This is powerful stuff.
Because if you have any hope of changing the future, the only way we could possibly change the future for the better is to own this moment as it is. So, we, we work at this. And over time, something starts to build. You may yell and scream at various moments. An Interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn. In this DVD, Dr.
He also touches upon mindfulness in parenting. Drawing upon his years of experience and research in the field of mindfulness, Dr. Kabat-Zinn offers an inspiring and instructive approach for mental health professionals and curious individuals alike. Your email address will not be published. Mindfulness — Hope for Changing the Future. He received his Ph. He is the author of numerous scientific papers on the clinical applications of mindfulness in medicine and health care, and of a number of books for the lay public: He is also co-author, with his wife Myla, of Everyday Blessings: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness Guilford, Especially so for me, because this has been a dream for me for over 35 or 40 years—since, you know, I was first touched by Buddhist meditation practice in the first place.
I kind of realized intuitively what profound implications this could have—not just for my own individual life, but in the world—if we were to recognize that element of understanding that some of these ancient traditions have been cultivating and developing for millennia and bring it into the mainstream. And in short, it has the potential to ignite a universal or global renaissance on this planet that would put even the European and Italian Renaissance into the shade in ways that I think are not just uplifting from the point of view of art, [or] in the sense of deep well-being of individuals, but that may actually be the only promise the species and the planet have for making it through the next couple hundred years.
So tell me how you see that renaissance when you say that—a renaissance that would outdo previous renaissances in history. What is it that you are seeing as a potential? One of which is, of course, the scientific way of interrogating and understanding the nature of reality and the nature of our own minds, and who is asking the kinds of question that we ask about the nature of the world and the mind and matter and energy and so forth. And the other stream is the deep meditative disciplines coming out of yoga and Buddhism and all of the wisdom traditions.
And that has been a steady stream through human history. And we recognize our own shadow side or destructive or inflictive emotions to the point where we structure society and also conduct our lives in a way that will have—their potential negative effects would be far more minimal than they are nowadays, just in terms of the personal violence or in terms of national policy.
There is so much harm caused in the world by the same human mind that is so capable of creating beauty. Now Jon, when I first asked you this question—what you think might be at the root of the mainstream acceptance of mindfulness—you used the words "our yearning for authenticity. Well, thanks for remembering that.
I think that the fundamental question we all face as human beings is who are we, and what are we doing here? And what, if anything is the meaning or the purpose or the calling for an embodied life lived? There is something about mindfulness that is absolutely core to our humanity and what I often call "the final common pathway" of what makes us human.
And that is our capacity for awareness itself, for open-hearted awareness itself, [which] is just part of the human repertoire and part of our genetic inheritance. Our work over the past 32 years in the field of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction [MBSR] and in medicine and in psychology and so forth is really demonstrating that regular people—you know, across the entire lifespan, and really, across all cultures—are capable of training in this kind of intentional cultivation, to the point where they really, in a short period of time, transform the way they actually are in relationship to their internal and external experience to their bodies, to their minds, to their hearts, to the people they love and to the people they work with, and so forth.
That was not known 30 years ago. Mainstream Americans, for instance, would actually take to meditation as anything beyond the lunatic fringe—cultural, creative types and so forth. And now, if there is an age of mindfulness, what it means is that, as you started out saying, it really is everywhere. In one pan of the balance is thinking, and on the other side of the balance is awareness. We are brought up, as your question implies, so involved in thinking, and so much of our educational system is aimed at getting us to [become] discriminative, discerning, conceptual thinkers, that we have just put all of our eggs on that side of the balance, in that basket, and have no training in awareness.
But awareness can trump thought in a sense that, for any thought that you might have, we could bring awareness to it—no matter how big, no matter how profound, how important, we can bring awareness to that thought. And, therefore, supply a whole new dimension to how we would actually be in relationship to that thought, to that emotion, that often goes along with so many of our thoughts.
That gives us what I call "new degrees of freedom," for actually being able to make better use of our creativity and imagination and powerful, positive thought processes. I think [that ignorance] often leads directly to much more wide-spread acts of harm and violence. And what I mean by that is here you have, of course, all kinds of thoughts, and some of them might be quite inspired! Well, you know, I should say that a lot of this—if there is an age of mindfulness, hopefully it involves a huge amount of people actually sitting down and practicing non-doing, which is not the same as nothing.
But you know, it is a meditative practice, and meditation involved a certain kind of arduous and rigorous discipline. So it means hanging out with yourself without filling up the time. So there you have it. All of this is totally normal, of course, and very very conventional, but where mindfulness comes in is to actually just let that all happen without believing any of it and without operationalizing any of it.
