Selling Buddhism -- Selling Out the Religion
June 4, 2014 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Joanna Piacenza tackles difficulties she sees in the American conception of Buddhism. She was spurred out of writing silence several months ago by Time Magazine choosing for the second time in a decade to sell their magazine with a consumerist representation of Buddhism depicted on their cover with an pretty and ethereal looking white woman. Today, she published an article in First Things on why she believes Buddhism can't be just "an add-on: an energy boost in your spiritual smoothie," but is a religion and the American attitudes that she sees as enabling this misconception.
posted by Jahaza (128 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
Things that were ill-advised:

* Time Magazine's crassly sexist, racist, and classist representations of "mindfulness"
* using "Hitler-would-love-her" as an adjective to describe a human being
posted by koeselitz at 10:41 AM on June 4, 2014 [15 favorites]


Nobody talks about the fact that the goal of Buddhism is final death. Deliverance from suffering, not happiness.
posted by curuinor at 10:42 AM on June 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


One Weird Trick Local Woman Uses To Stay Mindful -- Hitlers Love Her!
posted by Greg Nog at 10:43 AM on June 4, 2014 [37 favorites]


Relevant.
posted by Cash4Lead at 10:44 AM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


From the second link:
And yet, with the case of Buddhism, members of each global faith are picking [Buddhism] apart and applying its beliefs at will.

This is not unique to Buddhism.

I confess that I was/am the exact type of "buddhist" in discussion here. I started a mindfulness meditation practice that led to a broader interest in and further study of Buddhism, and I pick and choose which practices I think are applicable and helpful in my life. It is categorically not the Buddhist religion, but a post-modern praxis that I have constructed for my own benefit and it really has nothing to do with anyone else.

There are definitely some problematic things in the portrayal of Buddhism in the USA, but ultimately the mindset of strict orthodoxy undermines the potential for it to benefit people in a new context.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 10:44 AM on June 4, 2014 [27 favorites]


using "Hitler-would-love-her" as an adjective to describe a human being

That was a callback to that "Arian" which should have been "Aryan" unless the author was making a point about the relationship between Christ the Son and God the Father.
posted by sukeban at 10:46 AM on June 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


It's worth noting that the "salad bar" approach is common to laypersons everywhere, and is not a uniquely Western issue. People in Thailand go to the monks when they have this one problem they need solved, just like Christians in a bad spot suddenly find themselves praying a lot more.
posted by selfnoise at 10:48 AM on June 4, 2014 [21 favorites]


she published an article in First Things on why she believes Buddhism can't be just "an add-on: an energy boost in your spiritual smoothie," but is a religion and the American attitudes that she sees as enabling this misconception.

Well, Buddhism is a pretty big thing, with different strains and schools of thoughts. There are some practices, such as Tibetan Buddhism, that are "Religion" with a capital R.

Some approaches are more of a secular humanist philosophy, with some seeing many of Siddhartha's teachings as proto-scientific.

We don't have original writings from Siddhartha, so a lot of this is interpretation and preference anyway. Similiarly, you can take a specific belief- say that contraception is okay- and say it isn't Catholic Christianity- but you can't say that's not Christianity period.
posted by spaltavian at 10:49 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


And, FWIW, I would put this white-woman-ization of mindfulness as a variation on New Age woo. It's not precisely new to market decaf versions of world traditions to white women in this way.
posted by sukeban at 10:49 AM on June 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


This attitude to Buddhism started cropping up in the nineteenth century, especially thanks to Edwin Arnold's The Light of Asia. It even gets parodied in the Hurd Hatfield adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray: Basil gives Dorian The Light of Asia as a present (showing, in other words, that he's very "with it"), then abruptly reverts to Christianity when he realizes what Dorian has become.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:51 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not worried about it. The things I value in Buddhism transcend any particular sect or practice and are valuable in themselves regardless of whether or not I devote myself to some culty-affiliation with others who happen to name themselves "Buddhist." Hell, they don't even rely on me maintaining my meditative practice and striving to attain Nirvana to be valuable to me. I'm not sure this person has anything valuable to tell me. If they want my practice to be more "religious" I'd remind them the historical Gautama buddha didn't even want the practice to be particularly "religious" (in the sense of most of the associations I have with the word) from the best evidence we have.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:53 AM on June 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


Truthfully, I'm just as bothered by Piacenza's ideas as I am by Time (and many other publications and groups) taking part in obvious cultural appropriation.

First of all, any spiritual practice can be an add-on or an "energy boost."
In my book, that's a hell of a lot healthier way to approach religious practice, rather than swallowing a package deal that includes dogma and piles of (usually extremely outdated) cultural mores.

I try to incorporate "do into others" and a few ideas from the Sermon on the Mount into my life, but I'm not practicing Christianity. I try to incorporate some small aspects of mindfulness in my life (more in a Stoic way), but I'm not a Buddhist. As selfnoise notes, this is not some sort of exclusively American thing. Go to Japan today and talk to your average person on the street as to how they approach Shinto or Buddhism or their faith, and in my experience, I'd bet you'll find this same "use what is useful to me" approach.

The insistence on labeling just isn't necessary. What's so wrong about a group of people finding spiritual practices useful and incorporating them into their lives? Now, if your gripe is that they then walk around calling themselves Buddhist and dressing in culturally appropriated Southeast Asian clothing and using all kinds of appropriated South Asian or Southeast Asian words, I get it.

But to me, Piacenza's gripe seems also to be with the idea of picking and choosing altogether. Sorry... the ship has sailed on that one, and it's a good thing that it has sailed.

Second, I have a problem with what I perceive Piacenza's attitudes to be in regards to the importance or necessity of practicing Buddhism within a Buddhist community.
But Buddhism is not changing here; it is being reduced. Key tenets are missing—any sort of dogma, the ever-important teacher-student relationship, and a very rich and awesome history of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, tulkus, and spiritual deities—but the most noticeable gaping hole is the lack of community...

...Besides serving as dharma watchdogs, Buddhist communities are the support system, the heart, and the glue of Buddhism.
Piacenza's attitude matches that of the Church of Scientology. "We're a religion. You can't pick and choose parts. The religion needs to be lived in the context of our church, as we provide authority, structure, and community. And you need our church to be a watchdog so that Scientology is practiced properly." In pursuit of orthodoxy and control, the Church then mercilessly persecutes its foes (anyone who is seen trying to publicly incorporate Scientology principles into their life outside the church's control). Trust me, you don't want to find your attitudes and approaches comparable to what the Church of Scientology does.

I don't need a watchdog for my spiritual practices. If it helps me live a healthier life where I treat people around me better, then it works, and I don't need you telling me how orthodox I'm being. If I want a support system, I can find one on my own, of the kind I choose. I can go for as much or as little glue as I need.
Of course, religions change with time and place.
Indeed they do, as they should. Unfortunately for Piacenza, despite her acknowledgement here, her main gripe seems to be rooted in her distaste for this change.
posted by Old Man McKay at 10:54 AM on June 4, 2014 [20 favorites]


But to me, Piacenza's gripe seems also to be with the idea of picking and choosing altogether.

Piacenza wants to be able to determine what the "real" Buddhism is. Pretty silly, since we don't have any writings from Siddhartha.
posted by spaltavian at 10:57 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


I see nothing wrong with picking and choosing the bits we like, any more than it's wrong to change and adapt classical literature. We created these things and we can and will do as we please with them. I mean, how do you think the original scriptures came to be? The Bible, the Dhammapada, the Daodejing - these things didn't edit themselves.

In any case about the whole white woman thing - I was watching Birth of the Living Dead recently, about George Romero and the making of NOTLD (amazing documentary BTW) and he discussed the decision to cast Duane Jones in the lead role, and how they intentionally chose not to call attention to race or change the screenplay to take any notice of it. It'd be cool if, decades later, these stupid news magazines would toss a meditating black man on the cover and not mention race at all in the article.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:57 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've followed what I think must be a fairly typical path for an American dabbling with Buddhism. I started doing mindfulness meditation as an adjunct to other treatments for depression, found it useful, and then dug a little deeper into the underlying scriptures and doctrines.

Those doctrines provided me with useful tools for examining my own cognition and sensory experience, but there was plenty of other stuff that I found unhelpful or nonsensical.

I certainly don't think of myself as a Buddhist, any more than I would call myself a Catholic because I liked Gregorian chants and the book of Ecclesiastes.
posted by murphy slaw at 10:58 AM on June 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


I feel like she's conflating things. Yes, the concept of "mindfulness" has been borrowed, but I don't think they are trying to claim it is exactly same as the Buddhist concept or practice of mindfulness when it's used outside of Buddhism. Not everyone who tries to apply mindfulness for a purpose is under the impression they are Buddhist. And I don't get her point about meditation. Meditation is not something you have to be Buddhist to partake in.

