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The Deeper Dimensions of Mindfulness

Jon Kabat-Zinn & Melli O'Brien






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The Deeper Dimensions of Mindfulness

In this interview Jon invites us to know for ourselves the sacredness that is inherent in this present moment (if we’ll only wake up to it).

So we are truly blessed to

be joined by Jon Kabat Zinn.

So, Jon, if you haven't heard of him

already, is Professor of Medicine Emeritus

at the University of Massachusetts

Medical School, where he was the

founder of the Center for Mindfulness.

Jon is a bestselling author, a mindfulness

teacher and creator of the groundbreaking

MBSR program and MBSR stands for

mindfulness based stress reduction.

You know, Jon has really been a

pioneer in making mindfulness more

accessible, especially in the West.

So here's my chat with Jon Kabat Zinn.

And I just wanted to tell you also

that before every single chat that I

had with anyone during this summit,

we always would sit for one minute of

mindfulness before the interview began,

but Jon didn't want to leave you out

of our minute of mindfulness together.

So he invites the whole community

in, for all of us to ground and

center before the chat begins.

Enjoy your minute of mindfulness

and my chat with Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Wherever you are, whoever you are,

if you're watching this, just, we

invite you to just follow the sound

into the silence and stillness of

your own heart as the sound dissolves.

So that we're actually cultivating

deep listening, deep hearing.

Hearing only what's here to be heard.

So allowing yourself to actually

settle into this moment.

Of course, there's a degree of

anticipation because for one, you're

in front of your computer and for

two, you're in front of your computer

so that you can tune into this

episode of The Mindfulness Summit.

So there's a lot of intentionality

here and perhaps a little

anticipation because we probably

all have better things to be doing.

So just settling into being on the

threshold of this unfolding, as

part of the larger unfolding of

all the conversations that have

gone on during this wonderful month

under Melli's careful shepherding.

And just being fully awake, no

matter what time this is for you.

And as best you can, fully

present in your body.

And if you were new to the practice or

maybe even if you're not, it can't hurt

to simply see if you can ride on the waves

of your own breath sensations as they

come in and out of the body, as the breath

itself moves in and out of the body.

Without any effort to force or pull or

constrain or manipulate this breathing.

It does very well without

your intervention.

Witness that you're still alive.

And so just luxuriating, so

to speak, as you ride on the

waves of this vital rhythm.

That's deeply intrinsic to life itself.

And resting here in the silence in

between and underneath my words.

A silence that's never

not here, never broken.

Infinitely and always available to you.

And they're just possible not only

to be friends, but to enhance.

Moment by moment, by timeless moment.

As we sit here,

with life unfolding exactly the way

life is unfolding in this moment.

So you don't have to try to achieve

any special feeling or state.

Or pursue anything.

But to just put the welcome mat

out for whatever is already here.

Whatever is here, including the

unwanted, the unpleasant, the

full catastrophe, so to speak.

And resting in awareness.

Fully embodied.

And fully awake.

Thank you for that.

It's nice to think that there

are people all around the

world tuning into this program.

And I think it's one signature of

your genius to have thought of doing

something like this, that we can all

tune into and share and hear each

other and hear new people that we

haven't heard before and experienced

the diversity of the teachers and the

teachings and the sources of it all.

And it feels like a kindergarten,

like we're back to school and maybe

with a true beginner's mind and

inquiring as to what mindfulness

is out there an awful lot nowadays.

What is it actually?

What is it really beneath all

the hype and the sort of fanfare

about it that's very, very recent?

Thank you.

Thank you for conceiving of

this and then shepherding it,

mothering it, so to speak, along.

I have a feeling this is only, this

month of October is only the beginning.

I'm starting to get that feeling too, Jon.

And I think, you know, I just want

to take this opportunity actually

to acknowledge all of the people

who are tuning in, knowing that this

is the last day of the 31 days of

this particular part of the summit.

And there may be a continuation.

But I really want to take this moment

to extend my deep respect for all

of the people who have continued

to sit every day, or you might've

had a day off here and there, and

many of you have been practicing for

maybe decades before this summit.

Many people have probably coming back

to this practice after some time off, or

you might've started doing this on the

1st of October for the very first time.

