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TOPIC: Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED

Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 18 Jun 2013 19:04 #12682

ENLIGHTENMENT ENGINEERS:
Meditation and mindfulness are the new rage in Silicon Valley. And it’s not just about inner peace—it’s about getting ahead.
KENNETH FOLK: “All that woo-woo mystical stuff is so retrograde. This is training the brain.”
Article here.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 18 Jun 2013 19:21 #12683

Nice! Great for Kenneth, Vince et al.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 18 Jun 2013 19:33 #12684

Thanks for posting this. Love the part about Kenneth.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 18 Jun 2013 19:36 #12685

Haven't read it yet myself, but the comments have started already:

"Not Dharma, not Sangha but incredible delusion being practiced by these people highlights no such enlightenment exists among them. The hipsters have arrived and are, as usual, lying to us."

"Getting ahead is the opposite of meditation."
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 18 Jun 2013 19:45 #12686

Let the games begin! And may the benefits far outweigh the downsides.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 18 Jun 2013 21:45 #12689

Reminds me of how challenging it can be to talk about this stuff. I was discussing with a friend the other day the pros and cons of saying less or more. The way in which really open discussion of spiritual experiences can range from enormously helpful and encouraging to downright painful and cringe-worthy. The way in which it can be so difficult to discuss certain aspects of the journey with people who haven't had the same experiences. The frustration people with deeper practices can have running into a plentitude of rather superficial material aimed at beginners, and a growing silence about things the deeper they go.

She was agreeing with me, for instance, that finding good modern books on advanced contemplative Christian practice is an exercise in frustration. But go back a couple centuries and there is brilliant material available: perhaps largely because there was a base of people who could skip the part about having to figure out if they even believed in God or not, already knew the fundamental teachings of the tradition, already had an active prayer life, and were even already monastics (many of the best books were written for priests, nuns, monks, etc. - who were a larger percentage of the book-reading audience in 1700 or 1500 than today). Many modern books (or retreat teachers) presume you are fairly alienated from Christian religious practice, so they spend a good part of the time trying to get you comfortable with the idea of an all powerful God, the idea of surrender to God's will and other basics.

To say, I found the Wired article on the cringe-worthy side. But if it inspires some people to take their own journey, that's good.
Last Edit: 18 Jun 2013 21:46 by Ona Kiser. Reason: clarification
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 19 Jun 2013 05:01 #12695

Yeah, mixed views on it. Will make for interesting discussions at BG conference I guess.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 19 Jun 2013 15:06 #12703

I'm glad Kenneth is given credit for his unadulterated approach. The article reminds me of how some business-oriented scientist/academics have repackaged mindfulness, and market it as if it is all there own. Daniel Siegel is an example--clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute. He renamed mindfulness, calling it Mindsight, and trains therapist to be mindful in working with clients, and parents to be mindful and compassionate. Research shows that how and what a therapist thinks during a session predicts the success of the patient. A mind that is clear and luminous gets the job done. Thanks for posting this link.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 19 Jun 2013 18:37 #12707

Well, I actually broke down and read the whole thing, rather than cherry-picking the stuff about Kenneth. I agree, rather cringe-worthy. I can sort of understand some of the negative commentary. I'm not sure it does Kenneth or Vince any favors.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 19 Jun 2013 19:04 #12709

This means taking a break from taking a message board break but I have to weigh in on this topic because I can speak directly to it:

That article is poking a sharp stick in the eye of the new Silicon Valley gurus and their Silicon Valley sponsors. I attended Wisdom 2.0 in 2011. I actually got my ticket from Vince Horn, who offered it up to me at face value since he could't go. It was eye opening, to say the least. My impression was that the lions were in charge and were more or less bringing the lambs to slaughter, using them, as it were, to both feel better about themselves and justify their wealth and power. The Silicon Valley techie, monied elite were all over the conference, speaking, attending, driving the conversation, being envied and worshipped. (What good is being a tech billionaire if you don't have a following of wannabes? And how much better that the wannabes might be meditators or better yet, meditation teachers?) There were some serious spiritual types there (Eckart Tolle, Jon Kabat-Zinn) but they were window dressing to what felt like the really important part -- masking Silicon Valley avarice with not very heartfelt spirituality. Most attendees seemed to be professional coaching types. You know them as the consultants who come to your company and teach you how to get along with everyone and be productive by playing games with string and ping pong balls. I left Wisdom 2.0 promising myself never to go again. I had fun meeting some friends there, including Kenneth and Beth Folk, and even made some new friends, but I think the lions run that show and always will. The word "disingenuous" is the best one I can think of to describe that conference.

I'm sure this comment sounds bitter but I left that conference with a bitter taste in my mouth.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 19 Jun 2013 19:46 #12711

On the one hand, I can't see that I would ever argue that anyone shouldn't be taught meditation or mindfulness, but on the other, I do get concerned when I see articles about things like soldiers being taught mindfulness (a la samurai Zen). Mindfulness is big business now - I had a therapist (who introduced me to Burmese vipassana) who wryly lamented the fact that she'd been pushing mindfulness meditation for decades in psychology and been seen as slightly cracked, and suddenly it had taken off and everyone thought they could teach it after doing a weekend course. The first part reminded me also of descriptions of Japanese corporate Zen I've heard about. I am sympathetic to Kenneth and Beth getting more exposure! And although I personally disagree with some of Kenneth's statements (e.g. the 'woo woo') I thought he came across well compared to the other examples given.