Maybe I'm just not familiar with the Buddhist-wanabes she's referring to.
posted by Hoopo at 10:58 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Zizek on Buddhism
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:59 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


They were raised in homes that followed a different religion, usually something mainstream that wouldn’t disrupt a dinner conversation with, say, the Beavers.

I'm assuming she means the Cleavers, but this is giving me all kinds of funny images.
posted by agentofselection at 10:59 AM on June 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


I confess that I was/am the exact type of "buddhist" in discussion here. I started a mindfulness meditation practice that led to a broader interest in and further study of Buddhism, and I pick and choose which practices I think are applicable and helpful in my life. It is categorically not the Buddhist religion, but a post-modern praxis that I have constructed for my own benefit and it really has nothing to do with anyone else.

In other words, you're Buddhish. (Me too.)
posted by scody at 10:59 AM on June 4, 2014 [13 favorites]


I certainly don't think of myself as a Buddhist, any more than I would call myself a Catholic because I liked Gregorian chants and the book of Ecclesiastes.
You wouldn't, but lots of Christians would--they listen to gospel music and go to church every Sunday, maybe wear a gold cross, but don't put forth much effort towards feeding the poor and healing the sick.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:05 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


And, FWIW, I would put this white-woman-ization of mindfulness as a variation on New Age woo. It's not precisely new to market decaf versions of world traditions to white women in this way.

To riff on that a bit, that sort of woo-thing is.. maybe call it a variation on the female gender-role that gets hung mostly on white women of more or less middle-class and up? It involves contact with mystery (albeit in this case the sort of cheap mystery of being the religion of someone you don't expect to meet in the supermarket), generally there's an emphasis on emotional relating and being the bearer of kind-hearted, nonaggressive, and noncompetitive thoughts, maybe there's also an aesthetic of being kind of wiry-athletic (but not taking up a lot of space!), and meanwhile the bits about the religion that are truly foreign or require challenging action are stripped out, because being inconvenient is not a thing that women are meant to be doing either.

Personally, I favor sourcing my "Buddhist" spiritual technology from Stoicism instead -- seems more respectful that way, and the aesthetics work a little better for me.
posted by sparktinker at 11:07 AM on June 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


I suppose I care so little for religious culture in general that the idea that it is being dumbed down, consumerized, or appropriated by people for arguably shallow purposes just doesn't bother me at all. I think this is vastly preferable to supposed fidelity to religious culture to justify oppressive or hurtful social policies.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:10 AM on June 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


Buddhism has a long history of dealing with questions of what is acceptable practice and theory: wikipedia page on Buddhist councils
posted by bdc34 at 11:10 AM on June 4, 2014


Why Did Bodhidharma Travel from the West? The Answer Will Blow Your Mind!
posted by overeducated_alligator at 11:10 AM on June 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


You wouldn't, but lots of Christians would--they listen to gospel music and go to church every Sunday, maybe wear a gold cross, but don't put forth much effort towards feeding the poor and healing the sick.

Don't forget the atheist Anglicans, who come for the choral music and stay for the charity while bemusedly enjoying talk of the magical man in the sky only for the absurdity of it.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:12 AM on June 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


It's worth noting that the "salad bar" approach is common to laypersons everywhere, and is not a uniquely Western issue. People in Thailand go to the monks when they have this one problem they need solved, just like Christians in a bad spot suddenly find themselves praying a lot more.

Yes, this exactly. It's so tiring to hear these lazy criticisms and LOLZing about cafeteria Catholics and people "picking and choosing" parts of religion they like. People have altered and adapted (and discarded) religion to suit their spiritual, political and emotional needs, everywhere and for all of history.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 11:13 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


>...Besides serving as dharma watchdogs, Buddhist communities are the support system, the heart, and the glue of Buddhism.

Piacenza's attitude matches that of the Church of Scientology. "We're a religion. You can't pick and choose parts. The religion needs to be lived in the context of our church, as we provide authority, structure, and community. And you need our church to be a watchdog so that Scientology is practiced properly." In pursuit of orthodoxy and control, the Church then mercilessly persecutes its foes (anyone who is seen trying to publicly incorporate Scientology principles into their life outside the church's control). Trust me, you don't want to find your attitudes and approaches comparable to what the Church of Scientology does.


On the other hand, the idea of the Three Treasures -- Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha -- are pretty fundamental to almost all Buddhist practices. That last one, sangha, means, basically, "community" and you can reasonably make the case that someone practicing Buddhism outside of a Buddhist community and without a teacher isn't really "doing Buddhism." Given the number of cult leaders who have kind of gone around the bend (Shoko Asahara, I'm looking at you) at least in part through distorted enlightenment experiences without a solid teacher-student relationship, I'm not sure that it isn't a valid point.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:13 AM on June 4, 2014 [12 favorites]


It seems worth noting that at least the first Time article hardly mentions Buddhism, and is pretty clearly not about Buddhism at all.
posted by koeselitz at 11:17 AM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


How does this differ from any other "casual" adoption of religion, or non-strict adherence to religious practices? Because for westerners it's cultural appropriation, whereas to "play Christian" is just to lack some true faith or belief?

Lots of Christians don't go to church all that often, and may not really be all that grounded in the Bible, but they may still pick up a few of Jesus' teachings and claim to be religious.

I'm saying, I understand folks are upset at the cultural appropriation aspect here, but Buddhism isn't the only religion where that's a problem. Remember when Madonna was into Kabbalah, and Kabbalah beads were pretty common?
posted by filthy light thief at 11:20 AM on June 4, 2014


It seems worth noting that at least the first Time article hardly mentions Buddhism, and is pretty clearly not about Buddhism at all.

When people are talking about Mindfulness practice in the U.S., though, they are usually talking about a practice popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others which is basically just Theraveda Buddhism with the scary bits trimmed off. So I think it's fair enough.
posted by selfnoise at 11:23 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


see nothing wrong with picking and choosing the bits we like, any more than it's wrong to change and adapt classical literature

I don't either, usually, but it's hard to ignore the history of Christianity as a mostly colonizer religion connected with progress and prosperity. Also that one of the main tenets of most Judeo-Christian belief is monotheism. The way it works out in practice is that one can be both a Buddhist and a Taoist, but either one is a Christian or not.
posted by FJT at 11:23 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


While talking about the explosion of "mindfulness" as the latest hip Orientalist thing for white people to get into is good, and talking about the importance of sangha is good, I don't really feel like either of these articles contribute to the discourse on those topics.
posted by beefetish at 11:23 AM on June 4, 2014


That last one, sangha, means, basically, "community" and you can reasonably make the case that someone practicing Buddhism outside of a Buddhist community and without a teacher isn't really "doing Buddhism."

Trying to get at the Sangha piece is actually one of the things that put me off pursuing my Buddhist studies further. I looked around my area for a group to meditate with and only found people with whom I, as a materialist/skeptical/athiest pseudo-buddhist, had very little in common.
posted by murphy slaw at 11:24 AM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


also good lord an MA in religious studies i would hope for a more nuanced view of how different religions are practiced differently w/r/t "rarely do you “dabble” in Christianity if you were raised a Jew. Or go to temple occasionally if you were raised Wiccan. And yet, with the case of Buddhism, members of each global faith are picking the religion apart and applying its beliefs at will" because, well
posted by beefetish at 11:26 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yes, this exactly. It's so tiring to hear these lazy criticisms and LOLZing about cafeteria Catholics and people "picking and choosing" parts of religion they like. People have altered and adapted (and discarded) religion to suit their spiritual, political and emotional needs, everywhere and for all of history.

Eh, I don't know. I think there's something else going on here. I think there is a big difference between someone raised in a religion and having issues with some of the practices while still choosing to remain a member for all sorts of societal reasons and someone who is coming into a religion as an outsider and cherry picking the elements they find attractive.

Spiritual practices are generally part of a coherent whole and picking and choosing denies the "practitioner" that whole experience and framework. There are meditation practices in a bunch of religions, but the aim and intent of these practices are very different -- you can't just swap Roman Catholic and Tibetan Buddhist practices without doing violence to both. And it usually seems to be Buddhism and other Asian religions/practices that get treated this way (not counting Kabbalah, which just about everybody feels free to appropriate as the mode strikes them).
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:28 AM on June 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


On the other hand, the idea of the Three Treasures -- Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha -- are pretty fundamental to almost all Buddhist practices. That last one, sangha, means, basically, "community" and you can reasonably make the case that someone practicing Buddhism outside of a Buddhist community and without a teacher isn't really "doing Buddhism."

If you can't "do" Buddhism by yourself, than the Buddha wasn't a Buddhist.
posted by spaltavian at 11:28 AM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Buddhism is Hinduism, stripped for export.

