Saturday, February 01, 2014

Fleeting or contrived

Girls, at some point this semester we're going to have to discuss this.
The first two covers are from 2003, the last is the cover of the current issue, in whose article Buddhism gets really rather short shrift:

Mindfulness is rooted in Eastern philosophy, specifically Buddhism. But two factors set it apart and give it a practical veneer that is helping propel it into the mainstream. One might be thought of as smart marketing. [Jon] Kabat-Zinn and other proponents are careful to avoid any talk of spirituality when espousing mindfulness. Instead, they advocate a commonsense approach: think of your attention as a muscle. As with any muscle, it makes sense to exercise it (in this case, with meditation), and like any muscle, it will strengthen from that exercise.

A related and potentially more powerful factor in winning over skeptics is what science is earning about our brains' ability to adapt and rewire. This phenomenon, known as neuroplasticity, suggests there are concrete and provable benefits to exercising the brain. The science--particularly as it applies to mindfulness--is far from conclusive. But it's another reason it's difficult to dismiss mindfulness as fleeting or contrived.

What more is there to say? Oh but there is one other bit worth noting, a reminder of what a strange transnational thing Buddhist modernism is:

"It was always my intention that mindfulness move into the mainstream," says Kabat-Zinn .... Lately, the professor has also been spreading the gospel abroad. On a November trip to Beijing, he helped lead a mindfulness retreat for about 250 Chinese students, monks and scientists. "This is something that people are now finding compelling in many countries and many cultures, and the reason is the science," he says.

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