As with yoga, I wasn’t so sure I’d like Jon Kabat-Zinn. But when I did a retreat with him a few years ago, he was fantastic. Many yogis/Buddhists/etc feel he’s stripping the practice down too far (it’s secular). I don’t. Further, as a person, he exemplifies what he teaches, and that is far, far too rare. This podcast, Opening to Our Lives, is worth a listen.
A few highlights:
- Kabat-Zinn talks about our stone age minds operating in a digital world. We’re not programmed to handle the sorts of stresses that we’re creating for ourselves and we are not considering the consequences. Nor have we fully explored what it means to be human, having very little understanding of how our minds work or who we are. He suggests that it is crucial to do so before we start inserting microchips into our skulls. I agree.
- Humans have a natural tendency toward empathy. The economic theories that drive our culture, which support the ultra-wealthy and have proved once and again to have dismal consequences, would have us believe otherwise. We’ve been culturally brainwashed by them. But more and more scientific evidence backs both human and primate drives toward empathy. I am not denying tendencies toward violence, but that gets more than enough of our attention.
- Stress dampens natural tendencies toward empathy. Again: stress dampens our natural tendencies toward empathy.
- Kabat-Zinn explains that the word for mind and heart in Asian languages (at least, he’s been told) is the same. Mind and heart are the same word. And the mind, in Buddhist traditions, is taken to be a sense. Something by which we perceive the world. This is important to understand, because in the West, we tend to think of our minds as organs of knowledge and truth, rather than perceptions. And, again, the word for heart is the same as the word for mind.
- Ergo, when you hear be mindful, or mindfulness practices, “if you are not hearing heartfulness, you are misunderstanding.” Mindfulness, heartfulness, is a way of being. (This is around 13:30 in the podcast.)