Or to put it in geek speak this is not a bug; it's a feature!
posted by bukvich at 11:31 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Why wouldn't you want your beliefs about the world and life and death to be a patchwork of all sorts of different ideas? Isn't that the point of life and of learning and experience? Isn't that our birthright as humans to be able to have access to the entire history of human thought and ideas and pick and choose what we like and leave behind what we don't? Isn't that what makes the very evolution of ideas possible? FFS! Everyone should stop trying to tell us they are the One True Scotsman.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:33 AM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Spiritual practices are generally part of a coherent whole

Historically, sure. Inherent to the concepts themselves? Not at all.

you can't just swap Roman Catholic and Tibetan Buddhist practices without doing violence to both

While this ignores historical development. Did the Book of Genesis do violence to the Summerian myths it is so obviously based on? Unless you are actually attempting to suppress or eradicate the original views, creating a synthesis doesn't harm them.

And it usually seems to be Buddhism and other Asian religions/practices that get treated this way

Because they are inherently more adapatable because they're not really theist, and certainly not monotheist. It's a lot harder to separate, say, a ban on idolty from the Yaweh/Jehova/Allah complex than it is to separate meditation from literal karma.
posted by spaltavian at 11:35 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


spaltavian, there is more than just theological philosophy at play in religion as it is practiced. i think that might be helpful to keep in mind here.
posted by beefetish at 11:36 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Buddhism is Hinduism, stripped for export.

Historically, it was a reform effort within Hinduism. This actually lends credence to it being more of a social philosophy than religion per se.
posted by spaltavian at 11:36 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


What an irritating article. On and on she goes, paragraph after paragraph, complaining about mindfulness and meditation being seen as Buddhist, without any effort to explain what she thinks IS required for someone to be Buddhist.

I became interested in Buddhism when we visited China, including staying at a Buddhist monastery, and even there it was apparent there were at least two major forms of that religion being practiced, both of which seemed deeply complex. I gather Buddhism as it exists in India is still another complicated form of the religion with a tangled and multidimensional history.

I'm fine with someone who wants to explain what the religion IS versus what it is not -- and speaking as a Jew, I get that can be complicated when your religion is thousands of years old and multi-branched -- but not with this kvetching without context or any effort to provide illumination.

If what she really wants to say is that no one can be Buddhist unless they do it in some fixed approved way, to hell with her.
posted by bearwife at 11:37 AM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


In Buddhism there are the three Refuges -

I take refuge in the Buddha.
I take refuge in the Dharma.
I take refuge in the Sangha.

For me at least, I view these as:

I take refuge in the fact that somebody figured it out.
I take refuge in the fact that there is a way to figure it out.
I take refuge in the fact that there are others trying to figure it out.

For me the last line is what community is all about.
posted by njohnson23 at 11:38 AM on June 4, 2014 [36 favorites]


If you can't "do" Buddhism by yourself, than the Buddha wasn't a Buddist.

What are you talking about? The concept of sangha originated with Gautama Buddha. He formed the first sangha almost immediately upon his enlightenment. His community of followers were the ones who recorded (and eventually wrote down) his teachings; without them there would be no religion we call "Buddhism".
posted by mr_roboto at 11:38 AM on June 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


spaltavian, there is more than just theological philosophy at play in religion as it is practiced.

Sure, as I conceeded, historical context is responsible for a lot of the specific practices in religion. But as 21st century people in a more or less free, educated society, we are able to chuck aside historical context and examine ideas themselves should we choose to. Coming up with some American-hippie Buddhism, (or using Buddhism to unknowingly re-invent Epicureanism) may seem silly to you, but it's just an idea in people's heads. It doesn't hurt anyone practicing what they have determined is the "real" Buddhism.
posted by spaltavian at 11:40 AM on June 4, 2014


And it usually seems to be Buddhism and other Asian religions/practices that get treated this way

It happens with every religion. When it happens now we call it appropriation; when it happened before now, we call it syncretism.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:40 AM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


It happens with every religion. When it happens now we call it appropriation; when it happened before we call it syncretism.

Or heresy!
posted by murphy slaw at 11:41 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


If you can't "do" Buddhism by yourself, than the Buddha wasn't a Buddist.

What are you talking about? The concept of sangha originated with Gautama Buddha. He formed the first sangha almost immediately upon his enlightenment. His community of followers were the ones who recorded (and eventually wrote down) his teachings; without them there would be no religion we call "Buddhism".


There was a whole, drawn out process of achieving enlightenment before that, which was largely alone (assuming we hold the legends to be more or less correct).
posted by spaltavian at 11:43 AM on June 4, 2014


If you can't "do" Buddhism by yourself, than the Buddha wasn't a Buddhist.

Um, pretty much the first thing Buddha did after his enlightenment experience was to gather a community....
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:43 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Stuff White People Like #2: Religions their parents don't belong to.


First of all, any spiritual practice can be an add-on or an "energy boost."

Sure. Piacenza's point doesn't appear to be that you can't or shouldn't pick up meditation or mindfulness or whichever energy boost you choose if you like. It appears to be that you shouldn't confuse that with being Buddhist or capturing much of Buddhism. And also to some extent that the full slate of benefits from participating in the religion will not be available to the dabbler.

I love cafeterias too, but it's not the same thing as living on the kibbutz.

Piacenza's attitude matches that of the Church of Scientology.

There are a wide range of authority structures and ways communities exert influence on their members, both across religious groups and within them. Unless you believe that *any* attempt to encourage some behaviors, discourage others, and create ethical norms is equivalent to the more forceful abuses of Scientology, it doesn't seem like the comparison is particularly helpful in illuminating the ideas being discussed here.
posted by weston at 11:43 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Buddhish. Ha. That's funny.

So what exactly are we arguing here? That people shouldn't pick & choose? Any school of thought (formal or otherwise) that encourages people to chose their higher impulses of generosity, consideration & compassion over their lower impulses of selfishness and greed is a good thing.

Now the danger of picking & choosing beliefs is of course we will pick and choose which beliefs suit us best, that is which beliefs would best justify what we were going to do anyways. In some areas this may or may not be a moral issue (birth control pill IMO is not a moral issue) but when we are talking about bigger issues about lying/killing/stealing well... hey I can kill a bug. It's only a bug! And there are so many in my kitchen! Of course I can yell at her. She's a bitch!! etc.

Back to rigidity. You can pick & choose in buddhism all you like but if you're serious about transcending the ego for real then the path is pretty clearly laid out for you by Buddha's teachings. You may not like the rituals, but tough. If I want to put on muscle, I have to lift the weights and eat protein at some point there's no way around that. So with Buddhism, the degree to which you practice the rituals is the degree to which you want to practice the Religion. Meditating is great, mindfulness is excellent, and then there are some deeper 'transcend your ego' meditations that require a more specific set of practices in order for your mind to fully 'go there' and let go of the ego.

To be a Buddhist, as mentioned above, is to take those three vows of refuge, and then to constantly work at it, even when it gets hard. That's the commitment of the religion.

I think people in the west think of Buddhism as a 'whatever' religion because relatively speaking it is so flexible; it determines whether an action is good or bad based more on the intention than anything else, and has lots of room for grey areas rather than blanket statements. Furthermore, Buddhism is more interested in how you feel & respond, rather than just programming little robots who shut up & behave & follow 'the rules'. (This could be a failure of the teachers of other religions; I didn't get very far in my christian schools! I've heard Joseph Campbell express some very lovely christian views.)

Because Buddhism is so flexible people forget that it's actually a capital-R Religion, with rituals and weird ideas all that stuff that they'd much rather do away with. Buddhism is both flexible and rigid.

I tell people I'm a Buddhist and they go "yeah ok" and then when they find out that I study once a week at the temple with a monk and go to chanted prayer sessions and attend meditation retreats and have shrines and make offerings, they're like "oh you're a REAL buddhist!" Yeah, that's what I said! :P
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:43 AM on June 4, 2014 [13 favorites]


There was a whole, drawn out process of achieving enlightenment before that, which was largely alone (assuming we hold the legends to be more or less correct).

I'm hardly an expert (heck, I'm hardly an amateur) at this, but couldn't you argue that the invisible presence of Brahmā Sahampati is a kind of community?
posted by Jahaza at 11:44 AM on June 4, 2014


If you can't "do" Buddhism by yourself, than the Buddha wasn't a Buddhist.

Um, pretty much the first thing Buddha did after his enlightenment experience was to gather a community....


I thought this too... that the Mahayana path requires others, else who would we serve and for what purpose would be enlightenment? And furthermore, as others are aspects of our own minds, we need them to help us grow.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:45 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I get being squicked out by the Orientalism and cultural appropriation inherent in a lot of Western Buddhism, and the Time covers really are weird, but Piacenza seems to assume that either all meditation is inherently Buddhist, or that every person engaging in meditation identifies as Buddhist. Which is not the case.

Meditation—specifically, mindfullness mediation—has important applications outside of religious practice. I think it's a little weird to resent someone who is using mindfulness meditation in order to manage anxiety, depression, or pain, but isn't subscribing to a religious tradition.