But either way, you're still here with

us on this journey and I just want

to congratulate you for that, because

I'm sure there's been times when it's

been easeful and other times when the

mind is busy or it's just challenging

to sit and you've stuck with it

and you've stuck with this summit.

So my deepest respect and also my

gratitude to all of you, because sitting

in this way is never just about us.

It's always an act of self nourishment

and self care, but it can't help

when we take our seat or however you

practice that capacity to have more

wise and compassionate and kind lives.

It can't help but ripple out

to the rest of the world.

So thank you for your practice.

And perhaps the realization is

also unfolding that this summit was

never about you changing yourself.

It was never about you becoming better.

And it was always about you knowing

yourself and being yourself more fully.

I'm very happy you're saying that by the

way, because one of the misconceptions

about meditation and particularly

mindfulness is that it's a hotshot mode of

self-improvement, so to speak or achieving

some imagined state of wellbeing that's

permanent and that's going to last forever

and that's kind of basically immunize

you against any bad feelings and you'll

just be relaxed for your entire life.

And it's really a profound misconception

of the beauty and the power and the wisdom

of mindfulness or any form of meditation,

because it's really not achieved,

trying to achieve some special state.

Mindfulness is not a special state that

if you just sit in a certain way and

breathe in a certain way, then you'll

have this aha moment and you say, that's

what I've been looking for my whole

life, and then cling to it for the rest

of your life to try to get back to it.

That's not really what it's about at all.

It's, as I was trying to suggest in the

beginning few moments of the meditation,

just to be with things as they are.

But it turns out that

just is enormous because.

We don't really want to be with things

that we don't like that are unpleasant,

that we didn't sign up for in this life.

And yet that is the nature of it

and this is where the wisdom lies.

This is where the compassion lies

for oneself as well as others.

This is really where any potential for

healing and transformation, whether

we're talking about ourselves as

individuals or we're talking about

a society or the entire planet.

Really, I think rests on that capacity,

that non dual wisdom that knows that

we don't have to force things to change

or try to cling to a special state

because every moment, every experience

that you're having, including the

unpleasant ones, is unbelievably special.

And when you can hold it in

awareness, then you have new

degrees of freedom to be in wise

relationship to it and then act on it.

So there's nothing passive about this,

but you're acting out of wisdom instead

of rejecting this and grasping on that,

which is really a source of enormous

ignorance and delusion and suffering.

So that's easy to say, but this is

really the hardest work in the world.

And I too want to bow to everybody

who's tuned in over these past 31 days.

I myself started out just fine, but

my life is complicated and there

were evenings that I just missed.

And then I missed too

many to totally catch up.

So I've seen maybe half or a

little more than half of them.

And I just feel like

that's the way it goes.

We can't be everywhere for

everybody in every moment.

So we have to, in some sense, come

to terms, which is my real definition

of healing, is coming to terms with

things as they are, come to terms

with how it is for us in this moment.

And then it's not like you get

wisdom, it's that you're making room

for your intrinsic, innate clarity,

wisdom, and penetrative awareness to

simply emerge, because guess what?

It's actually been here all along.

Like you're already a genius.

You're already a miraculous being.

You already have the most complex

organization of matter in the known

universe inside your little old skull.

And so to recognize the beauty, as well

as of course, the pain and the suffering

is incredibly important to find a way to,

in some sense, come to equilibrium and

equanimity and the kind of actions that

are really necessary to take in this world

that are not driven by more for me or my

suffering or my depression or my anxiety

or my mental state, or for that matter, if

we're talking about meditators, especially

beginning meditators, and I would say

beginning meditators, maybe the first 40

or 50 years of regular practice that it's

like boring, like, good God, why should

I sit and just watch my mind go insane

or be all over the place or perpetually

self distract myself, and think that

there's some better way to do it.

Or mindfulness can't be about

this because if it were just about

this, I mean, who would do it?

It's like watching my mind like this.

But it turns out that that's where that

little pivot, that little rotation in

consciousness, so that what is arising

becomes the curriculum rather than

what you think is the curriculum or the

straight path to enlightenment, really

is liberating and is truly freeing.

And you don't have to sit in a cave

for 50 years for that to happen.

It's already yours or ours.

