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fieldstone stupa at BCBS Upcoming Courses

October 8, 2014 full moon

Buddha rupa in Dharma Hall with harvest offerings

Secular mindfulness: potential & pitfalls

By Jenny Wilks

This article is based on a presentation at last year’s conference at BCBS on Secular Buddhism.


Imagine for a moment that you are a health & fitness trainer–you work with people who go the gym regularly and work out daily, to support them in their efforts to cultivate a perfectly-toned body. Over the past few years you’ve noticed that many other people in society are beginning to do some exercise–they don’t work out daily, but perhaps they attend a weekly yoga class or go cycling on the weekend. In fact you can hardly open a newspaper these days without reading about the latest study on the benefits of exercise. What would you think? "This is pathetic, these people aren’t really keeping fit, they’ll never get a perfect body just by going out on their bike once a week…" Or: "Isn’t it great that so many people are finding ways to exercise at a level that suits them–they won’t get a perfect body, but they’ll be healthier than if they did no exercise. And some of these people do eventually come to the gym."

It’s an imperfect metaphor, but it is a similarly strange experience when something you have practiced for many years and highly value, but that used to be very much a minority interest, emerges into mainstream culture and begins to “go viral”. It almost seems as if everyone is doing it, apparently including Bill Clinton, Russell Brand, Google employees, and even the US Marines. We may have mixed feelings about this explosion of interest in mindfulness. As Rebecca Crane from Bangor Centre for Mindfulness (the UK’s leading training center for MBSR and MBCT) said at their 2011 conference, with regard to the convergence of Dharma and scientific psychology that informs MBSR & MBCT: "As in all cross-cultural marriages, both sets of parents have some concerns."

weed flower seeds dispersing, with spider

Click here to read more…

September 8, 2014
Some (mostly secular) thoughts on Emptiness
By Gay Watson

August 10, 2014
Neuro-Bhavana: The Mindful Cultivation of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom
A video series with Rick Hanson

July 12, 2014
The Evolving Sangha
Talking with Jay Michaelson

June 13, 2014
Awareness of Thinking: Recollective Awareness Practice
Talking with Jason Siff

May 14, 2014
Jhāna Practice and True Happiness
Talking with Shaila Catherine

April 15, 2014
Natural Buddhism
By Gil Fronsdal

March 16, 2014
How is the Medium Changing the Message?
By Ken McLeod

February 14, 2014
Buddhist Roots & Ethics
Talking with Lynn Monteiro & Frank Musten

January 15, 2014
Silent Illumination
By Guo Gu

December 17, 2013
New Horizons: Talking with Andrew Olendzki

November 17, 2013
Not Knowing, Bearing Witness, & Compassionate Action
Robert Chodo Campbell and Koshin Paley Ellison

October 18, 2013
Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening
a conversation with Joseph Goldstein

September 19, 2013
MIT Meets the Monastery
a conversation with Rajesh Kashturirangan

August 20, 2013
Secular Buddhism: New vision or yet another of the myths it claims to cure?
By Akincano Weber

July 22, 2013
The Essence of Dhamma
By Ajaan Thanissaro

June 23, 2013
Seeing the Āsavas
By Gloria Taraniya Ambrosia

May 25, 2013
Meeting your thoughts at a resting place
By Jason Siff

April 25, 2013
New rivers, new rafts
By Chris Talbott

March 27, 2013
Wheels of Fire: The Buddha’s Radical Teaching on Process
By Kate Lila Wheeler

February 25, 2013
True & False: Dharma After the Western Enlightenment
Talking with Rita Gross

January 26, 2013
Honoring a Life & Legacy in the Dhamma
Talking with Mirka Knaster about Munindra

See Archive page for some older editions.