Yes, some people who meditate are engaging in hipster Orientalism. But others are just closing their eyes, breathing deeply, and concentrating on their body and surroundings in the hope of managing symptoms, no religious identification necessary.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:46 AM on June 4, 2014 [18 favorites]


There was a whole, drawn out process of achieving enlightenment before that, which was largely alone (assuming we hold the legends to be more or less correct).

There are very few times in those legends where he's alone. The Bodhi Tree may count, but that wasn't his choice. Most accounts agree that it was the conclusion of a long quest that included learning from and with other aesthetics.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:48 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Don´t try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are."
-- His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
posted by nostrada at 11:50 AM on June 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


Meditation—specifically, mindfullness mediation—has important applications outside of religious practice. I think it's a little weird to resent someone who is using mindfulness meditation in order to manage anxiety, depression, or pain, but isn't subscribing to a religious tradition.

And yoga is originally a spiritual practice in India, but it got translated into a nice exercise to get your buttocks round and perky, in this exact way, too.
posted by sukeban at 11:50 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


So what exactly are we arguing here? That people shouldn't pick & choose? Any school of thought (formal or otherwise) that encourages people to chose their higher impulses of generosity, consideration & compassion over their lower impulses of selfishness and greed is a good thing.

Now the danger of picking & choosing beliefs is of course we will pick and choose which beliefs suit us best, that is which beliefs would best justify what we were going to do anyways. In some areas this may or may not be a moral issue (birth control pill IMO is not a moral issue) but when we are talking about bigger issues about lying/killing/stealing well... hey I can kill a bug. It's only a bug! And there are so many in my kitchen! Of course I can yell at her. She's a bitch!! etc.


So how exactly do you know that you aren't choosing your lower impulse of selfishness when you pick and choose the beliefs that you believe best for your own self?
posted by curuinor at 11:54 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


>Spiritual practices are generally part of a coherent whole

Historically, sure. Inherent to the concepts themselves? Not at all.


For the sincere practitioner, they are inherent. The goal of Catholic meditation and the goal of Tibetan Buddhist meditation are radically different, and the experience and techniques to reach that goal are just as different. From a cultural studies position, you may be right, but from within the religion, you're missing the point, I think.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:54 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Considering that the Gautama was enlightened whilst sitting alone, under a tree, I question entirely the import so often attributed to sangha.
posted by gsh at 11:59 AM on June 4, 2014


But see, you (white, educated person) are spiritual when you engage in mindfulness. The Laotian neighbor burning incense in front of the family altar is just practising a superstition.
posted by sukeban at 12:01 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think what Americans cannot understand about Buddhism is that it is *not* a religion exactly. It's not something you choose, or (as a born-again Christian would say) get chosen by.

Paradoxically, for lay practitioners and the ordained alike, various Buddhist denominations are typically prescriptive in terms of right thought, right behavior, etc.

It's one of the reasons the San Francisco Zen Centre ran into problems.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:02 PM on June 4, 2014


I also think it is dangerous to talk about Buddhism, really. I once asked a monk I was friends with what books I should read, and he said reading about Buddhism (in my case Soto Zen) would merely be confusing when starting out.

"Buddhism" in the West is indeed an artificial construct. We're all Buddhists, anyway, because it describes the condition of being human.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:04 PM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Meditation—specifically, mindfullness mediation—has important applications outside of religious practice. I think it's a little weird to resent someone who is using mindfulness meditation in order to manage anxiety, depression, or pain, but isn't subscribing to a religious tradition.

See, this is where I get confused.

I see how mindfulness meditation can be divorced from its religious and cultural context. What's not so clear to me is that it can be divorced entirely from its ethical content.

Is it possible for a depressed misanthrope to use mindfulness meditation to recover from their depression without experiencing any increase in empathy? Can you "get better" without being better?

I don't know, I'm asking.
posted by murphy slaw at 12:04 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Man, I think the Buddha would just be glad to see people practicing awareness. This all seems like a lot of attachment to views and opinions.
posted by janey47 at 12:08 PM on June 4, 2014 [10 favorites]


Gautama did not carry out his entire journey alone. He spend much time with the Sranamas starving himself half to death. He was taught by Rajagaha and Arada Kalama. He learned yoga with Udraka Ramaputra. He became extremely ascetic with Kaundinya and his group.
posted by curuinor at 12:10 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, the idea of the Three Treasures -- Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha -- are pretty fundamental to almost all Buddhist practices.

Sure, but there's also a long tradition within Buddhism (not just Chán/Zen but even in the Theravadan tradition) of hermeticism and taking a more solitary path. So it's not at all clear that the injunction to "take refuge in the community of Buddhists" has much practical meaning. Does feeling warmly toward the Beastie Boys' flirtations with Buddhism count as taking refuge in the Sangha? I don't know. Maybe. Especially for anyone it gives a sense of hope and fellowship to.

Is it possible for a depressed misanthrope to use mindfulness meditation to recover from their depression without experiencing any increase in empathy? Can you "get better" without being better?

Depends. You can focus on different things in different forms of meditative practice. Meditating on Loving Kindness can reputedly increase one's capacity for empathy. Not sure imagining that everyone in the world is your mother would have the same compassion- elevating effects on someone like, say, Eminem, who has psychological hangups around motherhood though, so as with all things, YMMV.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:10 PM on June 4, 2014


Gautama did not carry out his entire journey alone. He spend much time with the Sranamas starving himself half to death. He was taught by Rajagaha and Arada Kalama. He learned yoga with Udraka Ramaputra. He became extremely ascetic with Kaundinya and his group.

Yeah, and then he explicitly rejected all those approaches in favor of his "middle way" between the extremes of asceticism and hedonism.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:11 PM on June 4, 2014


So how exactly do you know that you aren't choosing your lower impulse of selfishness when you pick and choose the beliefs that you believe best for your own self?

That is a great question and I wish I knew a foolproof answer since the ego really likes to think it's right all the time. I mean, how do you thought-check your own head?

I can only say what I typically use but I am interested in other's opinions here too.

1) I would be radically honest with myself about what I really want to achieve with a certain action or belief. Is it to make me feel better, protect myself (my ego), blame others etc., or does it recognize the autonomy & rights of others.

2) I would ask myself what is the expected logical conclusion of this action or belief, and does it bring everyone higher (to their higher selves). Does this belief take humanity forward, and open the hearts of others?

3) I would ask myself if this action or belief is based out of fear or love.

4) As a Buddhist, I also go for refuge and check with my heart centre in regards to this action or belief.
--> #4 is tricky because of course you'll pick what feels good. I've talked at length with my monk about this one and he said you can't push yourself too quickly (go against your heart feeling) otherwise your ego will rear up and react and become resentful. He said over time this approach will make your decisions more others-based as opposed to "what is only best for me" and that learning to be and truly feel selfless takes time. He said with practice you learn how much to push yourself vs. be gentle on yourself without slipping into being lazy & selfish again.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:12 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


All things are impermanent, including religious formulations. I'm pretty sure if someone yanked Siddhartha through a time door, even the capital-letters Real Buddhist formulations would be pretty confusing for the fellow. Even past the "uh...I never said that, guys" on the various thats it applied to. (Then the historical Yeshua would buy him a drink, pat him on the shoulder sympathetically with a "we've all been there.")
posted by Drastic at 12:12 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


For the sincere practitioner, they are inherent. The goal of Catholic meditation and the goal of Tibetan Buddhist meditation are radically different, and the experience and techniques to reach that goal are just as different. From a cultural studies position, you may be right, but from within the religion, you're missing the point, I think.

Only if the point is to be a devoted follower of a religion I am not part of. What is and isn't inherent in a religion is an opinion. I mean, if you think Christ was a fraud, we can pretty much say you are not a Christian, but you can look at the 20 centuries of Christian history to see that there are always going to be conflicts over less fundamental stuff that is a "red line" for people. No one is under any obligation to care.

Newton was earnestly trying to understand god's creation. I'm an atheist. Am I not allowed to use calculus?
posted by spaltavian at 12:13 PM on June 4, 2014


I'm pretty sure if someone yanked Siddhartha through a time door, even the capital-letters Real Buddhist formulations would be pretty confusing for the fellow. Even past the "uh...I never said that, guys" on the various thats it applied to. (Then the historical Yeshua would buy him a drink, pat him on the shoulder sympathetically with a "we've all been there.")

Previously on MeFi.
posted by sukeban at 12:15 PM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think it's a little weird to resent someone who is using mindfulness meditation in order to manage anxiety, depression, or pain, but isn't subscribing to a religious tradition.

“Yoga! A tradition thousands of years old that brings real health benefits today. Yoga can give you the abs you want.”

The comparison is somewhat strained -- managing anxiety/depression/pain is pretty different from a vanity-abs project -- and it's a jokey take. But I think the piece works on some levels to elaborate on some of the violence done when appropriating something with specific benefits, in this case health/fitness, from a larger cultural context.
posted by weston at 12:17 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sure, but there's also a long tradition within Buddhism (not just Chán/Zen but even in the Theravadan tradition) of hermeticism and taking a more solitary path.

