'Is mindfulness dangerous' ft Daniel Ingram

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4 years 11 months ago #103362 by every3rdthought
Another 'is mindfulness dangerous' piece, this time a 3 part radio show - I haven't listened to the episodes yet but the introductory article features Daniel Ingram.

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2nB1ps...editation-dangerous/
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4 years 11 months ago #103363 by Shargrol
It's pretty good. Thanks!

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4 years 11 months ago #103366 by every3rdthought
I finally finished listening to this. My takeaways:

- It confirms my opinion that 10-day Goenka retreats are massively irresponsible. Really, anyone doing a ten-day intensive silent retreat should have been doing a solid daily practice for some time, and have done shorter retreats previously. It's the equivalent of someone who's never done any exercise suddenly doing ten days of elite-athlete level training - it's likely you would injure yourself. I think it's a shame that these are the retreats/vipassana that tend to be people's first point of contact, though no doubt it's due to the Goenka model (particularly the free-ness). That's not to say that they haven't been valuable for some, obviously!

- The idea of a clinical trial with a 'mock meditation' is a bit ridiculous to anyone who knows much about meditation or has done more than one practice. Clearly, sitting for a period and thinking about whatever you want is a form of meditation. I think this points in interesting ways to the limits of scientific method in studying meditation (this discussion is also going on in the yoga world, i.e. how can you get a genuine placebo or a real control, what is 'yoga,' etc). Similarly, the scientists on this show seem to think that someone's subjective experience of being stressed is less true or reliable than their cortisol levels (where, in an unspoken equation, cortisol's invariable correlate is 'stress'). This is one reason among many why personally I'm completely uninterested in the science-meditation interface which many others find very exciting.

- I was amused by the study which began by noting that 'not liking it,' boredom and physical uncomfortableness could be negative outcomes of meditation. On the one hand you have to ask, what are people's expectations that any beneficial practice will be utter bliss from go to whoah? and on the other, it's like saying that tiredness and sore muscles are a negative outcome of exercise.

- I was interested in the idea that some people may be unable to 'watch' (i.e. disengage) from thoughts enough not to simply be overcome by their proliferation. Although of course the proliferative nature of thoughts is something worth knowing about. I think noting (as opposed to open awareness) helps with this because as you note the thought it tends to pass away, and eventually this happens even when not doing formal noting. But there was also a weird concept there that people have distress, but haven't known about it, and meditation makes them aware of it, whereas I'd have to ask how stress that you're not aware of in any way could possibly exist?

- Daniel's concept of people who pass the A&P is so wide as to start to me to seem to have little to do with effects of meditation as such, and to in a sense revert back to the concept of a psychotic break or similar.

- No doubt there is a problem inasmuch as people don't have proper one-on-one access to teachers who themselves have deep and significant meditation experience (an old therapist of mine who got me into Mahasi vipassana, and who trained mindfulness trainers, used to complain that she couldn't get the people she was training to even do the practice themselves)

- TM is very problematic... but I knew that already

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4 years 11 months ago #103367 by Chris Marti
Great comments!
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4 years 11 months ago #103368 by Ona Kiser
"- No doubt there is a problem inasmuch as people don't have proper one-on-one access to teachers who themselves have deep and significant meditation experience (an old therapist of mine who got me into Mahasi vipassana, and who trained mindfulness trainers, used to complain that she couldn't get the people she was training to even do the practice themselves)"

Unrelated to the article overall, this comment jumped out at me, as I have in the last three months happened to meet socially three different therapists who are into various New Age or Buddhisty practices that they bring to their work w clients. And none of them have practices themselves beyond a very preliminary level, and all three had evident difficulty getting along with others, communicating well, lack of compassion, poor listening skills, manipulative tendencies, alienation from their families, and other problems. I myself benefitted immensely from therapy in the past (or therapy coincided non-causal-ee with a period of decreasing depression!), and it's quite possible my therapists had crap private lives. So the question is, is it necessary for a teacher to have embodied the practices they teach? I suspect a tiny percentage have done so. In fact you may not be able to mandate that as a qualification as the pool of available teachers/therapists would dwindle to very few. Which brings me back around to allowing that we are messy, and life is messy, and embrace/forgiveness of the messiness (which requires recognition of and forgiveness of our own) is in deeper harmony with truth-peace-love than living in 'why can't people do it right' land.
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4 years 11 months ago #103371 by Chris Marti
Well, when it comes to finding a mediation teacher I'm happy to be responsible for finding my own - experienced and competent - one. If I'm a novice meditator , that is in my best interest. If I'm an experienced meditator it's not only in my best interest but I would be radically opposed to using a teacher without a deep meditation practice and the concomitant level of experience. All of that is a long way of saying meditation is like anything - finding a financial advisor for example - but without the licensing and certificates. In many areas where people would be better off with an experienced "guide" for whatever reason they sometimes opt for a non-experienced one. I don't think we can regulate that very well now, or ever.
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4 years 11 months ago #103372 by Shargrol
I think teachers should embody the practices they teach. If they are psychologists they should be fairly psychologically sound. If they are teaching a "self-perfection" practice, they should be fairly self-perfected. If they are teaching a life-is-messy-but-practice-can-make-you-more-resilient, they should be fairly resilient. If they are teaching an acceptance-of-hardship practice, they should be fairly accepting of hardship.

Does that make sense? I might be overlooking something obvious.
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4 years 11 months ago #103373 by Chris Marti
My question is "how do you know?" if someone embodies what they teach? I would hold up the example of Marc Gafni here.

