been helped by MBSR - which is a good thing - but not followed through to Buddhism - which is okay.
And I don't believe there have been many people who would have found Buddhism except that they found MBSR first and settled for the lesser teachings, so the existence of MBSR hasn't harmed or misled anyone much.

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by dharmacorps » Wed Nov 15, 2017 7:35 pm

Absolutely. I knew about Buddhism vaguely, but I never would have begun practicing it without the introduction to meditation provided by MBSR. So when people criticize "secular buddhism", they may have good points, but the fact is it is a fine stepping stone.

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by Spiny Norman » Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:25 pm

Kim OHara wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 11:54 am
Many non-Buddhists, like you, have arrived at Buddhism via MBSR - which is a good thing.
Many others have been helped by MBSR - which is a good thing - but not followed through to Buddhism - which is okay.
It seems like a win-win situation.
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream."
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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by binocular » Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:28 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:25 pm
It seems like a win-win situation.
If you ignore all those who weren't helped by MBSR.

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by Kim OHara » Thu Nov 16, 2017 9:52 pm

binocular wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:28 pm
Spiny Norman wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:25 pm
It seems like a win-win situation.
If you ignore all those who weren't helped by MBSR.
That's being unfair, I think. To be fair, we should also ignore all those who weren't helped by Jungian analysis, primal scream therapy, Christian Science, reiki, laying on of hands, etc, etc.
Really, if a course of action in anything to do with mental health offers a reasonable chance that it will be beneficial and a low chance that it will be harmful, that's about the best we can expect.

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by dharmacorps » Thu Nov 16, 2017 11:37 pm

Nothing is a panacea. By that measure, Buddhism doesn't "help" everybody. It works if you learn the skills.

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by binocular » Fri Nov 17, 2017 10:45 am

dharmacorps wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 11:37 pm
Nothing is a panacea. By that measure, Buddhism doesn't "help" everybody. It works if you learn the skills.
When some people are excluded from learning the skills; or when some required skills are such that one must be born with them or learn them already as a small child, but cannot learn them later in life -- then the supposed "helpful solution" isn't much of a solution. How can that be considered a win-win situation?
Kim OHara wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 9:52 pm
That's being unfair, I think. To be fair, we should also ignore all those who weren't helped by Jungian analysis, primal scream therapy, Christian Science, reiki, laying on of hands, etc, etc.
Why unfair? Some moral philosophers propose that if a principle is such that only some people can act on it, but not others (because they are too poor, for example), then such a principle cannot be considered moral. How can that be considered a win-win situation?
Really, if a course of action in anything to do with mental health offers a reasonable chance that it will be beneficial and a low chance that it will be harmful, that's about the best we can expect.

Except that some such courses of action are marketed as being such that anyone, regardless of race, socio-economic background, education etc. supposedly can apply them, but the reality is that they cannot and that those courses of action are available only to people with a specific socio-economic background and mentality. And worse, those that cannot apply those courses of action get accused of being failures, not trying hard enough, or that there is something wrong with them.

For example, I find that much of what modern psychology teaches is such that only the secular (upper) middle class can relate to it and act on it. Religions, too, aren't necessarily egalitarian and democratic (in that, for example, those who aren't born into said religion cannot meaningfully apply its teachings or learn the required skills).

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by Kim OHara » Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:08 am

I said earlier that, "if a course of action in anything to do with mental health offers a reasonable chance that it will be beneficial and a low chance that it will be harmful, that's about the best we can expect," and I think that's a perfectly reasonable position to take.
As you say, Binocular, none of these approaches is perfect, and none of them is equally available to all. That position is almost the same as mine, but you highlight the negatives and I highlight the positives.

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by binocular » Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:46 am

Kim OHara wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:08 am
As you say, Binocular, none of these approaches is perfect, and none of them is equally available to all. That position is almost the same as mine, but you highlight the negatives and I highlight the positives.
Highlighting the positives lends itself well to judging others (namely those for whom the proposed course of action didn't work) and to trivializing the resources and skills required to apply a certain course of action.

