I spoke with Johann Hari – whose new book, Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention – and How to Think Deeply Again – is already a New York Times best-seller. I was fortunate enough to meet Johann in September 2019 when he was writing this book. He came to my house here in Pacifica, California – and we spent the whole day together and discussing a range of topics – from cruel optimism to the privatization of mindfulness as the new neoliberal, capitalist spirituality.
Johann Hari is the author of three New York Times best-selling books, and the Executive Producer of an Oscar-nominated movie and an eight-part TV series, The Fix, starring Samuel L. Jackson. His books have been translated into 38 languages, and been praised by a broad range of people, from Oprah to Noam Chomsky, from Elton John to Naomi Klein.
His latest book, ‘Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention’, was published in January 2022, and received rave reviews everywhere from the Washington Post to the Irish Times to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Johann’s first book, ‘Chasing the Scream: the First and Last Days of the War on Drugs’, was adapted into the Oscar-nominated film ‘The United States Vs Billie Holiday’.
I first came across Johann’s work when I read his , ‘Lost Connections: Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions’
Johann’s TED talks have been viewed more than 80 million times. The first is named ‘Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong’. The second is entitled ‘This Could Be Why You Are Depressed or Anxious’.
He has written over the past decade for some of the world’s leading newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, Politico and many more. He has appeared on NPR’s All Thing Considered, HBO’s Realtime With Bill Maher, The Joe Rogan Podcast, the BBC’s Question Time, and many other popular shows.
Johann studied Social and Political Science at King’s College, Cambridge, and graduated with honors. Check out our show notes on The Mindful Cranks for links to his website.
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In Episode 37, I spoke with Kathleen Gregory about her chapter “The Modern Mindfulness Movement and the Search for Psychological Redemption” recently published in Richard Payne’s new edited volume, Secularizing Buddhism (Shambala Publications, 2021).
Kathleen offers a unique perspective on modern mindfulness as she is both a licensed therapist and clinician, as well as long-time Buddhist practitioner. Our conversation explores the process by which mindfulness was psychologized, which accounts very much for its widespread diffusion and popular appeal in Western cultures. One of the key lines of inquiry in this conversation is how mindfulness meditation was reimagined and repurposed as a technique – that speaks to familiar ways of how we see ourselves. Mindfulness became a tool for fixing the self, namely, for addressing the seeming deficits that are in need of improvement and psychological redemption.
A little more about Kathleen Gregory…Kathleen is an Australian psychologist with a PhD in Comparative Philosophy; she has taught for many years as an associate professor in graduate counselling programs both in Australia and the US. She currently works in the graduate careers development program at RMIT University. She is also former Dean of the Graduate School of Counselling and Psychology at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She has been a student of late Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche IX.
Richard Payne is the Yehan Numata Professor of Japanese Buddhist Studies at the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, California and the Graduate Theological Union. I spoke with Richard about his new edited volume, Secularizing Buddhism: New Perspectives on a Dynamic Tradition, published by Shambala. Our conversation explores how the discourse of secularization with its binary oppositions such as "religious" vs. "secular" are constructed categories that are influencing how modern people are understanding Secular Buddhism. Richard explains how the legacy of Protestant theological ideas are overlayed on what we now view as "modern" Buddhism, as well as how so-called "traditional" Buddhism is a response to such modernization.
In this episode I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Sarah Shaw, who is an Honorary fellow of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies; and lecturer for the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education. We spoke about her new book, Mindfulness: Where It Comes From and What It Means – published in paperback by Shambala. This is a very accessible and very well researched book – and we explored the history of mindfulness as it first appeared in the English language, the important role of memory and the oral chanting tradition in early Buddhism – to the multiple functions of mindfulness. We also touch on the significance of the Abhidharma and Abhidharmakosha – and how mindfulness is situated and functions in these schools.
Sarah draws from her decade of practicing, researching, and teaching the history of mindfulness.
Sarah read Greek and English at Manchester University, where she took a doctorate in English. It was later in her career that she decided to study Pali at Oxford, and she has a deep interest in Early Buddhist (Pāli) suttas and Abhidhamma material on meditation, the Pali chanting traditions. In addition, Sarah practices with the Samatha Association of Britain.