To just, if you will, rest in awareness.
The image I sometimes use is, "Imagine your thoughts were like a cascading waterfall just going over a cliff. And that seems to give us a whole new way of being in relationship to inner and outer experience. Not simply your own [well-being,] but even more noteworthy, the capacity to actually be of some use in alleviating the suffering and illuminating the beauty of other people. Now, you mentioned creativity, and previously you talked about the potential new renaissance that mindfulness could be a part of.
That creative impulse, it may come as an idea or a thought. I take an enormous amount of pleasure in actually not trying to get anywhere. And this is really fundamental to—if it is really mindfulness, this is an element of it. So the heart sutra, which is one of my favorite texts in the Zen tradition—aside from throwing out the Four Noble Truths and The Eight-Fold Path and all of that. Everyone of us will be free in a different way because we are already different and unique. And I actually believe that this is happening.
Homo sapiens sapiens, which means in Latin, "the species that knows and knows that it knows," or awareness of awareness. Now Jon, I want to make sure I understand what you mean by this "rotation in consciousness. So let me try to give an example. But it means making real something that was not actually real or apparent before. It becomes real to you.
The orthogonal rotation—you know, when I was at MIT, I coined that term to try to catch the attention of the MIT scientific engineering community about something having to do with a change in the way we do our work and relate to society. So much of what MIT was doing was developing the next generation of laser-guided nuclear weapons and smart bombs that were being tested in Vietnam and then used in subsequent wars.
So all of that technology was coming out of MIT and I was talking as a student political leader about rotating in consciousness so that we take responsibility for the social consequences of our technological prowess and discoveries are and so forth. One is that if you take two polarized sunglass lenses, and you put one on top of the other, everybody knows that in one configuration, no light will come through.
The light will be completely blocked. But if you rotate one 90 degrees over the other, it allows light in. Take an authentic apology. There are many, many instances either among nations or among people, where people actually hate each other, detest each other, resent each other—you know, like the Capulets and the Montagues, for generations, those kinds of feuds. People get murdered over them. So there can be incredible resentment and anger between two people. And then all of a sudden, one person will seize the moment, and for completely unexplainable reasons, make an authentic apology to the other person.
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Just the gesture of that [apology] will change something in the other person—unlock something in the other person—and in one moment, all the hatred, all the resentment sometimes built up over centuries, completely dissolves and you would give your life for this other person who, a moment before, you would kill. There are a lot of examples of that. You know, even when Nixon reached out and opened up China.
It was like a chess move that opened up things that ran completely contrary to all of the political thinking and ideologies of the day. We need more and more of those on a mini level, on the micro level, and on the larger macro level.
And they can only come about by shifts in how we see, how we hear, how we understand ourselves. That all comes out of awareness. Clever thinking brought us a lot of the bankrupt foreign policies of the Vietnam War, and of course Iraq and Afghanistan. This is all thought-based. And therefore no ethics, no morality. And I would like to know, in your experience of teaching people, how you help people make that shift. Do people suddenly feel, "Now this is a little confusing.
It was fine when I was paying attention to my breath. Sometimes that sort of objectless attention is thought of as an advanced practice. The more comfortable we get at inhabiting it, the easier it is to see its full implications, part of which is [that] there is now the edge to awareness. There is no boundary to it. So that is something that regular people can get very very quickly. I can pay attention to something. But I can also just be open to whatever might arise. Then we use all sorts of images. But like the sky. Suppose the sky is awareness.
If a bird flew through, then the sky would know it. And it would know whatever it needed to know about the bird.
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Or if a raindrop fell through, or if there was a cloud coming and going, or turbulence in the atmosphere, anything like that. A field of awareness would know whatever is moving in the field of awareness, but it has its own sort of ground condition of just being the sky, just being awareness and not the objects of awareness. So as [you] cultivate that, you get more and more at home in not having anything have to happen. And not having to have to push anything away or pursue anything just because it comes around as nice or not nice, pleasant or unpleasant.
When you do that as a sort of love affair, or as an art form, and a certain degree of discipline, then it shifts what I sometimes call our "default setting" from one of thinking and from one of a kind of never-ending narrative, the center of which is always myself.
You might like them a lot. I just passed him by. But there was something about the feeling of moving passed him that I felt like I did not want to pass him by.
Mindfulness - Hope for Changing the Future
So I went back and put some money in the cup that had there and he said, "Thank you. I mean, it has so much—I felt so badly for this guy. And many of the people who panhandle are actually quite aggressive. But the way this person just said "thank you," it just really moved me. And my impulse was to want to be his friend and give him more money and take him home.
None of which I did.