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Buddhadharma : Spring 2015
spring 2015 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 51 buddhadharma is discoveries made by practitioners stretching back to the Buddha. Those are incredible discoveries, and the traditions of buddhadharma inspire them, but people have found, and will con- tinue to find, things in new ways beyond those tra- ditions. Certainly, the first teachers of mindfulness came out of Buddhist training, and many continue to do so. But as the mindfulness movement devel- ops, it is increasingly possible for people to have real secular training in which they make their own discoveries and come up with fresh ways of talking about these discoveries. TRuDy GOODMAN: Right now there really isn’t an alternative to Buddhist centers for deep mindful- ness training. The beauty of the Buddha’s teachings is that people don’t have to become Buddhists; they can practice their home path or religion and integrate the Buddhist framework for understand- ing suffering, how it ends, and how to cultivate the conditions for insight to arise. We have a dream of creating a secular retreat center in LA where we can begin to provide powerful training and retreats in a non-Buddhist context. Often people who tell me they’ve been on retreat before haven’t been on a silent retreat. Insights are possible in all kinds of contexts, but I do think there is something powerful and perhaps irreplaceable about getting to know oneself in the protection of silence. BARRy BOyCE: If silence is not a major component of a retreat, then it’s not a retreat in my definition. As new frameworks develop outside a Buddhist con- text, they need to have rigor; they need to be real and effective. MELISSA MyOZEN BLACKER: In the twenty years I worked at the Center for Mindfulness, we were very careful to say that the practice was not just Buddhism—in fact, for the longest time, we didn’t say it was Buddhism at all. There was never any reference to Buddhism in the standard eight-week MBSR class; only in teacher training did we require retreats and learning about Buddhist psychology. We never led with Buddhism but rather with sci- ence, research, and psychology, so mindfulness training became acceptable in all kinds of institu- tions. That’s the key to its mainstream success. BuDDhADhARMA: Are the current requirements to become certified as a mindfulness teacher enough, or is there a need for more rigorous standards and training? DIANA WINSTON: Among people presenting them- selves as mindfulness teachers, there’s an enormous range. Someone just sent me information about an online training program to become certified in three months, no personal practice required. Some people take a weekend workshop and call them- selves mindfulness teachers. This is the Wild West of mindfulness. There are also highly qualified people teaching, so there’s a huge range, which to me has always spoken to the need for standards. I’m cur- rently involved with creating a national accredita- tion board for certifying programs and individuals, which I hope will also involve continuing education units and an ethics board. Of course, just because you have a certificate in mindfulness training doesn’t mean you’re good at it, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. Ten or twenty years ago, when the mindfulness move- ment was so much smaller, the need for accredita- tion wasn’t as great. But now that it’s become so big and popularized, I think there has to be some quality control and standardization, some profes- sionalization of the field. Rebecca Crane from Ban- gor University has been working with the Center for Mindfulness on a set of criteria to implement in teaching training standards for research, so there is much work in progress. MELISSA MyOZEN BLACKER: I’m happy to hear that Diana’s program will include an ethics board. I’ve heard from other Buddhist teachers that there are ethical ramifications to teaching people how to look deeply into their own nature that are not addressed in the Wild West of the mindfulness movement. In the past thirty-five years, I’ve seen ethical consider- ations arising naturally out of sincere mindfulness practice, but I’ve also heard of abuses, not just in the mindfulness movement but everywhere the dharma is taught. BuDDhADhARMA: What are some other questions that Buddhists have raised with regard to the mindful- ness movement and the way it’s evolving? What concerns do you think the Buddhist community should have? DIANA WINSTON: Perhaps the top concern I hear is that mindfulness is watered-down Buddhism for the masses, that it’s separated from its liberating potential. There’s also a popular notion, again usu- ally coming from Buddhists, that mindfulness is divorced from ethics—that, for example, it’s used in the military to create better killers, in schools