In this episode, I was fortunate to speak to Gregory Kramer who is the founding teacher of the Insight Dialogue Community. Back in 2015, I invited Gregory to be one of the keynote speakers at an international conference that I organized on Mindfulness at SFSU. I knew of his work on Insight Dialogue. I recently stumbled upon his new book, A Whole-Life Path: A Lay Buddhist’s Guide to Crafting a Dharma-Infused Life, and I immediately knew that I had to have him on the podcast.
In this deep and free-flowing conversation, I explore with Gregory how he came to a pragmatic understanding and creative application of the Eight Fold Noble Path into his daily life. This conversation was itself a living example, perhaps a spontaneous unfolding in real-time of the power of dialogue – when the intention is turned to full awakening. We explore the importance of the first path factor – Right View – and why it is critical to getting all of the other path factors right. We also riff on how many Western Buddhists have acquired a wrong view – a meditation-fixation, a mindfulness-only approach to practice – that not only lacks a guiding Right View, but fails at integrating a small fraction of time that is spent in sitting meditation with their daily life.
We both get a little geeky at times pondering the meaning and implications of scriptural terms and teachings – but I think you will feel the intensity and dynamism of this down-to-earth conversation on the Buddhadharma. I think you will enjoy this episode very much. But first, a little more about Gregory Kramer.
Gregory teaches meditation, writes, and is the founding teacher of the Insight Dialogue Community. He is also author of Insight Dialogue: The Interpersonal Path to Freedom, from Shambhala Publications; Dharma Contemplation: Meditating Together with Wisdom Texts; Seeding the Heart: Practicing Lovingkindness with Children; and other books and articles. Gregory has practiced meditation since 1974 and studied with esteemed monastics, including Anagarika Dhammadinna, Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thero, Achan Sobin Namto, Ven. Punnaji Mahathero, and others.
In this episode, I spoke with Daniel Simpson about his wonderful new book, The Truth of Yoga: A Comprehensive Guide to Yoga’s History, Texts, Philosophy, and Practices, just published by North Point Press. It’s an easy read because Daniel is a professional writer having left a burgeoning career in journalism after he became disillusioned with mainstream media. Our conversation dives deep into the complex and patchy history of Yoga, swimming through early, classical and hatha yoga – along with some interesting observations on modern yoga, including whether Silent Disco Yoga is a thing! Kidding aside, this is a serious conversation – and I learned a great deal, especially just how fertile the soil was when the yogic traditions were taking hold – and the creative cross-fertilization between classical yoga traditions and the Buddhists at the time. This episode is a nice complement to our previous episode with Andrea Jain whose book was a scholarly critique of modern, global yoga.
A little more about Daniel….
Daniel Simpson teaches yoga philosophy at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, and at Triyoga in London. He earned his Master's degree from SOAS (University of London), and his thesis critiquing mindfulness in schools was published in the journal Contemporary Buddhism. He previously worked as a foreign correspondent – for Reuters, then the New York Times – after studying at Cambridge. His interest in yoga developed in parallel, including frequent trips to India since the 1990s.
I hope you buy his book, The Truth of Yoga – it’s well written and researched – but accessible and a quick read. Enjoy this episode!
In this episode I spoke with Andrea R. Jain, Associate professor of religious studies at Indiana University, Indianapolis about her new book Peace Love Yoga: The Politics of Global Spirituality, published by Oxford University Press. Our conversation explores how modern, commodified yoga serves a neoliberal agenda by containing social activism and political dissent, something she calls gestural subversion. As a religious studies scholar, Andrea takes modern yoga seriously – viewing its practitioners not as passive dupes but as people with agency – but whose identities have been shaped and formed to serve neoliberal ends. We touch on a range of topics and issues – from the “feel good” neoliberal discourse of yogaware – such as Spirtual Gangster clothing products, cultural appropriation and contested claims of spiritual “authenticity,” the global spread of capitalism where even in India neoliberal forces have led to coopting yoga for extremist and exclusionary nationalist agenda, as well as QAnon’s followers attraction to yoga.
Andrea is also author of a previous book - Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture and is currently the editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Her areas of research include religion and capitalism; global spirituality and modern yoga; the intersections of gender, sexuality, and religion; and theories of religion.
In this episode I spoke with Michal Pagis who is an associate professor of sociology at Bar Ilan University, Israel about her new book Inward: Vipassana Meditation and the Embodiment of the Self published by the University of Chicago Press in 2019. Using micro-sociological analysis through participant observation and auto-enthnography, Michal studied Western Vipassana practitioners of SN Goenka 10-day SILENT meditation retreats. We explored a range of questions and topics – especially her observations of socialization process of these practitioners into modes of collective solitude, as well as the tensions, conflicts and complexities these practitioners face with such a secularized practice. It was a lively and deeply engaging conversation that I think you will enjoy.