And that's exactly what I would love

to bring out and ask you about in

this moment, because a couple of days

ago, the meditation session that I

did with a dear friend of yours and

colleague, Saki Santorelli aired as

part of this summit and I don't know

how many people noticed, but during that

session with Saki, I was moved to tears.

And the reason for that was because

we have been talking about so many

dimensions of mindfulness during this

summit, and they're all important

and they're all really wonderful.

You know, how mindfulness can make us more

productive, how mindfulness can make us

more creative, have better relationships,

even better health and less suffering.

All these things are wonderful.

And there was this moment where I thanked

Saki for bringing and making mindfulness,

secular, and he said, you know, secular

can sometimes mean in people's minds

that it's been stripped of sacredness.

And it's never been anything but sacred.

And in the moment that he said those

words, I just, the tears started coming

because I realized that I was craving

for that to be aired here in the summit.

And just in my interactions

with other people, sacredness

is often very private for me.

And so I wanted to give us a space to

talk about that and a space for you to

talk about how mindfulness has deeper

dimensions and that it's a kind of

coming into touch with who we really are.

Yeah, well, that's all it's about.

It's not about anything but that.

And the more popular it gets

that this was not a problem.

I started what's come to be known

as MBSR in the stress reduction

clinic at the University of

Massachusetts Medical Center in 1979.

So that's like a...

That's the year I was born.


So there you go.

A different universe entirely.

It's basically before the

digital age, except for the

military and science, scientists.

And it's only recently that it's sort

of exploded in terms of interest.

And this has been driven by

factors that, to a large degree

was set in play a long time ago.

And that had to do with being very

patient, but really convinced that

the world was basically starving for

this kind of wisdom and that it could

not come in the traditional forms

because most people would reject

the form and miss the substance.

So we had to generate new vehicles, but

at the same time, if those vehicles dumbed

down or denatured the essence of what is

called the Dharma, with a sort of this

deep wisdom that is an all traditions,

but was most highly articulated and most

refined in the Buddhist tradition in

which I grew up kind of, so to speak.

Then we needed to find new ways to

language it to new vocabulary so that

it would be so commonsensical that

your mother would go, or your father

would go well, of course, why didn't I

realize that meditation was just about

paying attention and awareness and it

didn't involve all this other stuff.

And so it turns out the other

stuff is completely embedded in the

paying attention and the awareness.

So you don't have to do a lot of

propaganda around it to the point

where people feel you were just

selling me some belief system.

So now, of course, it's

everywhere and it's moving into

the school system and so forth.

And there, you have to be very

careful because if it seems to be

religious, where that we're secretly

trying to turn people's dear beloved

children into closet Buddhists.

That would be awful.

And who would want that?

I mean, I would reject that entirely.

And just to be clear, I,

myself am not a Buddhist.

I don't identify as a Buddhist at all.

I identify as a serious

and beginner student, so to

speak of Buddhist meditation.

I'm only doing the best I can.

So when the word secular is

used, it's really misinformed.

And I tend to use the word

mainstream as opposed to secular.

And as in the mainstreaming

of mindfulness rather than the

secularization, because we've been

emphasizing from the very beginning

that this is sacred, sacred work.

In the same way that the doctor-patient

relationship and the Hippocratic oath

to first do no harm are sacred, sacred

foundations of modern medical practice.

And we use that terminology sacred.

And even in the American Declaration

of Independence, that word is in there.

And it's in there in a non-religious form.

It's in there in the phrase 'to which

we dedicate our lives.' in other

words, the breaking from the United

Kingdom to which we dedicate our lives,

our fortunes and our sacred honor.

So from the point of view of America,

this is truly American, but it's

differentiating the sacred from

a kind of classical religion that

feels like it requires belief.

This is much more empirical.

It does not require any belief or

catechism that you just sit down

and you apprehend for yourself

following a very simple set of

guidelines what the actual truth of

your experience is in this moment.

And yet there is an

ethical foundation to this.

So it's not like, well, if you

meditate, then you'll become a better

sniper, if you're in the military.

Because mindfulness is spoken of as a,

and described in the texts as a wholesome

mental factor, so if one cultivates

mindfulness, your heart's going to change.

And in fact, in all Asian languages,

the word from mind and the word

for heart are the same word.

