Archives for category: Rants

I admit it. I am biased against the secular mindfulness movement and the more successful it becomes, the louder my bias grows. There’s a personal side to that bias and there’s also a more rational and therefore, I believe, more general side to that bias as well. I’ll start with the personal, somewhat unconscious and shadowy side first.

Having found the dharma and having found a path makes me feel better about myself; it makes me feel special. Being a meditator is a badge that I enjoy wearing because it sets me apart from the “unconscious masses”. The possibility of awakening, of becoming the “enlightened one” carries with it the promise of becoming even more special than that. This need to be special has been a driving force in my life from a very young age so it’s not an unfamiliar force. It is, however, still quite a powerful force, one that I must remain conscious of and work with. And for obvious reasons, this “special” status is threatened by the increasingly popular mindfulness movement.

As mindfulness and meditation become less “special” and more common, being a meditator becomes less distinctive as well and the part of me that relies on being special to feel good reacts against this growing popularity. This is a large part of my bias against the rise of the secular mindfulness movement. The other part worries that in the rush to make the dharma accessible and popular (and therefore simple, easy and unopinionated) we’ll also lose its transformative potential.

So when I see articles about mindfulness making us more productive employees I die a little inside. And when I see conferences bringing together Google and Spirit Rock I can’t help but feel a little dubious of their end result. I try to keep an open mind and remember that different people have different needs but I’m also afraid that wisdom 2.0 will be nothing but a shadow of its original self. For myself, the practice in this is to keep noticing my unconscious biases rising to the surface and at the same time to not ignore wise discernment and to find a way to speak my truth clearly to support and promote what I believe is important.

You probably haven’t noticed but starting today the contents (but not the design, since I don’t own that) of this blog are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Why am I doing that? Because if what I write here is of benefit to anyone, I would like it to be shared and distributed so that as many people as possible may find some benefit. I’m also doing this as an example, hoping that others, whose work may be of more benefit than mine, will follow suit.

My friend Karen and me, discussed the state of copyright in the world of Dharma after I was surprised to find very little content that I could reuse for a new website I was creating at the time. Karen wrote about this at length on her blog and I wanted to continue the conversation here as well. As a geek who cares about the Dharma I feel that it is my responsibility to educate and support the Dharma community in our use of technology. Sometimes this support is in the form of helping a friend create a website, other times it’s by taking care of my sangha’s technological needs. This time, however, I’m letting people know that we can stay more true to our values and make the teachings available to more people by making it easier to share the content we create.

I’m not likely to ever submit this but it I feel the need to say it anyway.

How are we to respond to the twentieth-century phenomenon, which Jung noted with such alarm: that the collective containers of religious symbolism are weak, if not altogether gone? For centuries the symbols, rituals, and dogmas of religions, East and West, gathered the psychic energy of individuals and nations alike into traditions that bore witness to life’s meaning and acted as underground springs nourishing different civilization.

Jung and Religion: The opposing self / Ann Ulanov

To which I say, Have they? Are we really so special in being disconnected from the spirit? Or is the difference that in the last hundred years or so it’s become OK to admit to that disconnect? We’re finally able to talk about how we really feel (or perhaps don’t feel at all) about religious ritual and dogma without being labeled as heretics.We’re free to voice our doubts. We’re free to look at the origin of the myths we’ve been handed and ask, just as Jung did, what do they really mean?

It’s possible that the result of this freedom has been some disillusionment with the old traditions. A disconnect. But is that much worse than fear? Is it that much worse than blind devotion? How well served was a peasant from attending church services in Latin? How much spiritual meaning is there in following ritual blindly generation after generation? And does dogma really serve the individual’s spiritual life?

Certainly every period of history in every culture had its mystics. The ones who dive into the spiritual world and plumb its depth anew but those are unique individuals. Likewise there are those who find some spiritual connection in organized religion or in the tradition they were born into but do they ever outnumber those who just follow the rules (for whatever reason)? I am a cynic and so I doubt that (I doubt a great, many things).

On the other hand, this feeling of a lack of connection, we all know it (if you didn’t I doubt you’d have read this far) and the common admonition about young people these days and lack of respect, etc. comes up easily in the mind. So it is easy to say, this generation is so disconnected from the life of spirit. At least in this generation we’re finally free to choose our own path, our own myth and that by itself is something too.

Total score! I managed both a Zen reference and a Zeppelin reference in the title alone! To prevent any future confusion, I am not a Zen practitioner but I do like my maps and the Ox Herding pictures make up one of my favorite maps of the path.

A couple of days ago I started the MA program in East-West Psychology (EWP) at CIIS and the reading and writing assignments are already starting to pile up (read a billion pages by yesterday! is kinda how it feels right now). I plan to use this space for posting thoughts that come up around my readings, for sharing drafts of upcoming papers and probably some general journaling for whatever comes up on my path. I love feedback and I would especially appreciate pointing out my blind spots and my limited reality tunnel so feel free to comment and stuff.

Here goes.