There's Hinyana Buddhism & Mahayana Buddhism (lower vehicle, higher vehicle) and the highest form (which the Dalai Lama practices) is Mahayana which considers others.

Buddhism distinguishes between Nirvana (whoo hoo! I made it! So long suckas! Gonna meditate in my cave now) and Enlightenment (I made it out and I'm going to dedicate my life to helping others make it out too). Mahayana seeks Enlightenment.

I can get into more subtle differences between these types of realized minds but it might just be confusing. It has to do with just how much "bad mental habits" you've really cleansed yourself of.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:18 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


At a certain age, there is much to be said for Forgetfulness rather than Mindfulness...If buddhism a "religion," can it be one with no god(s)?

when I see buddhists setting themselves on fire to protest things, Twirling prayer wheels, and often acting like dummies-- this is but another way to be religious or at least convince oneself that he is in touch with important things by ritualistic and repeated acts

Mindfullness is simply paying attention to Now rather than Later or Previously


Meditation turns down the brain so that it idles rather than races and that is very nice for the body that houses it.

Darwin noted that their is grandeur in the view of looking back at where we came from and seeing ourselves as but a very small part of an evolutionary movement. That is a view much earlier expressed somewhat in TAO

Yes. We are always searching. But basically we ask three things:
1. where did we come from
2. why are we here
3. where will we go (ie, after we die)
posted by Postroad at 12:21 PM on June 4, 2014


Yoga doesn't give you great abs, it helped the ancients concentrate and forget about the chronic malnutrition that would give anybody a nice concave tummy.
posted by Renoroc at 12:28 PM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Well the Dalai Lama says stuff like that because he's in the funny position of being the head of a religion that might run into problems if it became more closely involved with actively seeking formal converts. Probably. Dude's got enough problems and that's as far as I care to read into his statements.

Buddhism has been around for a long while, has all kinds of forms, and has accumulated tons of what adherents believe to be holy wisdom that outsiders believe to be cruft. I read the Diamond Sutra, or the Heart Sutra, and mostly I'm thinking "give me a break." Even great reform movements like Chan/Zen get crufted up with ritual again after not too long. No one is obligated to eat all of the apples in the barrel if they don't want to. It's 2014. No one can excommunicate me because in modern societies religious councils don't have any temporal power, and that's pretty much an unalloyed good.

The loss of a coherent philosophical message and the piling on of ritual that didn't mean anything to anyone is part of what made it so easy for other religions to kick over Buddhism in many of its most important historical centers. As for the need for sangha, well there are Arhats all ovet many Mahayana temples but we're told that, nope, that's for them and for us we have to make reference to all of this extra stuff that Buddha didn't preach. Why? Or else what? If I wasn't going to participate in the sangha anyway because I don't want to, then doing my own thing off by myself isn't harming anyone. Including me.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:29 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's Hinyana Buddhism & Mahayana Buddhism (lower vehicle, higher vehicle) and the highest form (which the Dalai Lama practices) is Mahayana which considers others.

Just an FYI (and I'm sorry to put you on the spot); many Theraveda practitioners would find this framing of the "vehicles" offensive, as well as the word Hinayana.

Also, technically i believe the Dalai Lama follows Vajrayana practice.
posted by selfnoise at 12:32 PM on June 4, 2014 [10 favorites]


how do you thought-check your own head

My impression is that this is exactly what the Sangha is for. You can do whatever meditation or inner journey you like, but you won't know if you've got to the place the Buddha indicated without some kind of validation.

This is why the Tibetans (and probably others) are so hot on lineage. The teaching is theoretically passed down from master to pupil all the way, at each stage making sure the pupil has achieved the right thing, so that if you find a master today who validates your experience you can be pretty sure you're on the same path as the Buddha.

If you do it yourself, well you can always found your own religion.

Oh incidentally "Hinayana" doesn't really exist any more and is really a slur by Mahayanists. Theravadins aren't Mahayana but are just as enlightened as those guys (which is to say, mostly not)
posted by doiheartwentyone at 12:32 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Newton was earnestly trying to understand god's creation. I'm an atheist. Am I not allowed to use calculus?

Calculus isn't a spiritual practice (although some students seem to think it relates to purgatory, if not hell). As an atheist, do you think studying Newton's Christian alchemy will benefit your spiritual practice?
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:36 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think that every hundred years or so, someone comes along and they notice some Things That Work. Maybe one in every ten of these people think to tell other people, and maybe one in every ten of those are charismatic enough to have the ideas Preserved For The Ages.

I think Siddhartha noticed that if you sat just so and concentrated just so and focused on the fact that everything is temporary, impersonal and unable to completely satisfy, you'd eventually experience a shift in consciousness that allows you to accept things as they are.

I think the rest of the bits are trappings added by people who just have to edit other people's copy.
posted by Mooski at 12:36 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think Siddhartha noticed that if you sat just so and concentrated just so and focused on the fact that everything is temporary, impersonal and unable to completely satisfy, you'd eventually experience a shift in consciousness that allows you to accept things as they are.

A little more than that, though, is that he transcended this experience of "I" as "owner operator of the body" and rightfully saw it as the figment of imagination that it is. That's not just nifty, that is revolutionary.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:44 PM on June 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


It's so tiring to hear these lazy criticisms and LOLZing about cafeteria Catholics and people "picking and choosing" parts of religion they like. People have altered and adapted (and discarded) religion to suit their spiritual, political and emotional needs, everywhere and for all of history.

I can't speak for anyone else, but when I roll my eyes at religious hypocrisy it is never because of "hurf-durf, even I can tell they are doing it wrong," it's because the people in question are demanding that the rest of us hew to their definitions and standards. Sometimes they are telling us we must do so or face post-life pain (which is something I find tiresome but not so much angry-making) but usually they are demanding society match their vision. I will feel no shame at lolzing at their demand I follow a stricture they can't/won't manage for themselves.

It would be awful hypocritical for me to judge the cafeteria type since I am that buddhish myself. I'm probably not the target of the piece's complaint since I would never label myself Buddhist unless cornered, and even then say "more Buddhist than anything else, to the extent I am any ish or ist." But I am gobsmacked that anyone who is a practitioner would think that anyone wouldn't benefit, regardless of other structure, from appreciating the nature of attachment or from trying to follow the eightfold path. Such orthodoxy in the absence of believing in a single cosmic referee is sort of shocking.
posted by phearlez at 12:45 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's also Theravadan or "Way of the Elders," one of the oldest forms of Buddhism that continues to dominate practice in Southeast Asia. "Hinayana" is a somewhat offensive term to some Theravadan Buddhists. Theravadan Buddhists cling most closely to the oldest teachings most directly connected to the historical Buddha. Mahayana Buddhists (who insist on things above and beyond the core teachings like the Bodhisattva Vow, etc.) like to lump everyone else into the Hinayana designation (the term means "lesser vehicle," so you can guess why some take offense).

But that's all ultimately a bunch of irrelevant nonsense so far removed from what I would look to a hypothetical religion or belief system to provide me personally already that I don't see the point in worrying about it.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:47 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oops. Never mind then. I see that got covered a little upthread.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:50 PM on June 4, 2014


I think what this article, and many like it overlook, is that at its core Buddhism is not based on faith. It is a philosophy, and you can choose to believe it is right or wrong, but it is more a case of 'yeah, that makes sense' than 'I believe in something I can't see or prove, but take on faith alone because it is the truth'.

Many/most strands of Buddhism have, through acculturation, picked up many faith/religious 'trimmings', but at essence you can be Buddhist without being religious. So while if you don't follow the correct practices perhaps you can't really call yourself a true member of Soto Zen, or Tibetan Buddhism, or Amida/Pure Land Buddhism, you can still choose to use Buddhism as a philosophy/guiding principle just as you can use Empiricism without declaring yourself someone who follows every dictate of Locke.

I sometimes call myself 'borderline Buddhist' because I follow the philosophy of the Buddha and try to apply it to my everyday life but don't really adhere to one school, and definitely can't make myself follow some of the more faith based approaches to Buddhism. I have been on retreats with Zen adherents before and they seemed pretty cool with the fact that I wasn't as attached to the sangha as they were (frankly I would like to be, but often my circumstances make it rather difficult). While my Buddhism was not 'their' Buddhism we all understood that we were using the same philosophy in our lives.

Oh, and I know of many Christians (including Anglican clergy) who will happily state that they 'use' Buddhism in their life, and know of one Anglican minister who claims he is Anglican and a Buddhist.
posted by Megami at 1:31 PM on June 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


how do you thought-check your own head
My impression is that this is exactly what the Sangha is for.
...Beastie Boys Are My copilots Sangha.
posted by scody at 1:37 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Calculus isn't a spiritual practice (although some students seem to think it relates to purgatory, if not hell). As an atheist, do you think studying Newton's Christian alchemy will benefit your spiritual practice?