Dr. Pagis studies the transformations in self and identity in contemporary post-industrial culture with a focus on the intertwining of religion and psychology. Her research includes the modern practice of Buddhist meditations, life-coaching, spiritual care in the medical system and the penetration of popular psychology into ultra-religious and anti-liberal communities.
In this episode I spoke with Adrian Daub about his new book, What Tech Calls Thinking, published by FSG Originals. I discovered Adrian’s fascinating book in a New York Times review which called it ‘scintillating.” Adrian examines the philosophical traditions tech leaders and their boosters draw on to make plausible and inevitable their industry’s resistible rise. His book is an engaging critique of an industry that is blinded by its own elitism and privilege while exploiting and distorting intellectual ideas in ways that function to erase cultural memory and blunt our analysis or skepticism. Diving deep into the intellectual history of Silicon Valley, we explore tech’s rhetorical strategies that have disabled critical thinking and critical analysis. We touch on various motifs such as the “dropping out” of college media hype, Marshall McLuhan’s influence on tech and its valorization of the platform, tech and the counterculture (including Esalen), the hegemonic imperative of disruption, and the fake “fail better next time” trope among the Silicon Valley privileged – and much more.
Adrian is an academic and writer and Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University. Adrian's writing on history, technology, pop culture and philosophy has appeared in The Guardian, n+1, The New Republic, Logic, Longreads and elsewhere.
I often get the question – “Well, who is doing innovative and leading-edge work on social and civic mindfulness – who is teaching mindfulness outside of the clinical, biomedical, and individualistic framework? I kept hearing Paula Haddock’s name pop up.
Paula Haddock is a long-time social activist and spent many years working in non-profit fundraising and with NGOs – and she is a seasoned training manager – working worldwide in supporting civil society in capacity building. She is the co-founder (with Luke Wreford) of the Mindfulness and Social Change Network which is a collective of international academics, activists, humanitarian workers and socially engaged mindfulness practitioners who are exploring the potential for secular mindfulness training and practice to contribute to more sustainable, caring and socially just societies.
David Forbes in Brooklyn joins me in this episode as we explore with Paula her unique social framework for teaching mindfulness, along with her work with the Ulex Project which delivers training on movement building, impact and resilience for European based change makers. Paula has also been actively involved in EcoDharma training. We touch on a number of other issues such as whiteness in mindfulness communities, cancel culture, and our reactions to Trump getting Covid.
Paula has delivered social-mindfulness related sessions for the Atlantic Fellows Programme, University College London, The Mindfulness Association and written for the Transformation Series of Open Democracy: Mindfulness and Social Change and Don’t wait for the future of Mindfulness – it’s already here.
This conversation explores an obscure historical figure, Dhammaloka, who was perhaps one of the first Westerners ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1901 in British occupied Burma. Laurence Cox is co-author of The Irish Buddhist: The Forgotten Monk who Faced Down the British Empire, published by Oxford University Press. Based on ten year of archival research, it’s fascinating tale about the extraordinary life of this Irish working-class migrant worker, who was also a hobo and sailor, an anti-colonial activist and a devout defender of Buddhism against the onslaught of Christian missionaries and the British empire.
Laurence Cox is a long-time social movement activist and practicing Buddhist who has been involved in many different movement struggles in Ireland and internationally since the 1980s. He co-edits the activist/academic movement journal Interface, works with the Buddhist-based Ulex activist training centre in Catalonia and with low-impact child-friendly meditation retreats in SW England. He is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth and the author/editor of ten books and many other academic and activist pieces on social movements, revolutions, modern Buddhism and new religious movements, including Why Social Movements Matter; Buddhism and Ireland: from the Celts to the Counter-culture and Beyond; and Voices of 1968.