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by chownah » Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:53 am

binocular wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 10:45 am

Kim OHara wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 9:52 pm
That's being unfair, I think. To be fair, we should also ignore all those who weren't helped by Jungian analysis, primal scream therapy, Christian Science, reiki, laying on of hands, etc, etc.
Why unfair? Some moral philosophers propose that if a principle is such that only some people can act on it, but not others (because they are too poor, for example), then such a principle cannot be considered moral. How can that be considered a win-win situation?
Mindfulness mediation is not a philosophical principle....it is not a principle of any kind that I know of. It is a techniques which has been found beneficial by a broad sampling of humans across many cultures and in many settings.
Similarly, the things kim ohara mentions are not philosophical principles either. I think you mention of philosophical principles is a strawman (a misrepresentation of someone's position which is then easily refuted which gives the impression that someone's position has been dealt with but in fact it is only a misrepresentation which has been dealt with.)
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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by binocular » Fri Nov 17, 2017 1:51 pm

chownah wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:53 am
Mindfulness mediation is not a philosophical principle....it is not a principle of any kind that I know of. It is a techniques which has been found beneficial by a broad sampling of humans across many cultures and in many settings.
Similarly, the things kim ohara mentions are not philosophical principles either. I think you mention of philosophical principles is a strawman (a misrepresentation of someone's position which is then easily refuted which gives the impression that someone's position has been dealt with but in fact it is only a misrepresentation which has been dealt with.)
Philosophical principles are ubiquitous, different people having different ones. One such principle for secular mindfulness is that each person's life is worth living or worth improving. A stance that is far more controversial than it might seem at first glance, given that there is legal death penalty in at least some countries, widespread abortion, assisted suicide, "euthanasia", to name just a few phenomena that put into question the idea that each person's life is worth living or worth improving.

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by chownah » Fri Nov 17, 2017 2:55 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 1:51 pm
chownah wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:53 am
Mindfulness mediation is not a philosophical principle....it is not a principle of any kind that I know of. It is a techniques which has been found beneficial by a broad sampling of humans across many cultures and in many settings.
Similarly, the things kim ohara mentions are not philosophical principles either. I think you mention of philosophical principles is a strawman (a misrepresentation of someone's position which is then easily refuted which gives the impression that someone's position has been dealt with but in fact it is only a misrepresentation which has been dealt with.)
Philosophical principles are ubiquitous, different people having different ones. One such principle for secular mindfulness is that each person's life is worth living or worth improving. A stance that is far more controversial than it might seem at first glance, given that there is legal death penalty in at least some countries, widespread abortion, assisted suicide, "euthanasia", to name just a few phenomena that put into question the idea that each person's life is worth living or worth improving.
Mindfulness mediation is not a philosophical principle. Similarly, the things kim ohara mentions are not philosophical principles either.
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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by L.N. » Fri Nov 17, 2017 3:59 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 1:51 pm
One such principle for secular mindfulness is that each person's life is worth living or worth improving. A stance that is far more controversial than it might seem at first glance, given that there is legal death penalty in at least some countries, widespread abortion, assisted suicide, "euthanasia", to name just a few phenomena that put into question the idea that each person's life is worth living or worth improving.
These people's lives are worth living. Why the attempt to tie secular mindfulness to such things as the death penalty, abortion, suicide, etc? The quoted comment makes no sense, lacks factual support, and appears to have nothing to do with a serious, fact-based discussion of the secular approach to mindfulness. Why the effort here to bash every approach to mindfulness which is not identical to one's own views?
Sire patitthitā Buddhā
Dhammo ca tava locane
Sangho patitthitō tuiham
uresabba gunākaro


愿众佛坐在我的头顶, 佛法在我的眼中, 僧伽,功德的根源, 端坐在我的肩上。

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by binocular » Sat Nov 18, 2017 5:44 pm

L.N. wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 3:59 pm
These people's lives are worth living. Why the attempt to tie secular mindfulness to such things as the death penalty, abortion, suicide, etc? The quoted comment makes no sense, lacks factual support, and appears to have nothing to do with a serious, fact-based discussion of the secular approach to mindfulness. Why the effort here to bash every approach to mindfulness which is not identical to one's own views?
If I go to a MBSR presentation, will the presenters there teach me that my life is worth living? My guess is, based on what they say in their books and talks, they won't.
I don't care if something helps others or "works" for others. If it doesn't help me, it's worthless to me.