I don't have a spiritual practice. Alchemy isn't useful because it is wrong. Meditation does produce measurable psychological benefits. Why does someone need to swallow all the cultural-historical context to use a practice that they feel brings them benefits?

You're not distinguishing between wearing practices as costume and actually using practices. Dressing up in monk's robes because you think they look cool would be cultural approbation. Acutally using meditation to get some psychological benefit is not a costume.

Food is a great example. Do you have a problem with people eating food from another culture? Is it only okay if they adopt all the practices associated with it? Do I have to refrain from challah bread now?
posted by spaltavian at 1:40 PM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


The importance of sangha was my first real struggle with the practice.

I gained so much benefit so quickly from practice, and the dreams were so intense, and my mind so quickly changing, that it was intensely frightening. Two weeks of about every other day practice, and I found a community to go ask questions of.

There were no easy answers to my questions of course, but I started showing up regularly for group practice as this was the prescription. At first I did not find it of use, and in fact hearing others breathing, and swallowing, and shifting about, and the guided meditation the teacher was doing on beginner's night, it distracted me from the state of consciousness I was seeking.

It took a few months before I realized the benefit of group practice. Primarily, it kept me from expecting, imprisoning, the experience of meditation. The meditative state of mind can be like a spurning lover that refuses you when you want them most. Best get used to the quicksilver nature of it.

Practice without meditation is a form of solipsism. If it's all a person has, then that is fine, but the fruits available from a good group of people to practice and discuss with are invaluable.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 1:42 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that this discussion has barely mentioned the Zen tradition, which most clearly articulates the idea that, fundamentally, there is no Dharma, there is no Sangha, and there is DEFINITELY no Buddha (and if you see one, be sure to kill him) (Although please make sure before you do that it actually IS the Buddha). Fingers pointing at the moon are never, ever, ever the moon. They are not even more or less like the moon. They have nothing at all to do with the moon, except that they attest to the fact that one day, if you realize what all the fingers are about, you might just get a glimpse of that beauty up in the sky that you've been missing your whole life.
posted by haricotvert at 1:57 PM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Group meditation can make certain anxiety-producing attitudes and behaviors very obvious. It's also interesting, comforting, and sometimes weird to hang around with people who understand and appreciate the notion that everyday life, even holiday life, is closely tied up with suffering. Doing a silent meditation retreat together can be really intimate. I think ritual has to do with a kind of theatrical dynamic, like "mask work," a choreography, a chance to drop one's self-obsession and enact something else. I thought her articles were kind of, um, reactionary.
posted by mbrock at 2:03 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well all traditions state there is no Buddha/Dharma/Sangha (that is right there in the heart sutra - "there is no suffering, origin, cessation or path; no exhalted awareness, no attainment and also no non-attainment"). That's inherent in understanding 'emptiness.'

Personally I tried Zen and it was just too hard. I needed more explanation at the beginning.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:04 PM on June 4, 2014




I don't have a spiritual practice. Alchemy isn't useful because it is wrong. Meditation does produce measurable psychological benefits. Why does someone need to swallow all the cultural-historical context to use a practice that they feel brings them benefits?

Here's the problem. The whole point of my saying "For the sincere practitioner, they are inherent." is that the point of a religious practice is progress toward the goal of the religion. While both Catholic and Buddhist meditation practices probably provide some "observable benefit" (say, stress reduction), that is not the purpose of the practice for the sincere practitioner -- the Catholic wants to draw closer to Christ, the Buddhist wants to end suffering. The two goals are not compatible, so a Catholic who wants to explore meditation would be better off looking at Catholic (or at least Christian) traditions than Buddhist ones. Obviously, if you're an atheist, you're going to discount most of this, but that doesn't really matter to the sincere practitioner.

You're not distinguishing between wearing practices as costume and actually using practices. Dressing up in monk's robes because you think they look cool would be cultural approbation. Acutally using meditation to get some psychological benefit is not a costume.

Really, I'm trying to treat people's beliefs with respect when I am considering what they hope to get from their religious practices. Claiming it's all "costume" kind of misses the point. The Buddhist teachers I've listened to are clear, for example, that, while meditation might help you with stress or other psychological issues, it might not, and, anyway, that's not the real goal of the practice.

Food is a great example. Do you have a problem with people eating food from another culture? Is it only okay if they adopt all the practices associated with it? Do I have to refrain from challah bread now?

Nope. But cooking coq au vin once and proclaiming yourself a "French Chef" isn't the best course of action, either.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:20 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Personally I tried Zen and it was just too hard. I needed more explanation at the beginning.

Actually, you were doing it right. The "hardness" that you mention, which sounds like a combination of frustration and possibly physical discomfort (I'm guessing?) is one of what the great Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck calls the boulders that you turn into diamonds. The "hardness" itself is your teacher. It can become an object of observation. You can shine the light of your awareness on this phenomenon of "hardness", like a scientist of yourself, rather than reflexively turning away from it. And when you do that, it transforms (without losing any of its qualities of hardness -- I don't want to make false representations) and provides an opening. That's Zen practice as I understand it, and it has been a powerful force in my life since I took it up. I'd recommend dipping back in!
posted by haricotvert at 2:21 PM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Grind, grind... bah! She can have the dogma. Water is water by any name.
posted by chance at 2:23 PM on June 4, 2014


Shoot, first post here, and I manage to screw it up. The average literacy is so much higher.

I meant practice without sangha is solipsism, not Practice without meditation.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 2:23 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


> I don't have a spiritual practice. Alchemy isn't useful because it is wrong. Meditation does produce measurable psychological benefits. Why does someone need to swallow all the cultural-historical context to use a practice that they feel brings them benefits?

Well, the religion isn't just a practice. Most musicians in Western culture are performing practices that have a connection to sacred liturgical music. Singing is fun, and has demonstrable health and psychological benefits. But singing in the shower doesn't make you a Christian, much less a choir director.

Similarly, meditation doesn't make you a member of any of the religions that practice meditation (almost all of them, as far as I'm aware.) People who make all three jewels and all eight points of the noble path a part of their lives are quite justified in telling off the people who cherrypick one out of context and sell it as a more authentic Buddhism. Buddhism a tradition that has ethics, meta-ethics, metaphysics, history, and community. If you're not willing to engage in any of that, why call yourself a Buddhist as opposed to a cognitivist, which has a purely psychological theory that meditation is good for you?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:27 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Something else that I think affects the attitudes in the article is the big difference between someone who has been a long-term practitioner of a religion watching short-term or non- practitioners sort of skimming off elements of practice, belief, and iconography. It reads less to me that she's mad about Western Buddhists in general as she's mad about people taking a superficial understanding of her religion and claiming to be part of it. While I was raised Lutheran and therefore missed out on this experience (no one wants to co-opt that iconography or claim to be "Lutheran" for the cred (although you shouldn't knock Lutheran ham buns which are close to a sacrament)), I can sympathize with people who see people wearing rosaries as jewelry or decorating their apartments with Buddha heads and get a bit bent out of shape (although a Buddhist might consider it a lesson in clinging and attachment).
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:38 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I can sympathize with people who see people wearing rosaries as jewelry or decorating their apartments with Buddha heads and get a bit bent out of shape (although a Buddhist might consider it a lesson in clinging and attachment).

You need to be careful in Sri Lanka
posted by doiheartwentyone at 2:46 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Re:Zen - the practice itself was ok (walking meditation, just observe etc) but I found it odd that after 4 months going there, I had no clue who Buddha was, what Buddha taught (I couldn't even define attachment, know the 4 noble truths or anything), what I was trying to reach, how to meditate, nothing. They really didn't teach anything. I needed much more guidance than that. The hardness wasn't frustration per se, nor was it physical discomfort, it was just the sheer lack of instruction that was difficult. They didn't even teach us what to observe or anything. All I came out with was "mindfulness is paying attention to your current experience" which I naively understood as paying attention to sensations like looking or eating but had no idea how to turn it on the mind itself

Now, with many years under my belt I could make sense of zen, and I incorporate its cousins "lojong" and "tonglen" regularly into my daily life.

And of course in non-zen traditions there is the risk of over-teaching where it only becomes an intellectual exercise (or worse - I've met some pretty dogmatic Buddhists!). This is where zen or lojong come in handy. Just cus the monk said so doesn't make it so - you need to observe it in your own mind & be constantly observing your own thoughts in order to make some real changes.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:28 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


You can accept every fundamental idea of Buddhism and in fact reputedly even attain nibbana without necessarily joining a cult, monastic order, or otherwise giving up your right to define the terms of your own relationship with Buddhist ideas. There have been reputed living Boddhisattvas who were hermits or who otherwise eschewed orthodox Buddhist doctrine. And IMO, the fundamental spiritual goals of Christian teaching are completely harmonious with the aims of Buddhism once you trim away all the sectarian noise and spiritual fat. Only the various doctrinal schisms and the various neurotic ritual practices that the spiritual insecurity these schisms help encourage can create the appearance that the fundamental aims of both traditions aren't harmonious. You could just as well pick two doctrinally split factions of Christianity and use them to argue there's only one true way to be Christian, but that argument would still sound just as hollow when you thumped it to my ear.