In this Episode, I spoke with Daniel Nehring, who is an Associate Professor of Sociology at East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai. Daniel is, in my opinion, an ascending and prolific scholar in the field of critical sociology, and an amazing networker who has brought together a diverse group of international collaborators from multiple disciplines who are doing cutting edge research on therapeutic cultures across the globe. Our conversation explores how therapeutic discourses have not only penetrated a range of institutional regimes, but also how such discourses have a global reach, with mass consumption in China, for example. We talk about the rise of the “self-help entrepreneur,” and how such figures as Jon Kabat-Zinn utilized various rhetorical and discursive strategies to bolster his narrative authority and commercial success. We also talk about the relevance and important of C. Wright Mills and his classic work, The Sociological Imagination, in contrast to what Daniel calls “the psychological imagination” which informs the self-help genre and the mindfulness literature – focusing on an article he recently published this year with Ashley Frawley in Sociology of Health and Illness. Our mutual admiration of C. Wright Mills is evident in that we both share in the view that academics have become beholden to a bureaucratic ethos and the stranglehold of neoliberal audit culture – and that academics need to wake up, speak up and become actively engaged as public intellectuals.
His recent publications in this area include Transnational Popular Psychology and the Global Self-Help Industry (Palgrave, 2016), Therapeutic Worlds (Routledge, 2019), The Routledge International Handbook of Global Therapeutic Cultures (2020), Imagining Society (Bristol University Press, ). He is also the convenor of several international academic networks ‘Popular Psychology, Self-Help Culture and The Happiness Industry’ and Open Minds. Daniel is an editor of the book series Therapeutic Cultures for Routledge and hosts the Global Therapeutic Cultures podcast.
In this Episode, I spoke with Matthew Ingram, author of, Retreat: How the Counterculture Invented Wellness – recently published this summer by Repeater Books. Reading Matthew’s book was like taking a walk down memory lane for me, revisiting many of the key figures of the counterculture – and discovering many unknown connections between such figures, as well as hidden histories, shadow elements, and colorful vignettes. We covered a lot of ground – from Mohandas Gandhi to RD Laing – from the German Nature Boys to the Dalai Lama being asked what he thought about LSD. We uncover and shed light on some the simplistic and naïve views of the counterculture, particularly how the ego was made into a boogeyman – and how the whole movement devolved into a kind of hedonism and attachment to a romantic sense of the mystical.
A fanatic record-collector, Matthew Ingram started blogging as WOEBOT in 2003. The cult blog featured in articles in The Guardian, Slate, FACT and The Wire. He ended up writing features and reviews for The Wire and a column for FACT. In this period Matthew co-founded the Dissensus forum with Mark "k-punk" Fisher and released critically-acclaimed music as WOEBOT. His last project was an animated documentary about Vitamin C and he also worked as a writer for the Teletubbies.
Titmuss was an ordained monk in Thailand, spending six years there from 1970 to 1976. During that time, he resided for three years in a monastery with Ajahn Dhammadharo, his Vipassana (Insight Meditation teacher) and Ajahn Buddhadasa.
Our conversation takes a deep dive into the themes in his insightful book, The Political Buddha. We explore just how central the role of critical inquiry is in the Dharma, Buddha’s position on wealth and war, the privatization of spirituality, corporate mindfulness, ethics and institutional change, and the importance of the community.
In this episode, I spoke with Dr. Miguel Farias from Coventry University in the UK on his seminal book, The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You? (2nd ed. Watkins Media, 2019) (co-authored with Catherine Wikholm). Miguel was one of the first academic researchers to expose the dark side of meditation. Our conversation touched on the history of Transcendental Meditation (TM), the use of science as a means to justify the legitimacy of meditation, and the many parallels between TM and the modern mindfulness movement.
Miguel Farias received his doctorate in experimental psychology from the University of Oxford where he was a lecturer until 2014, and a research associate at the Psychology of Religion Group at Cambridge University. He currently leads the Brain, Belief and Behaviour research group at Coventry University. Dr. Farias has pioneered research on the analgesic effects of religious beliefs and the stress-buffering effects of science beliefs. He led the first randomized-controlled trial on the effects of yoga and meditation in prison and is the lead author of The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change -- a book that examines the science and myths about the effects of these practices, now in its 2nd edition published by Watkins Media. Dr. Farias is chief editor of the forthcoming Handbook of Meditation, to be published by Oxford University Press.