One of the interesting things here I think is that it takes us back to the question of the role of morality - interesting for us inasmuch as that was also moved away from by the MCTB/pragmatic dharma scene and I think here there seems to be a turn back toward it - certainly for me it continues to be something I see as integral to my practice rather than separate but that's a relationship that one keeps on negotiating rather than being fixed...
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 19 Jun 2013 20:48 #12714

I agree with your point about morality, Rowan. The article sure had a lot of cringe moments for me and did not paint Kenneth or his "proteges" in a kind light. That said, did anyone else do a double-take on Jack Kornfield's comment on enlightenment?
“If someone really wants it, I’ll teach it,” says Kornfield, cofounder of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center north of San Francisco. “But a strong goal orientation can heighten unhealthy ambition and self-criticism. It doesn’t really heighten wisdom.”

Gee, thanks.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 19 Jun 2013 21:29 #12716

I dunno-- is anyone really surprised at what happens when what began as hard-won wisdom is packaged and marketed for a mass audience of consumers?

And I think Jack Kornfield has a point, however poorly stated; it's one that has been expressed here, too, from time to time. Fixating on desired results can really get in your way.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 19 Jun 2013 21:45 #12717

I am all for goal oriented practice, as long as the goals are arbitrary. A goal such as 'I would like to get stream entry' is ok. The meditator has something to work towards, keep them motivated, but has no idea what stream entry could possibly be like or when it will happen. Now, goals like 'I want to rid myself of x or y problem' are the kind that lead to all kinds of suffering.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 19 Jun 2013 22:02 #12719

To Russell's point, there's a difference between wanting to wake up (because if you didn't care at all, you wouldn't be a spiritual seeker or have a practice), and wanting to wake up for your own self-aggrandizement... The latter seems inherently untenable in light of a diminishing sense that the universe revolves around you. But whatever.

(eta: pretty common to start ones spiritual seeking for various reasons that later become untenable anyway... not sure it's possible NOT to do that.)
Last Edit: 19 Jun 2013 23:14 by Ona Kiser.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 20 Jun 2013 07:25 #12726

It occurred to me this morning that I was willing to take Jack Kornfield's comment at face value, out of context, when I was merely cringing at the reporting of what Vince or Kenneth said, expecting that their comments were reported out of context. I should have given him the same benefit of the doubt, that there was more to his comment that was not written in the article.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 20 Jun 2013 09:13 #12735

Tom, I think I'm failing to understand what it is about Jack Kornfield's comment that has you reacting so strongly. Can you spell it out for me?
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 20 Jun 2013 09:35 #12737

andy wrote:
Tom, I think I'm failing to understand what it is about Jack Kornfield's comment that has you reacting so strongly. Can you spell it out for me?

It was that backhanded dismissal of enlightenment/awakening, as if that wasn't the point at all. It comes off very condescending, to me.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 20 Jun 2013 09:45 #12739

Tom Otvos wrote:
andy wrote:
Tom, I think I'm failing to understand what it is about Jack Kornfield's comment that has you reacting so strongly. Can you spell it out for me?

It was that backhanded dismissal of enlightenment/awakening, as if that wasn't the point at all. It comes off very condescending, to me.

Because it stuck a pointy stick in your own drive to wake up? :D

There's to consider, too, that when people are practicing and teaching in the context of a tradition (they are Buddhist, Catholic, etc.) then there are larger "goals" that relate to being Buddhist, Christian, etc. - it's not just about attaining some particular prize, but about cultivating a life built around the tradition. In my own experience teachers who are teaching firmly within a tradition (and I don't know if Kornfield is) tend to emphasize the wholistic cultivation of the person rather than one facet of practice like pragmatic dharma can do. They work hard to take that "me me me" stuff down.

To my mind, the "me" centered practice is rather inevitable at first, and if a person has a healthy practice that gradually declines. But some traditions try to point to one end or another of the spectrum with more vigor. (eta: and to my mind the better way to target that teaching is individual, because some individuals need more motivating, and some need to calm down or balance their intention...)
Last Edit: 20 Jun 2013 09:48 by Ona Kiser.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 20 Jun 2013 09:53 #12741

One of Jack's "contexts" to consider is 30-40 years teaching dharma. I'm thinking things may look very different, that deep into practice. How many impatient beginners has he taught, do you suppose?

I didn't think he was dismissing awakening so much as saying that it's not the whole enchilada, and fixating can be problematic.

In any case, good on you to be willing to take a look at your own process, Tom.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 20 Jun 2013 10:12 #12746

Tom Otvos wrote:
andy wrote:
Tom, I think I'm failing to understand what it is about Jack Kornfield's comment that has you reacting so strongly. Can you spell it out for me?

It was that backhanded dismissal of enlightenment/awakening, as if that wasn't the point at all. It comes off very condescending, to me.

I think the quote was confusing. I'll bet he was trying to say "I can teach people by referencing off a heirarchical map of different stages, but the important thing is people just make the most of there sits, day after day. The progress will happen without needing to know the maps. Focusing too much on the maps means there is less of a focus on the experiences of practice itself."
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 20 Jun 2013 10:57 #12748

Kate Gowen wrote:
One of Jack's "contexts" to consider is 30-40 years teaching dharma.....

Kate, I can't even imagine my perspective on things in 30 years. If I even live that long. It does make valid a certain caution in getting overexcited about what we think is important with barely any hindsight or perspective.

Without going to the other extreme, of course, of thinking anyone with a few decades under their belt is an instant genius. Dumb people get old, too. :D
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 20 Jun 2013 11:40 #12752

Ona Kiser wrote:
Dumb people get old, too. :D

Some dumb people don't get old.
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 02 Jul 2013 11:36 #13108

Another critic of Wisdom 2.0, with Buddhist Geeks thrown in (although not featured with quite as much disapproval). I don't know how long the link will be active-- www.tricycle.com/feature/buying-wisdom
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Kenneth Folk featured in WIRED 02 Jul 2013 12:29 #13111

Mindfulness is a band aid being applied to the gushing arterial wound that is 21st century avarice.
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