Slowing Down the Dilution of Mindfulness
About 30 minutes into his interview with Buddhist Geeks [BG 262], David Vago, an instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School who has held the position of Senior Research Coordinator for the Mind & Life Institute, downloads some very interesting thoughts on the integration of the popular conception of mindfulness and Buddhist thought and the scientific view of mindfulness.
He makes some interesting points both on a practical and more profound level, about the role of these scientists.
[I’ve transcribed a quote below.]
He notes, I think quite correctly, that as the popular culture absorbs mindfulness it tends to simplify (my word) and trivialize (his word). He notes that scientists breaking down mindfulness practice and analyzing its component parts helps to slow down what is essentially a dilution of mindfulness practices and ideas that occurs with the widening popular appeal that happens as mindfulness practices move into prisons, hospitals, and other secular settings.
He notes that the scientists try to keep in mind the contributions of the 2500-year-old model that predates the now increasingly prevalent (and more easily 25 year-old-model put forth by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
From the interview, the scientific work is:
really helping to create a framework for all popular culture to fall behind instead of just being a diluted self-help practice mindfulness is going to be incorporated into every aspect of society, and that not only includes attention training but it includes the ethical components, compassion practice, metta practice, lovingkindness those are really critical to building empathic skills and prosocial behavior. And the Dalai Lama’s behind this…and he’s really about spreading joy and compassion.
The way we conceptualize the healthcare system is going to change dramatically. Instead of thinking about meditation as an alternative method of healthcare we’re just realizing now that mindfulness practice is just good medicine and so now as we incorporate mindfulness into healthcare we’re going to have a framework for everyone to use these practices to actually improve their daily life to reduce suffering, reduce biases, to sustain a healthy mind and that’s what happening.
The framework we’re using is self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence. The transcendence part of this is dissolving the distinction between self and other, and that is going to be critical in solving the problems we’re having in the world. A lot of these problems are based on having our big house with a big fence, leave me alone, I’m by myself this is my unit, this is not yours. Creating these distinctions between self and other, and what we’re realizing is that meditation practice is dissolving these distinctions. That’s a critical component that we don’t always emphasize but I think it’s the one that’s going to be transformative for society.