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by binocular » Sat Nov 18, 2017 5:45 pm

chownah wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 2:55 pm
Mindfulness mediation is not a philosophical principle. Similarly, the things kim ohara mentions are not philosophical principles either.
It's based on some philosophical principles, which are usually not openly stated, but which can be inferred.

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by L.N. » Sat Nov 18, 2017 6:09 pm

binocular wrote:
Sat Nov 18, 2017 5:44 pm
L.N. wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 3:59 pm
These people's lives are worth living. Why the attempt to tie secular mindfulness to such things as the death penalty, abortion, suicide, etc? The quoted comment makes no sense, lacks factual support, and appears to have nothing to do with a serious, fact-based discussion of the secular approach to mindfulness. Why the effort here to bash every approach to mindfulness which is not identical to one's own views?
If I go to a MBSR presentation, will the presenters there teach me that my life is worth living? My guess is, based on what they say in their books and talks, they won't.
I don't care if something helps others or "works" for others. If it doesn't help me, it's worthless to me.
That's fine, but it doesn't answer my question. Why the effort to bash every approach to mindfulness which is not identical to one's own views?
Sire patitthitā Buddhā
Dhammo ca tava locane
Sangho patitthitō tuiham
uresabba gunākaro


愿众佛坐在我的头顶, 佛法在我的眼中, 僧伽,功德的根源, 端坐在我的肩上。

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by dharmacorps » Sat Nov 18, 2017 8:40 pm

I'm confused too-- what does this have to do with one's life being worth living? Do you want to go to a meditation class where they tell you your life isn't worth living? Why is that even a subject?

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Nov 19, 2017 5:44 am

binocular wrote:
Sat Nov 18, 2017 5:44 pm
If I go to a MBSR presentation, will the presenters there teach me that my life is worth living? My guess is, based on what they say in their books and talks, they won't.
In the case of Kabat-Zinn, I've no idea if he'll teach you that your life is worth living, but to judge from his book Coming to our Senses he certainly thinks that his is.
TASTESCAPE

To give a sense of the tastescape, I thought I would eat one almond and try to describe the experience. I took it from the granola I made last week, so it was baked along with a lot of other things, including olive oil and maple syrup, lots of oats, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, some cinnamon, and a little salt. As I put the almond in my mouth, I am struck by its size. It is quite large. I can feel the skin softening up and oops, all of sudden, there are two pieces in my mouth. I can feel the wrinkled skin on the one side, and the smooth surface of the seedling that it is, now split in two, on the other. I bite into them—perceive that they are surprisingly crunchy—and start chewing, slowly. The crunchiness rapidly turns to something with the consistency of cornmeal. It is amazing how the taste floods the mouth, peaks, and then trails off. It happened much faster than I thought it would. So, to zero in on the taste again, I put another in my mouth after swallowing what was left of the first one.

Slowly, mindfully chewing, chewing, tasting, tasting. Hmmmmm. Everything that is going on in the mouth is the domain of the tastescape, but what is it like in this instant?

[...]

