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Buddhadharma : Spring 2015
spring 2015 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 49 paying attention on purpose and without judgment in the present moment. Ellen Langer had written a book on mindfulness at about that same time, and there were differences between his definition and hers, but both were aimed at relieving suffering for people out in the world. There are, of course, also many different Buddhist definitions of mindfulness. We all use the same word, but I’m not always sure we’re talking about the same thing. TRuDy GOODMAN: Ellen Langer’s definition of mind- fulness is about the process of actively noticing new things, relinquishing preconceived mind-sets, then acting on the new observations. From the point of view of her research, that’s fantastic, but for those of us who are teachers of mindfulness, with backgrounds in Buddhist philosophy, psychology, and deep practice, we know there’s so much more to it than cultivating bare attention. If we look at the Pali canon and the Abhidharma definitions of mindfulness, there are eighteen elements or factors of mind that support mindfulness. Mindfulness is starting to be used as a catchall term for all of them. BARRy BOyCE: “Mindfulness” is a term that’s been used in so many different ways and carries many different meanings; you have to pay attention to the context. Within Buddhism, several different words are translated as “mindfulness,” and the definitions vary by tradition. The way Tibetan teachers talk about mindfulness is different from the way it’s talked about in the Theravada or Zen traditions. If you’re studying the dharma, it’s helpful to figure out which term is being translated and how it’s being used. More broadly, the term is used as a label for the entire movement. Within that context, I would say Jon’s definition of mindfulness best describes it. But Jon also considers it important to not get stuck in one canonical definition. He says that MBSR teach- ers, for example, ought to be able to put mindful- ness in their own words if they need to. Unfortunately, the word mindfulness is used to refer to both a basic human capability and the practices that cultivate that basic quality. So if somebody says, “I’m into mindfulness,” what does that mean? Are they talking about that way of being, or are they talking about the actual practices? DIANA WINSTON: The word “mindful” is now being used as a catchall term to describe a lot more than just paying attention to present-moment experience. There’s mindfulness as an application of attention, but then there’s mindfulness almost as a translation for the word “dharma,” in this sense meaning the array of teachings arising from and connected to being mindful. When we talk about the mindfulness movement, we’re not just talking about people pay- ing attention. We’re talking about the cultivation of many qualities, which we can think of as “out- come qualities,” such as compassion, patience, and equanimity. BuDDhADhARMA: In the early days of this movement, many teachers had some kind of Buddhist training. How does that compare to what’s happening today? What kind of training is necessary to become a mindfulness teacher? MELISSA MyOZEN BLACKER: In our teacher training programs at the Center for Mindfulness, we used to get two cohorts of people who wanted to be MBSR teachers, and it was interesting to see what needed to be cultivated in each cohort. Those who had come through dharma traditions sometimes needed a grounding in Western psychology and medicine, as well as an understanding of how to communicate with a group, since MBSR was always taught in a group setting. There was another cohort of people who were missing the Buddhist element entirely and needed almost remedial Buddhist help. For example, the MBSR course was partly based on the teachings of the four foundations of mindfulness found in the Satipattana Sutta and the classical teachings on mindfulness of the breath, and we included this and other traditional Buddhist teachings in our teacher training. And we emphasized the importance of attending silent, teacher-led silent retreats. I do know that the folks at the Center for Mindfulness are now working on offering secular mindfulness retreats, which I think will be important for the future of the movement. TRuDy GOODMAN: To my knowledge, there doesn’t yet exist a secular mindfulness retreat center where intensive mindfulness practice is offered free from outer distractions. I think that until there are Some people take a weekend workshop and call themselves mindfulness teachers. This is the Wild West of mindfulness. —Diana Winston (lEFT—RIgHT):daviddaeanrynick,lizamattheWs,billleyden,benmarshall