But no self-identifying Buddhist I've ever met rejects the noble eightfold path, sunyata, conditional arisal, or the core ideas of Buddhism. Because they're actually not very dogmatic ideas to start with and there's not a whole lot there to disagree with, once you really start to get the ideas.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:30 PM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


I can definitely see where the complaints are coming from. This is a clear example of brand erosion. By letting anybody use the "Buddhism" brand name without adhering to Best Practices and Standards, you get a situation where the impact of the brand itself is diminished, which can result in a broad casual use base at the cost of a diminished dedicated user base.

Honestly, that's why they should have trademarked the name.
posted by happyroach at 4:27 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


A religion with no inclination to and mechanism for policing the lax and the heterodox won't long thrive. First Things has long observed that the loss of "cultural" orthodoxy in Christianity quickly transforms into the loss of doctrinal orthodoxy, and thus probably took a quick shine to this piece.
posted by MattD at 4:32 PM on June 4, 2014


A religion with no inclination to and mechanism for policing the lax and the heterodox won't long thrive.

Neither will the religion so inflexible as to avoid all change and refuse to incorporate the existing traditions of nonbelievers.
posted by murphy slaw at 4:35 PM on June 4, 2014


And I'm pretty sure Buddhism predates Christianity by about 5 to 6 hundred years, and has continued to draw new practitioners over all that time despite having always suffered from weak brand management.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:38 PM on June 4, 2014


I wonder how much of the dislike and disavowing of the importance of sangha in Western countries is due to Western ideals of individualism.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:46 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's a bit of a trope now, isn' it, Western people being all like "Western Buddhism is bullshit, yo! This is real Buddhism."

I do agree there is a lot of ignorance about Buddhism, but the idea of positing there's a singular way to practice is so dumb. Buddhism is as heterogeneous as Christianity, and in my opinion maybe even moreso than Islam. It includes a vast array of beliefs - Gods, a kind of atheism, ascetism, luxury, tolerance, rampant racism and homphobia etc etc.

Who am I, or anyone to say that the Burmese Buddhists killing Muslims, the Chinese Buddhists with shrines to kitchen gods, the Japanese Zen Buddhists etc etc are not Buddhists? And of course, the Western Buddhists. For god's sake it's so petty and point-missy. There's always someone lining up to say "Your beliefs are wrong.". I find these people more dogmatic and annoying as fluffy western-style Buddhism for sure, esp the way they conflate a Buddhism they've inherited through a pretty specific cultural and geographical history as The Buddhism.
posted by smoke at 6:01 PM on June 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


The hardness wasn't frustration per se, nor was it physical discomfort, it was just the sheer lack of instruction that was difficult.

it's just like life ...
posted by pyramid termite at 6:02 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


It sounds as if Buddhist practices have been helpful in the lives of many on this thread, as they have in mine. The one "false note" I feel is being introduced in some of the comments -- and this is also my problem with the article's idea that Buddhism is being misused or misrepresented by Americans or Time Magazine or anybody -- is the notion that through Buddhist practice there is something to attain or achieve, some progress to be made or change to be effected. What I've come to love most about my practice, whether it be called Buddhist or not, is the constant return to the present moment through the release of any notion of gain. In truth, nothing needs to be added to the present moment, and suffering arises through our unwillingness to accept this truth ("Surely it's not THIS moment! I just dropped my f**ing iPhone!"). Of course, the paradox is that I do gain through my practice, or it seems to me that I do (my wife says I'm a lot easier to get along with!), but to approach Buddhism with some notion of getting somewhere -- a path to follow and a goal to be attained -- seems contrary to the teachings (as I read them, anyway). And if there's no path and no goal, it's hard to see how anybody can be doing it wrong. Although that said, I could be doing it wrong!
posted by haricotvert at 6:15 PM on June 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


murphy slaw: Is it possible for a depressed misanthrope to use mindfulness meditation to recover from their depression without experiencing any increase in empathy? Can you "get better" without being better? I don't know. I'm asking.

I don't know either, but that's generally part of the fun. So far my favourite talk from our neighbourhood priest was about "Buddhism and Zen". To simplify, Zen is the practice: zazen (meditation) and ritual. Buddhism is teaching, ethics, history, lineage. (I'm making this up; the dividing line is vague and fading.) And are either of them a religion?

I found this very helpful, especially the juxtaposition of Zen vs. Buddhism and Religion vs. Not Religion. Now I think of practice as the part that's "my" life, and Buddhism as a framework for relating to that practice, and a way of letting myself be guided as things change. It's a bit like looking at a building in the fog. Once in a while you can sort of make out the whole thing, but usually you have to be content with a spire there, a window here. A patch of grass. That part looks different than it did last year... Religion means "to tie", or maybe to "recover a bond" with the universe. What does that mean in this context?

We are discouraged from talking about Nirvana, enlightenment or reincarnation. What do those things have to do with this experience right here? What do we talk about? The Two Wings of Buddhism: Compassion and Wisdom. That's all.

I still don't feel all that empathetic either, but I try not to worry about it.
posted by sneebler at 6:31 PM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


A religion with no inclination to and mechanism for policing the lax and the heterodox won't long thrive.
Neither will the religion so inflexible as to avoid all change and refuse to incorporate the existing traditions of nonbelievers.


It's almost like there are two important principles in tension with one another.
posted by weston at 6:41 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


If I could chime in on Murphy Slaw's question. I think Buddhism would say that the depression and the misanthropy are the result of ignorance (not in the perjorative sense -- in the sense of "not knowing"). Mindfulness meditation would shed light (insight) on the person's actual situation, which would inevitably result in a lessening of the behaviors, compulsive in nature, that resulted in his/her experiencing others as unlikable and his/her own inner state as depressed. This would occur not through any specific positive action on the meditator's part, but through the progressive dissolution of the illusions that sustained these behaviors and worldview. Once the illusions were sufficiently dissolved, depression would lift and empathy would simultaneously increase, not because the person suddenly became "good" or moral or holy or whatever, but simply because empathic action, in the light of profound knowledge of how things are, would present itself as the obvious and compelling choice.
posted by haricotvert at 7:26 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nobody talks about the fact that the goal of Buddhism is final death.

That's not the goal in a literal, common-sense. And whenever you hear the word 'death' in a spiritual context, it usually means something closer to the 'death' of prideful ego. To the extent that true compassion can be experienced.

Deliverance from suffering is the result of overcoming desire. The prodding, prodding, prodding to have more food, money, sex, whatever impulsive shit you just HAVE to have. Which is certainly the cause of much of our suffering. Which doesn't result in "happiness" per se ... more like profound existential relief. The seed finally pushes up into the sunlight.

IOW, nobody talks about it because it just ain't like that.

posted by Twang at 9:58 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


The editor stopped me fixing the italics around "deliverance from suffering". Some pushy algorithms are also a source of suffering. Perhaps its time for MF to explain its dogmatic posture about editing time. Like, if I've still got the edit window open, let me fucking finish????
posted by Twang at 10:05 PM on June 4, 2014


Nobody talks about the fact that the goal of Buddhism is final death. Deliverance from suffering, not happiness.

Not in my buddhist sect it isn't.

Oh man there is so much misinformation about buddhism in this thread, I could hardly begin to address them. Like:

But no self-identifying Buddhist I've ever met rejects the noble eightfold path, sunyata, conditional arisal, or the core ideas of Buddhism.

You haven't met many buddhists, have you? I never heard of sunyata.. let me google.. emptiness...? Oh that's zen navel-gazing not buddhism. We don't have time to contemplate emptiness, we're too busy seeking enlightenment amidst the people of the world. What the hell is conditional arisal.. oh maybe you mean dependent origination. Nope, my sect doesn't do that one either, although we note its presence as a historical doctrine in obsolete sects. Eightfold path? No, we have a shortcut, we get all the benefits of the eightfold paths without having to make an effort to observe those precepts. Core ideas of buddhism? What the hell are those? The secret zen wordless transmission? The unbroken transmission by reincarnation of tibetan lamas who exert political power over a suffering populace? The suffering in this life so that we can be reincarnated in the Pure Land, in a higher state, so women who can't attain enlightenment might be reincarnated as a man, who can?

But then, I'm not a self-identifying buddhist. I'm an identified buddhist. When people tell me they're a buddhist, I sometimes ask them if they went to a temple and did the initiation by a priest, when they accepted the precepts. I did that back in 1987. They even gave me a little laminated plastic photo ID badge to wear at meetings.

What, you never formally accepted the precepts? Who taught you buddhism? Who do you talk to that answers your questions and corrects your misunderstandings? Oh, you learned it from a book? That's... nice.