How many times have you heard people claim that Buddhism isn’t really a religion, that it’s a philosophy, a way of life, that its spiritual but not religious, or even that it’s a “science of mind”? These familiar tropes are a legacy of Buddhist Modernism, what Evan Thompson aptly has coined “Buddhist exceptionalism.” In this episode we explore these common claims, especially how they have been taken up by Secular Buddhists, mindfulness teachers and even scientists. We explore in this interview the historical reasons for why Buddhism has received special treatment, with its modernist claim that it is fundamentally different than Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism. We dive into the confused understandings of mindfulness meditation which has been portrayed as a privatized “inner telescope” to objectively view our interior minds (brains), along with the misguided attempt to map meditative experiences onto brain states and neural correlates (Neural Buddhism). Evan challenges the popular view that Buddhism is compatible with science, and that science can validate Buddhist insights. Drawing on his intimate friendship and collaboration with the late Francisco Varela (a key founder of the Mind & Life Institute) he takes aim at how the so-called Buddhism – Science “dialogue” has been one-sided and stifling of mutual learning.
Evan Thompson is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He writes about the mind, life, consciousness, and the self, from the perspectives of cognitive science, philosophy of mind, phenomenology, and cross-cultural philosophy (especially Buddhism and other Indian philosophical traditions). As a teenager, Evan was home-schooled in Southampton, NY and Manhattan at the Lindisfarne Association, an educational and contemplative community founded by his parents, William Irwin Thompson and Gail Thompson. He received his A.B. in Asian Studies from Amherst College (1983) studying with Robert Thurman, and his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Toronto (1990). Evan has been actively involved as one of the leading researchers and advisers for the Mind & Life Institute.
We spoke today with Evan about his new book, Why I Am Not A Buddhist, published by Yale University Press in 2020. He is the author of Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy (Columbia University Press, 2015); He is also the co-author with Francisco J. Varela and Eleanor Rosch, of The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (MIT Press, 1991, revised edition 2016).
In this Episode, I spoke with Dr. Michael Ungar, who is a Professor of Social Work at Dalhousie University and Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience, as well as a family therapist – about his new book, Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and The Path to Success (Sutherland House Book, 2019). Michael dispels the myths of the self-help industry with its victim-blaming messages and emulation of the rugged individual. For too long, the familiar tropes have espoused a cruel form of optimism, telling us that our success and happiness can all be self-determined by simply pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps and that all change comes from within us.
Based on his years of research on children, families, and communities, Michael tells that resilience has more to do with the resourced individual – and changing the environment.
In Episode 21, I speak with Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of Revolutionary Love: A Political Manifesto to Heal and Transform the World and editor of Tikkun magazine. Lerner's social activism goes far back to when he was a leader of the Free Speech Movement at UC, Berkeley in 1964. Rabbi Lerner shares with us his vision for a Caring Society, and how to address the unmet psychological and spiritual needs that the Left has ignored. He explains the importance of developing 'prophetic empathy' as a means for building a progressive movement that infused with love and caring for all.
In Episode 20, I speak with Winton Higgins, a scholar of political science and Dharma Insight Meditation teacher in Australia and New Zealand. We explore the importance of politics within Western Buddhism, socially-engaged Buddhism, and the notion of the "Dharmic citizen".
In Episode 19, we speak with Candy Gunther Brown, Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University about her new book, Debating Mindfulness and Yoga in Public Schools: Reforming Secular Education or Reestablishing Religion? (University of North Carolina Press, 2019).
In this episode, we join David Forbes and special guest host Nomi Naeem to discuss David’s book, Mindfulness and Its Discontents: Education, Self and Social Transformation, published by Fernwood Press (2019). The first half of the interview was recorded at the Brooklyn Public Library, so the audio quality is not quite up to par, but it’s acceptable. Our wide ranging discussion examines the shortcomings and problems of how mindful school programs that have fallen prey to a neoliberal agenda, reinforcing individualistic skills of “self-regulation” of anger and stress. We explore how mindful school programs have failed to resist the sources of stress that stem from racist, inequitable, social unjust systems. David also provides a sketch of a “counter-program” that offer a way to make mindfulness a force for democratic education.
David Forbes, PhD, is an emeritus in the Urban Education Doctoral Program at the CUNY Graduate Center where he teaches a course on critical mindfulness in education. He has written on and consults with K-12 educators about pivoting from neoliberal to transformative integral social mindfulness practices in schools. He is coeditor, with me, of the Handbook of Mindfulness: Culture, Context, and Social Engagement (Springer 2016) and co-host of this podcast, The Mindful Cranks.
