Dr. Arnie Kozak: What Would the Buddha Think of the Mindfulness Movement?
I am connecting with mindfulness colleagues on LinkedIn (thank you!) and I am impressed, no, flabbergasted by the amount of people who have embraced mindfulness, made it the central focus of their lives.
It is humbling. My one voice in a chorus of multitudes. I am no one special. I would say, though, that my interest in mindfulness predates the current bandwagon by decades. I am not sure if this really means anything other than there a lot of newcomers to the movement/revolution. New energy is likely good energy. Not inferior. Yet, there are cautions.
Mindfulness is simple in concept, yet elusive in execution. There is a joke in mindfulness teaching circles that we are “selling water by the river.” Everyone has a sense of mindfulness–an instinct if you will. What mindfulness teachers offer is a way to access this innate reserve at will and not just during exceptional moments.
When I train fellow clinicians (or really anyone), I encourage them to teach what you can own. Mindfulness is scalable. Anyone can introduce the technique to someone else, even a child can teach it. Yet, there is more to it than this and to be able to respond to questions and to embed the practice within the Buddha’s larger set of teachings stems from our own direct, experiential understanding of the practice. The deeper our practice, the more we can teach.
What would the Buddha think of all the people devoted, explicitly or not, to this teachings.
Would he be pleased? Yes. Would he have some caveats? Yes. Definitely.
Caveat One: Mindfulness is more than a wellness technique and should be best viewed as an integral component in the process of self-transformation, perhaps even community- and world-transformation.
Caveat Two: Consistent with caveat one, the goal of mindfulness is not just relaxation, stress reduction, of feeling better. The goal of mindfulness practice is to experience our lives with fidelity, intimacy, and intelligence. Mindfulness practice is a discipline geared toward every moment of thought, feeling, and behavior. To be mindful, is to see clearly the good, the bad, and the ugly
Caveat Three: “Don’t forget about me!” The Buddha didn’t invent mindfulness but he perfected it as a set of meditation techniques (i.e., the Satipatthana Sutta). Mindfulness can and should be practiced in a secular context–as the Buddha intended it. In the quest for the secular application of mindfulness, we don’t need to throw away the Buddha with the Buddhist bath water.
I salute the thousands of fellow mindfulness practitioners around the world. Thank you for the work that you are doing. We are all part of a broader project attempting to bring a little more wakefulness into the world, a little less reactivity, and a lot more joy.