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Banality Served Up As Profundity,
This review is from: Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness meditation for everyday life (Paperback)
"Wherever You Go, There You Are", is Buddhist philosophy - commonly known as "mindfulness" - as interpreted by Jon Cabat-Zinn. Here are a few sentences taken at random: -
"Our posture talks to us. It makes its own statement."
"The spine rises out of the pelvis with energy."
"Note in the mind's eye and in your own heart that water likes to pool in low places. It seeks its own level, asks to be contained"
I find there's something mindless about Western Mindfulness, possibly because it's influenced by Californian hippies, possibly because it's influenced by Western psychologists. Even the orthodox medical community - who come closest to intelligent comment - find themselves tripping up over ideas conceived in another age on a different continent, by people who spoke a different language and who had a different cultural and neurological frame of reference.
Jon Cabat-Zinn is like a Great McGonagall, who sees profundity in everything but whose speech and writings are endless banalities. In one of his videos he tells us that he could go on for hours like this - and he means what he says.
Viewed in the right light there is something slightly comical about his tireless quest for profundity, like a magpie gathering worthless objects and taking them back to its nest under the impression they're of great value. In the hands of someone like Dickens, Cabat-Zinn might have been one of the great characters of fiction.
Mindfulness and meditation seem to be quite effective against psychological problems like stress and depression, and its practitioners in the East seem to be quite sincere and rational. But something that has always puzzled me is that if mindfulness brings clarity to our thoughts then why do its practitioners all sound so vague? If it is so effective then why has it had so little influence in the West? If it brings focus to our actions then why are so many Buddhist countries so poor? And if it relieves depression then why are the suicide rates in Sri Lanka, Japan and South Korea - all Buddhist countries - so high?
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Jul 2010 12:37:42 BDT
D. Turner says:
"If mindfulness brings clarity to our thoughts then why do its practitioners all sound so vague?"
As I understand it, mindfulness is a way of bringing your attention to this very moment. It's very difficult to talk with precision about being in the moment.
"If it is so effective then why has it had so little influence in the West?"
It shouldn't be a surprise if people in the West find it difficult to embrace mindfulness when so much in our culture pulls us in other directions. However, I think you could argue that Buddhism/mindfulness in the West is on the rise.
"If it brings focus to our actions then why are so many Buddhist countries so poor?"
There are many reasons why one country is poorer than another - and many of them have little to do with the 'focus' of the country's inhabitants. In any case, I think you miss the point of mindfulness if you think it should necessarily increase your capacity to become rich. It's more likely to help you realise you need less money than you think.
"And if it relieves depression then why are the suicide rates in Sri Lanka, Japan and South Korea - all Buddhist countries - so high?"
Interesting question. To begin answering that I'd need to know the suicide rates of those countries and the extent to which Buddhism is actually practiced within them. For now, though, it's worth mentioning that there is plenty of research to suggest that mindfulness relieves depression, regardless of a person's cultural background.
In reply to an earlier post on 21 Aug 2010 14:22:55 BDT
Kabat Zinn doesn't offer you false promises of change or improvement; he merely says that if you look at what is happening to your mind and body RIGHT NOW there's a chance you might feel better. I tried it, and it worked. So, I kept doing it, and it worked even more.
I don't feel more inclined to commit suicide, and I'm certainly not earning less than I was before I read this book - on the contrary: I've learned to let go and enjoy the s**t that comes with my job, which has meant that I'm actually doing better.
End of debate as far as I'm concerned.
In reply to an earlier post on 5 Sep 2010 12:14:35 BDT
Mr. Adam G. Smith says:
I don't necessarily disagree with this and my experience has been similar.
At the same time, Buddhist philosophy holds that one shouldn't run away from truths and these are truths: I'm not the first person to remark on the poverty of most Buddhist countries.
I found Cabat Zinn tiresome, but I seem to be on my own in that respect
Posted on 23 Sep 2010 17:53:18 BDT
Bruce - Aor-fm.com says:
Cynicism is deeply ingrained in western society. Buddhist "discovered" mindfulness, but it was always there ready to be tapped by the willing and the innocent. And because you can't see, feel, or touch it, at least not in the western sense then it is claimed as "clap trap". Perhaps because it is not "branded" People would rather spend X amount of money on quick fixes. and to make themselves look good, when they already do so. So many Buddhist countries are poor? Materialistically, but not spiritually. Perhaps suicide rates are high in these countries due to the very fact that they are trying to embrace western ideas and values and thats leaves them conflicted. We have become "branded" in more ways than one and we slowly but surely are being milked by corporations who twist and distort humanity and true human values to serve their own Gods, Money and power and greed. Mindfulness, being aware of what is happening in the here and now, clears the mind and allows you to see what is truly happening in the world around us.
Posted on 16 Aug 2011 13:17:24 BDT
M. L. Hunt says:
Some of the questions posed are a little generalistic. Not everyone in eastern countries will pracitice Yoga and Meditation. There is confusion here because you are trying to understand a different state of conciousness with your mind. The mind is a small part of our make up and to try to understand something that vast with a small human mind is pointless. You have to experience, to fully understand. If someone tells you what its like to suffer a broken heart, you are never going to fully 'get it' until you experience it.
It is a hard practice, one that takes regular constant practice. Its not a 'quick fix' which is what we come to expect so much here in the west. It has so little influence in the west because we live in a world of impatience, judgement, speed and greed. Do you really think Buddhist monks are bothered by their simple lifestyles. The simpler life gets, the happier we become, but through our arrogance in the West we think in order for people to be happy we need to have big houses, big cars, big intellects, so much food to shove down our throats it makes us sick. Thats not to deny that there are problems in the world..........there are problems in every country in the world, because we are human. These are not just ideas, there are pratices that go back thousands of years, but in our human egoic arrogance we think we've 'evolved' to such a state that we can put happiness in a pill and cure all our problems. True happiness and joy lie within and its only through the practice of meditation, concentration and silence that we can ever come close to experiencing this.
I think before we knee jerk with our ego, its good to maybe try things for ourselves. Through constant practice of meditation, the only result is more peace and therefore more happiness.
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