:P
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4 years 11 months ago #103375 by Shargrol
You can never know until you know, that's for sure! :)

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4 years 11 months ago - 4 years 11 months ago #103376 by Chris Marti
I know you know that, and I know I know that, but I don't know who else knows that, if they know it at all. You know?
Last edit: 4 years 11 months ago by Chris Marti.
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4 years 11 months ago #103377 by Shargrol
I thought I knew, but now I don't know...
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4 years 11 months ago #103380 by every3rdthought

Ona Kiser wrote: "- No doubt there is a problem inasmuch as people don't have proper one-on-one access to teachers who themselves have deep and significant meditation experience (an old therapist of mine who got me into Mahasi vipassana, and who trained mindfulness trainers, used to complain that she couldn't get the people she was training to even do the practice themselves)"

Unrelated to the article overall, this comment jumped out at me, as I have in the last three months happened to meet socially three different therapists who are into various New Age or Buddhisty practices that they bring to their work w clients. And none of them have practices themselves beyond a very preliminary level, and all three had evident difficulty getting along with others, communicating well, lack of compassion, poor listening skills, manipulative tendencies, alienation from their families, and other problems. I myself benefitted immensely from therapy in the past (or therapy coincided non-causal-ee with a period of decreasing depression!), and it's quite possible my therapists had crap private lives. So the question is, is it necessary for a teacher to have embodied the practices they teach? I suspect a tiny percentage have done so. In fact you may not be able to mandate that as a qualification as the pool of available teachers/therapists would dwindle to very few. Which brings me back around to allowing that we are messy, and life is messy, and embrace/forgiveness of the messiness (which requires recognition of and forgiveness of our own) is in deeper harmony with truth-peace-love than living in 'why can't people do it right' land.


Good question. As you know, in the ultimate analysis I think that any spiritual practice is a natural process of being called back to God, so in that sense, what needs to happen will happen, whether that person gets a great teacher or a not-so-great one, and that is not something we can tinker with - so in that sense I don't lament e.g. mushroom culture or similar concepts.

However that doesn't necessarily lead me to I guess a quietistic perspective, i.e. having no opinion on what qualifications a teacher should have, because that's the level of the everyday - if that makes sense. | mean I'm not in a position to mandate anything so it may all be idle speculation or idle complaint. I think it's possible to say, this is my ideal structural situation,while at the same time recognising that humans are imperfect and my work is to reduce my own moral judgement. In the same way e.g., I think it's meaningful to act for socio-political goals that I think are important, while at the same time recognising that everything will be as it will be, that we unconsciously create a lot of our own suffering in relation to abstract ideals around these issues, and that a deeper suffering can be released by spiritual practice (which people are called to rather than willing).

I definitely also benefited from therapy and had no idea what my therapists' private lives were like, but I would make the judgement that in the therapeutic setting, they were able to interact with me with emotional maturity, integrity and respect (and I had started work with some therapists who did NOT model this, and I stopped working with them shortly for that reason). As we say in AA when someone's looking for a sponsor, find someone who's got what you want. Likely no one 100% embodies what they teach but a good percentage is possible - if someone is going to teach meditation, I don't think they need to be a Buddhist monk but I personally wouldn't recommend them as a teacher if they don't have a daily practice for a decent period of time. i think the other issue I was maybe pointing to here is in-depth one-on-one teaching, which most people just don't get.
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4 years 11 months ago - 4 years 11 months ago #103386 by Laurel Carrington
I just listened to segment 2 of the purported three parts. I looked around for segment 1 but couldn't find it, so perhaps it has been taken down by now, although segment 2 began with the material presented in the written introduction.

My takeaway mirrors every3rdthought's, although I can't agree that science has nothing to add here. There is good work being done with better methods of evaluation than those described in the program. I agree totally with your comments about Goenka. Willoughby Britton also implicated the big retreat centers, which aren't as much of a boot camp environment as Goenka, but can still fail to offer adequate support. I went through a frightening brush with depersonalization following stream entry, but was able to get through it with the help of several teachers.

I really believe people need to approach this with the necessary knowledge base and relationship with an experienced teacher. I also think that a context of a religious tradition can help, although not everyone can tolerate it. But the Buddhist tradition, for example, isn't all about mindfulness, stress reduction, what have you, but incorporates morality and other practices such as metta. Even a good grounding in samatha is a helpful ancillary to insight. A devotional practice is beneficial as well; both the Buddhist and the Christian traditions emphasize that it's not all about me, me, me.
Last edit: 4 years 11 months ago by Laurel Carrington.
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4 years 1 month ago #106474 by Derek

every3rdthought wrote: Daniel's concept of people who pass the A&P is so wide as to start to me to seem to have little to do with effects of meditation as such, and to in a sense revert back to the concept of a psychotic break or similar.


I understand the A&P to be simply the initial breach of the defense mechanisms, which then allows the surfacing of unfamiliar psychological material. This is why the A&P is followed by the dark night. The description of the A&P has to be wide because it has to accommodate such a wide range of individuals -- including some meditators for whom this breach will precipitate a psychotic break.
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4 years 1 month ago #106476 by Noah
RE the discussion of teachers & expectations...

I think it would be really helpful if all teachers laid out the options for students, in addition to finding out what their goals are:

-Do you want to stay within 1st Jhana & heal neurosis?
-Do you want to use meditation as the gateway to a total path of deeper meaning & a worldview of surrender?
-Do you want to optimize for material success using behavior mod techniques with a side of meditation?
-Do you want to rise up the wisdom axis until you become a Buddha?

Once the target is established, the teacher can be honest about what they can and can't help with. The student can pull back the curtain of romanticism to get down to the nitty gritty. I'd like to think this is starting to happen, but who knows.
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