Last night at a local restaurant I ordered cilantro green curry halibut with jasmine rice. It was an amazing combination of textures and tastes, each mouthful a supernova of subtleties ... the chef really knew what he was doing to be able to impart such an experience to another person through food. Every mouthful of fish, cooked so as to melt in your mouth, along with some of the rice and a small aliquot of sauce invited a silent pause of, no exaggeration, dumbfounded ecstasy during which the head instinctively inclined itself at an unnatural angle to deepen the mindfulness of what was going on in the mouth. This was followed by an exclamation of delight and satisfaction, mostly contained so as to not overdo it with Myla, who had ordered something else. There was also a sensuous lingering after each mouthful with the swirling, explosive blending of refined tastes that was the source of such pleasure, mildly sweet, a touch of coconut milk aroma, and intensely peppered, but somehow not too much. Again, ultimately it is impossible for me to describe it. I guess that is why we eat delicious food, because just reading about it, even if the writer is gifted, may conjure up hunger, but it will never satisfy that hunger or give us the actual flavor itself. For that we have to take it into our mouths ourselves and taste it in order to know it. Here the tasting is the knowing.

[...]

Yet I imagine, coming back to the green curry halibut, that the chef might have something interesting and revealing to say about his creations. Tasting this dish mouthful after delicious mouthful, it was as if I were all of a sudden at a wine tasting and had been given some two-hundred-year-old Bordeaux costing hundreds of dollars. I might enjoy it, but how could I appreciate, never mind give voice to all its ineluctable virtues, or even understand them listening to someone else, without being a connoisseur of wines?

And what would that be? Just someone with experience, who has, literally, "become familiar" through paying attention to a particular field of experience (from the Latin, "cognoscere," to know). So, in attending to the tastescape by bringing mindfulness to what we are actually putting in our mouths and tasting, we are becoming connoisseurs not only of what we are eating, but of who is doing the eating in the first place.
It seems an awful long way from bhāvanā on the banks of the Nerañjarā to fusion cuisine dining in Nantucket. I'm not sure if this is quite what the Buddha had in mind when he said that "satipaṭṭhāna is helpful everywhere."

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by L.N. » Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:19 am

Dhammanando wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 5:44 am
It seems an awful long way from bhāvanā on the banks of the Nerañjarā to fusion cuisine dining in Nantucket. I'm not sure if this is quite what the Buddha had in mind when he said that "satipaṭṭhāna is helpful everywhere."
The quotes appear to be about cultivating awareness of the sensation of taste. What is the problem with it?
Sire patitthitā Buddhā
Dhammo ca tava locane
Sangho patitthitō tuiham
uresabba gunākaro


愿众佛坐在我的头顶, 佛法在我的眼中, 僧伽,功德的根源, 端坐在我的肩上。

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Re: Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Nov 19, 2017 7:57 am

L.N. wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:19 am
The quotes appear to be about cultivating awareness of the sensation of taste. What is the problem with it?
That would depend on who the reader is. For a follower of Aristippus of Cyrene I shouldn't think there would be any problem at all with it. The whole book would serve as a splendid guide on how to maximize his enjoyment of the five cords of sense-pleasure.

On the other hand, a follower of the Buddha looking for a good guide to dhammānupassanā may find that a few things of vital importance have been omitted.
“Here bhikkhus, a bhikkhu abides contemplating dhammas as dhammas, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world.

[...]

“Again, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu abides contemplating dhammas as dhammas in terms of the six internal and external bases. And how does a bhikkhu abide contemplating dhammas as dhammas in terms of the six internal and external bases? Here a bhikkhu understands the tongue, he understands tastes, and he understands the fetter that arises dependent on both; and he also understands how there comes to be the arising of the unarisen fetter, and how there comes to be the abandoning of the arisen fetter, and how there comes to be the future non-arising of the abandoned fetter.

[...]

“In this way he abides contemplating dhammas as dhammas internally, or he abides contemplating dhammas as dhammas externally, or he abides contemplating dhammas as dhammas both internally and externally. Or else he abides contemplating in dhammas their nature of arising, or he abides contemplating in dhammas their nature of vanishing, or he abides contemplating in dhammas their nature of both arising and vanishing. Or else mindfulness that ‘there are dhammas’ is simply established in him to the extent necessary for bare knowledge and mindfulness. And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating dhammas as dhammas in terms of the sense-bases.”

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