Lisa, an avid practitioner of mindfulness, initially approached it as a tool for relaxation and, more recently, to calm her nervous system. Being technologically inclined, she utilizes tools like the Muse sensing headband, which reads brain signals and indicates focus through bird sounds. While recognizing the benefits of various mindfulness tools for health and stress reduction, Lisa emphasizes the importance of integrating ethics into mindfulness practice.
In Lisa’s view, mindfulness, when divorced from ethical considerations, may fall short in its transformative potential. Mindfulness often focuses on being aware of the present moment but may not delve into how personal views shape perceptions. Lisa highlights the need to explore the underlying reasons behind emotions or reactions, such as potential biases or preconceived notions.
Lisa contends that the separation of mindfulness from ethical precepts limits its ability to penetrate deeply into one’s psyche. She underscores the common goals among Dharma practitioners, regardless of lineage, emphasizing the shared recognition that alleviating suffering involves addressing ethical considerations. Lisa sees ethical guidelines like right speech, right action, and right livelihood as frameworks to reduce suffering rather than mere rules.
Acknowledging that many individuals turn to mindfulness to alleviate suffering, Lisa asserts that solely paying attention to the present moment lacks the structural support to break free from ingrained perspectives. She believes that mindfulness courses, even those addressing deeper issues, benefit from the support of a community practicing together. In Lisa’s perspective, having experienced individuals and a supportive community fosters the necessary environment for individuals to challenge their views, ultimately leading to a reduction in suffering.
Kyle, reflecting on the value of meditation apps, emphasizes their role as a crucial starting point for cultivating a sense of calm. Notable free apps like Insight Timer and the Plum Village app stand out for their accessibility and altruistic nature. Kyle shares his personal journey, revealing a past of undiagnosed extreme anxiety, where the aankps acted as a keyhole into a new realm of calmness. They became invaluable in sustaining a daily mindfulness practice, crucial for managing his condition.
He underscores the transformative potential of deep meditation and daily practice, acknowledging the diverse forms of refuge in Buddhism, whether secular or spiritual, and extending beyond traditional figures like Buddha or bodhisattvas. Kyle’s progression from apps to a deeper engagement with meditation practices led him to explore the roots of meditation, tracing it back to Hinduism and Buddhism.
Motivated by a desire to understand the origins of these practices, Kyle conducts an internet search, discovering a Buddhist center in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Connecting with a small group of practitioners in the Amaya Hana tradition, he finds a shared commitment to honesty and diligence on the eightfold path. This Sangha, or community, becomes a pivotal part of Kyle’s journey, evolving into a source of knowledge (Dharma) and guidance.
The Sangha’s influence prompts Kyle to develop a respect and longing for the teachings of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. This reverence extends to the countless individuals pursuing spiritual paths today. In this way, Kyle’s progression from meditation apps to the Sangha and the Dharma reflects a personal evolution toward universal love and the alleviation of suffering.
Jogen acknowledges the potential benefits of meditation technology, citing his own positive experience with his grandfather’s light and sound meditation device. While he hasn’t personally used meditation apps, he recognizes their utility as a gateway or support for sustaining daily practice. However, he emphasizes the importance of Buddhist practice evolving beyond solitary engagement with technology. Jogen believes that, for the practice to mature, it must involve human relationships. He expresses a preference for in-person interactions, considering them essential for the depth of engagement with living beings and the Dharma, indicating a traditionalist perspective in valuing the ceremonial and communal aspects of Buddhist practice.
William reflects on the limitations and potential pitfalls of meditation, noting that it may not work for everyone and can even increase anxiety or depression in some cases. He critiques the abundance of meditation apps and the commercialization of mindfulness, emphasizing the importance of incorporating the Dharma, or Buddhist teachings, into meditation practices.
For William, meditation is a tool within his broader practice, including haiku, martial arts, and Buddhism. He shares his belief in the value of selfless acts, emphasizing the importance of being aware without seeking personal recognition. His teachings include concepts of compassion, gratitude, and the joy derived from giving and receiving.
William’s journey in understanding meditation involves an eclectic mix of influences, blending elements from various traditions, including Irish-American, Japanese Buddhism, and Shinran Shonin’s teachings. He expresses concern about the potential commodification of American Buddhism, criticizing a lack of genuine giving and questioning the motives behind certain mindfulness apps.
In his evolving spiritual path, William values the sense of community and mutual support, rejecting the notion of pulling oneself up by their own bootstraps. He finds joy in acknowledging the interdependence of individuals and the need for gratitude and willingness to accept help. Embracing a middle path, he highlights the importance of moderation in lifestyle choices and emphasizes the joy derived from understanding and living by these principles.
Christopher reflects on the widespread misconception that meditation is synonymous with Buddhism, challenging this notion by highlighting the historical reality that meditation was not universally practiced before the 1900s. He emphasizes the importance of understanding that one can be a Buddhist without necessarily being a meditator, encouraging a broader embrace of Buddhism beyond meditation.
Addressing challenges, Christopher notes a tendency for some practitioners to view meditation as a measure of being a “good” Buddhist, creating a potential barrier for those not naturally drawn to meditation. He advocates for a more inclusive approach, where individuals can adopt Buddhist principles in various ways, such as following the precepts or the Eightfold Path, without necessarily engaging in formal meditation.
Christopher identifies a broader challenge related to a Western ethnocentric bias, critiquing the prevalent representation of predominantly white teachers in Buddhist magazines. He expresses frustration with the insistence on packaging Buddhism in a scientific framework, asserting that the richness of Buddhist traditions, including rituals like bowing and the use of incense, should be valued rather than dismissed.
Another challenge Christopher addresses is the post-religious stress disorder, where anything resembling religion is often rejected. He notes a Western tendency to impose a specific cultural framework on Buddhism and criticizes the elitism that undermines traditional Asian practices. Christopher underscores the importance of recognizing and respecting diverse entry points to the Dharma, whether through secular groups, mindfulness practices, or traditional Buddhist rituals.
In his own nontraditional Buddhist group, Christopher observes a delicate balance, where mutual respect allows for coexistence of diverse beliefs and practices. He highlights the core values that unite practitioners, such as compassionate action, interdependence, impermanence, and non-self, emphasizing that the common ground should be more significant than the differences that often create divisions in various contexts.
Annual update on progress of project.