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Buddhadharma : Spring 2015
spring 2015 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 53 means. You could say I started Buddhism because of self-help—I was a mess and I wanted some help. The concern, I think, is people expecting easy, instant results. The good programs, of which there are many—like at InsightLA and MARC and the Center for Mindfulness—do not market mindful- ness as facile self-help and instant gratification, like Instant Breakfast. It’s presented as real help. Certainly, in all my Buddhist training, I was dis- couraged from trying to go after immediate benefits in working with my mind, because the more you try to grasp after a benefit, the more it eludes you. The benefits generally come as by-products. But I would say that as a result of my forty years of meditation practice—as a pretty lousy practitioner—I’ve become better at some things. So I think it’s honest to present mindfulness to athletes as something that offers an increase in performance. They may find out after a while that there’s a lot more going on. TRuDy GOODMAN: I think most of us come to practice for self-help. Our own suffering is actually the most authentic reason to begin practice. The problem is when claims are made—enhanced performance, lower blood pressure, and so on—that occlude the clarity of the beginner’s mind, which is really what we’re try- ing to teach people. If you approach something with a very narrow goal, you may not be open to the wider possibilities that exist. In George Mumford’s book The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance, coming out in May, he talks about sports, but the “pure” element is about being purely present, about what happens when we try to keep a clear, open mind and heart. In dharma practice, we were taught not to have gaining ideas, but of course we all did. If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have trained so hard, and our teacher knew that. He used to hold it in front of us like a carrot and say, “Don’t you want to be enlightened? Just practice hard and soon you’ll get everything.” We believed him; it took me years to realize what he meant by “every- thing.” We thought we would get everything good. In fact, we just got everything; we learned how to be with everything. MELISSA MyOZEN BLACKER: After Full Catastrophe Living came out and Jon was on the Bill Moyers show, we had people come to orientation for the MBSR class with very high expectations. We would say to them, yes, you’re going to have side effects, your blood pressure might go down, but what you’re really going to learn is how to have a differ- ent relationship with your suffering. So we would emphasize that, and as time went on, people discov- ered what that meant, just as they do in Buddhist practice. We all come in with those fantasies. DIANA WINSTON: Thousands of people come through our classes, and they’re all coming in for different reasons. Most come because of suffering and physi- cal or mental health reasons. Some people want to perform better or want to become more productive. Some people do one class and never come back, and others stay and go deeper. Sometimes we hear from people years later who say, “No, I don’t meditate anymore, but I’m still aware during the day. I still practice.” So I let go of the results and trust that people are going to get what they need. BuDDhADhARMA: In what ways might the mindfulness movement be affecting our understanding or prac- tice of Buddhism in the West? Are there any signifi- cant effects or trends in that direction? TRuDy GOODMAN: I see several of the large dharma centers that used to question the completeness of mindfulness teachings now jumping on the PHOTO | yuri arcurs