As a counselor educator David taught School Counseling at Brooklyn College/CUNY for nineteen years and wrote Boyz 2 Buddhas: Counseling Urban High School Male Athletes in the Zone (Peter Lang 2004) about his experience practicing mindfulness with a Brooklyn high school football team. At Brooklyn he was co-recipient of a Contemplative Program Development Fellowship from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society and is a member of the Mindfulness and Social Change Network based in the UK from which he is featured on a website, "Being Mindful of our World: A Collection of Social Mindfulness Voices."
Muhammad Naeem, Nomi, is a Senior Librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library.
In this episode, we discuss David Loy’s latest book, ECODHARMA: Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis, available from Wisdom Publications. EcoDharma is a landmark work that is simultaneously a manifesto, a blueprint, a call to action, and a deep comfort for troubling times. David masterfully lays out the principles and perspectives of Ecodharma—a Buddhist response to our ecological predicament, introducing a new term for a new development of the Buddhist tradition.
David Robert Loy is a professor, writer, and Zen teacher in the Sanbo Zen tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism. David began Zen practice in Hawaii in 1971 with Yamada Koun and Robert Aitken, and continued with Koun Roshi in Japan, where he lived for almost 20 years. He was authorized to teach in 1988 and leads retreats and workshops nationally and internationally at places such as Spirit Rock, Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, Omega Institute, Upaya Zen Center and many others. David was a formerly a professor of Buddhist and comparative philosophy, and recently received an honorary PhD from his alma mater, Carleton College for his scholarly work on socially engaged Buddhism. David Loy is one of the founding members of the new Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center, near Boulder, Colorado.
Dr. Steven Stanley is a critical psychologist in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University, Wales. He is interested in the history and philosophy of psychology and its intersection with Buddhism and is currently studying the therapeutic culture of late modernity with a particular focus on the mindfulness movement. Alongside his academic research, Stanley has a 20-year meditation practice, and has undertaken the two-year Committed Dharma Practitioner Programme at Gaia House, Devon, and Pāli Summer School at Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, Oxford. He is leading co-editor of the Handbook of Ethical Foundations of Mindfulness and the Principal Investigator of a three-year research project Beyond Personal Well-Being, a landmark study which is mapping the mindfulness movement in the United Kingdom, funded by The Leverhulme Trust.
In this episode, Steven Stanley shares with us the critical research he has been conducting on the mindfulnesss movement, ranging from his historical scholarship of meditation and mindfulness, particularly as applied to ethical and moral issues, to his qualitative analyses of what contemporary mindfulness teachers actually do in their interactions with students MBI courses, as well as his innovative breaching experiments that incorporate contemplative methods. A recipient of a prestigious grant from The Leverhulme trust, Steven provides an overview of his fascinating empirical research that is “mapping” the mindfulness movement in the United Kingdom.
Wakoh Shannon Hickey has been an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore. Her research interests include American religious history, particularly minority traditions and women leaders; Buddhism in East Asia and the West; religion and medicine; and inter-religious dialogue, with particular interests in Buddhist-Christian dialogue and issues of race and gender. Wakoh currently is a Spiritual Support Counselor (chaplain) in Sonoma/Napa, California, for Hospice by the Bay, one of the oldest and largest non-profit hospice agencies in the United States. Wakoh was ordained in 2003 as a priest of Sōtō Zen Buddhism, which she has practiced since 1983.
In this Episode, we interview Wakoh Shannon Hickey, author of The Mind Cure: How Meditation Became Medicine (Oxford University Press, 2019), as she traces the 18th and 19th century Mind Cure and New Thought movements, and how this early history shaped and paved the ground for the modern self-help and mindfulness movements. Many of the first Americans to advocate meditation for healing were women leaders of the Mind Cure movement, which emerged in the late nineteenth century. They believed that by transforming their consciousness, they could also transform oppressive circumstances in which they lived, and some were activists for social reform. Trained by Buddhist and Hindu missionaries, these women promoted meditation through personal networks, religious communities, and publications. Some influenced important African American religious movements, as well. For women and black men, Mind Cure meant not just happiness but liberation in concrete political, economic, and legal terms. The Mind Cure movement exerted enormous pressure on mainstream American religion and medicine, and in response, white, male doctors and clergy with elite academic credentials appropriated some of its methods and channeled them into scientific psychology and medicine. As mental therapeutics became medicalized, individualized, and then commodified, the religious roots of meditation, like the social justice agendas of early Mind Curers, fell away. After tracing how we got from Mind Cure to Mindfulness, Wakoh tells us what got lost in the process.