That's the kind of person I don't engage with in doctrinal discussions. Instead, I tell them something just as ridiculous as the bizarre concepts they toss at me. I tell them, I belong to a sect that believes in non-attachment to material possessions like clothing. I'm a nudist buddhist.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:00 PM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Meditation turns down the brain so that it idles rather than races and that is very nice for the body that houses it.
posted by Postroad

Ummm, Buddhist meditation; I was a very involved, months-long silent retreats in Japan Zen practitioner for about 20 years. I don't know much about Western/Christian meditation, and a little of Islamic (mostly Turkish and Maghrebi Sufi) as it cross-influenced Sephardic Jewish contemplation.

Traditional (not New Age/Eastern religion borrowed) Jewish meditation works quite differently than Buddhist, basically by hyperfocus rather than attenuation, and often extremes of ritualized intellectual and linguistic manipulation. Most of the Jewish physical meditative techniques (Abulafia's, in particular) can be quite hard on the body, as well. Jewish meditation is not for quietist purposes. Jewish meditation is traditionally very esoteric, can only be learned from a teacher with lineage, and has to be taught in communal settings, even if some of the practices can become solo for experienced, emotionally stable adherents. Oh, and until recently, it was exclusively a male activity due to the communal/public prayer setting bit.

I've found both families of styles and goals useful at different times in my life, but if I had known about authentic Jewish meditation as a young person, would not have entered Buddhism as far as I did.
posted by Dreidl at 12:33 AM on June 5, 2014


I didn't mean to imply that over the 2500+ year histories of Hinduism, Buddhism and "Western" monotheisms that there was no cultural interchange or that my very broad characterizations of techniques are absolutes or complete descriptions. By no means are what I have attempted to practice historically "pure", nor are exoticist or New Age recombinations always a bad thing (though others have expressed how they can be problematic). Meditation is part of the human mental, spiritual, and social toolset, and people should be able to access, select, use and modify the tools they need for their situations.

But many of the techniques are powerful enough to cause personal or communal damage when poorly understood or used out of context. Meditation is not psychiatric care or physical therapy and cannot help every condition, even when used according to best practices.
posted by Dreidl at 12:58 AM on June 5, 2014


Without suggesting that meditation represents a cure or that people should not seek qualified professional care, I would say that I find it impossible to imagine a condition which meditation could not help, in the same way that turning on a light would "help" illuminate whatever is in a room. Obviously, once you see what's in the room, you would have to deal with it on the specific level of what is there. But the illumination is effective independent of the room's contents. Meditation works like that, which is why I recommend it to everyone.
posted by haricotvert at 8:06 AM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


they seemed pretty cool with the fact that I wasn't as attached to the sangha as they were

heh.
posted by phearlez at 8:10 AM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Folks interested in the cultural geography kind of stuff without so much the prescriptive orientation should really check out this really fantastic book. And Tricycle interview gives a taste of where he's coming from.
posted by batfish at 9:30 AM on June 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Without suggesting that meditation represents a cure or that people should not seek qualified professional care, I would say that I find it impossible to imagine a condition which meditation could not help, in the same way that turning on a light would "help" illuminate whatever is in a room. Obviously, once you see what's in the room, you would have to deal with it on the specific level of what is there. But the illumination is effective independent of the room's contents. Meditation works like that, which is why I recommend it to everyone.

Ooooh oooh I soo hear what you're saying!

But

(you knew the but was coming)

I used to teach Buddhist meditation for a few years and I've found that people in certain phases of dealing with [whatever] don't particularly benefit from Zen/mindfulness meditation and have to go to back Meditation 101: find your breath; focus on your breath, let go of any thought that is not the breath.

To do mindfulness correctly, there has to be an 'observer' part of your mind that is still, and observes the rest of your mind. If not one part of your mind is still then mindfulness is just too confusing (and thus frustrating) for them. I've had people show up to my classes who were just too anxious to focus, and mindfulness confused the heck out of them. I taught them very basic meditations instead.

Only when they've learned some basics of controlling the mind are they ready to then examine the contents of the mind itself.

I've found similar things when teaching other topics, like emptiness. People prone to depression or low self esteem need a lot of 'kid gloves' when explaining the emptiness of all phenomena, otherwise they become angry or even more depressed.

Furthermore when people have been depressed, they don't understand how to use mindfulness to illuminate the unhealthy thoughts that perpetuate the depression, they just use it to stew in their depression. (Or worse, expect immediate results since "mindfulness cures everything!!") In this case I would teach them practices for outside of meditation (helping others gets our mind off our troubles) or simple meditations like love for all beings.

Same with selflessness. Yes humans are a selfish bunch. And then some people are so unselfish that they are doormats (kind of - they are selfish in that they want people to like them, but then they execute this selfishness by being doormats). In this case I would teach students how to say No, then how to say Yes, then how to mindfully decide when to say Yes, or No (and then use mindfulness to combat any discomfort that arises).

So I lurve meditation as well... and I've learned that sometimes people come with hurdles where meditation alone is not the initial solution (especially mindfulness, since it is subtle and often poorly taught).
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:32 PM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


sukeban: using "Hitler-would-love-her" as an adjective to describe a human being

That was a callback to that "Arian" which should have been "Aryan" unless the author was making a point about the relationship between Christ the Son and God the Father.


It's bad enough when a hack Godwins their own article, but when they actually "Godwen" it... well, at least their rent is paid for this month.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:22 PM on June 5, 2014


...have to go to back Meditation 101: find your breath; focus on your breath, let go of any thought that is not the breath

For the record, the meditation practice that I am recommending without qualification is what you refer to as Meditation 101. I've been practicing for a little over two years, and I am only now beginning to move away from a pure breath-focus meditation. I would say that all the benefits I've seen have come from this simple practice, and I think I understand why. The breath focus is arbitrary, but by persistently returning one's focus to it during meditation (which can be as little as 5 minutes a day at first!), one comes to realize at a profound level -- even if this does not make it into active consciousness -- that thoughts and emotions CAN be released. You can let go of thinking about your relationship, say, or missing the bus, or the ache in your ankle, or whatever it may be, and return your focus to your breath. At least for a few seconds, before you wander off again. The realization soon dawns that if this applies to some thoughts or emotions, it applies equally to all of them, even the really nasty ones. And the result is an increase in inner freedom. It's not that you are totally free, but at least you know there IS freedom available around any thought or emotion. Again, this may not be conscious. But if one can be rigorous about the practice during the practice periods (i.e. not spend the allotted time lost in thought, but actually do the practice of returning focus to the breath), the benefits are inevitable and will be easily confirmed after not much time practicing. It's like exercise -- you don't love doing it, but you love what it does.
I'm excited to see what comes next in my meditation practice, but I wonder whether, in the end, there's anything more than that ever-expanding awareness of freedom.
posted by haricotvert at 8:14 AM on June 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


Huh. Those articles weren't particularly interesting (I found their tone off-putting), but I really like this discussion.
My meditation practice has roots in buddhism and animism, where I have dabbled in a few different practices and decided that the best way for me to really get to the work with my conscious self was an irregular mixture of psychedelics, regular meditation practice, alchemy and psychology, both therapy and readings.
I think I'm going to stop calling myself a buddhist, but make the distinction that I have some practices that are buddhist in their roots. It shows the lineage, but doesn't make claims to something that I am not.
As a beside, alchemy in the Jungian sense as a tradition of transformation of self I have found to be a useful conceptualization. It is a rich field that has quite a long history and I don't think that it should be dismissed because most of what it looks like it is doing is on its face making lead into gold.
posted by burntbook at 2:50 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


the worst horse
posted by homunculus at 3:49 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


In case anyone is interested in how mindfulness meditation might be presented in a clinical and secular context, in my experience, it was not presented as either a Buddhist or spiritual practice. (Y'all made some pretty good points about how that, in itself, is problematic.) Instead, it was presented as a cognitive-behavioral tool for averting panic, or assisting with task switching.

I was instructed to close my eyes (and that with practice, I would no longer need to do so), and to begin deep, breath-in-belly-out breathing. Then, I was supposed to attend to an individual noise, or smell, or the weight or sensation of a particular body part for x breaths, after which I was to shift attention to another sound or scent or body part for x breaths, and so on. Any invasive thoughts are supposed to be pushed to the side in favor of immersive focus on the environmental element or bodily sensation. After I've focused on a set number of things, I open my eyes, and either try to hold onto my newly lowered heart rate, or get up and do the thing I was supposed to start doing.

I've found it to be most helpful with regard to anxiety, especially since it's something that I can do on the subway, where I'm usually pre-wigging-out about whatever thing I'm on my way toward.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:09 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Meditation turns down the brain so that it idles rather than races and that is very nice for the body that houses it.

What Happens to the Brain During Spiritual Experiences?
posted by homunculus at 8:09 PM on June 6, 2014


« Older Sorry, cord-cutters.   |   Why is gender ever a thing? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments