…in taking out the meditation part of the old traditions and marketing it to a new population, without the general context of the tradition, can sometimes lead to unstable practice.
When Asian meditation masters first started coming to the West in the early 20th century, for the most part they were practitioners who understood meditation as a means to enlightenment. But around the mid to later 20th century, the notion started to emerge that practice could be disengaged from the “enlightenment project”, and undertaken for less lofty aims: for better health, psychology, behavior, relationships, work performance, and so on. Self-regulation, connectivity and focus could all improve through practice, and maybe that was enough – we didn’t all have to be would-be buddhas after all.
It’s this humbler kind of practice that has been spreading exponentially in the West over past two or three decades.
One problem that mindfulness instructors are encountering is that the greater possibilities of practice can muscle in anyway, uninvited, and destabilize people who are not grounded in a context that can handle them. It’s analogous to some of the problems of modern medicines, whereby when active ingredients are extracted from plants they can create side-effects that are actually countered by other ingredients in the original plants. Better to have the whole plant, in some cases, than just the extract.
In other words, in taking out the meditation part of the old traditions and marketing it to a new population, without the general context of the tradition, can sometimes lead to unstable practice. In addition, the old traditions tend not to see practice itself as only a medium for feeling better. Rather, they often view as a steep, narrow, and potentially unrewarding path, at least initially, full of privation, frustration and difficulty – and if you can get through all that without wavering or being deterred, then it just may lead to unimaginable treasures.
In other words, they have more realistic assessments of the challenges of practice, and may be better equipped to handle them.
Message from Henry is from our August 13, 2018 Newsletter
Image: Tori by JordiMeow, CC0 Public Domain, Pixabay.com