So in English, whether it's in Australia,

New Zealand, the UK, or Canada, the

United States, or any place else where

people are speaking English, if you

hear the word mindfulness and in some

way you are not hearing simultaneously

and silently, the word heartfulness,

you're not really understanding it.

And you're conceptualizing

it, turning it into a concept.

It's easy to do because mindfulness is a

kind of American word and it was slapped

on a Pali word, Sati, by translators

who knew something, but maybe not like,

maybe it's not the best translation,

but it is the translation now of

all Buddhists scholars and so forth.

But the interesting thing

is it's not Buddhist.

It's not Buddhist.

It's a quality of mind.

It's a quality of being

that can be cultivated.

And some people describe it as

a skill that can be developed or

a muscle that you can exercise.

But, and the part of the reason

it's not Buddhist is that

the Buddha wasn't a Buddhist.

You know, the isms and the various kinds

of things that grow out of it with no

disregard or disrespect whatsoever.

But when we're drilling down to what

the essence of the Dharma is, it's

always changed when it moved from a

new country out of India and into Tibet

or into Southeast Asia or whatever.

So there are many dharmas, not

one, but there's actually only one.

Because no matter how it flowers,

the essence is always the same.

And the way it is embodied and the

way it is translated and the way

it is lived really is up to us.

And so now it's gone global.

I can't say it came to the West because

there's no East and the West anymore.

So it's our responsibility

to not blow this.

And we could.

We could dumb this down the way

we dumbed down and commercialize

and commodify everything.

So it just becomes another

concept, another thought, another

thing to fill up your day.

Now I got to meditate on top of everything

else and it becomes like onerous.

And then why am I doing it,

especially since I'm not allowed

to experience a special state?

So what would my

motivation be for doing it?

And my response is how about love?

How about sanity?

What about recognizing that like

stopping for a moment and dropping

from all the doing and to being

would be a radical act of sanity.

To just pause and say, if you

played the violin, of course you

wouldn't play it without tuning it.

So you have to pause to

tune your instrument.

And that's the way it is in school.

You describe it as like before

the kids can learn, they have to

tune their instrument of learning.

And if they come to school stressed

or hungry or having experienced

violence in the family before

they even make it to school, their

instrument is really out of tune.

And rather than yelling at kids to

pay attention, we need to really

nurture them into attending.

And this is a kind of

lifetime's engagement on the

part of more and more people.

And I like to describe

it as a love affair.

It's a love affair.

And so when I take my seat in the morning

and I've come over the decades to actually

experience it as a radical act of love

and sanity just to do that, not so that

I'll get some benefit, but just so that

I will remember that I'm alive and that

my life is much more than what's on my

to-do list for today or how stressed I

might be trying to get it all done and

meanwhile, missing all of my moments.

And then probably what's most important

is like, say the look in your lover's

eyes or your partner, your spouse, or

your grandchildren or your parents,

and, and to not let that go by so

fleetingly that it's just another

thought that you don't capture.

So this is like high stakes engagement.

And it requires a

distributive responsibility.

It's not like a new Buddha is going

to rise and everybody's going to

bow down to him and make it okay.

I mean, the Dalai Lama

is very clear on that.

It's a time for us all to take

responsibility for a universal

wisdom that's intrinsic to our

humanity, really in our DNA.

And in a sense, our biology

is unbelievably responsive to

it, but that's another story.

It reminds me of a term that's been

coming to my mind more and more lately

of becoming this radical act of taking

responsibility for ourselves and

for the planet is kind of in a way

becoming like an inner peace activist.

It is important to do all

the stuff on the outside.

It's very important.

And in my experience is, is that

when we cultivate more peace and

compassion within, it just is the

most natural thing in the world to

love, your actions love the planet.

And so...

That's true.

And also that it's, otherwise it's a

prescription for burnout, sooner or later.

I mean, the problems are just much too

big for any one person or organization.

So you have to have a kind of a

long-term strategy to not push the lever

and yet to make the kinds of changes

happen that will mitigate the vector

that we're already on as a planet.

And it is going to require governments.

It's going to require societies.

It's going to require individuals

because it all boils down to individuals,

namely us to undergo what I call this

orthogonal rotation in consciousness.

So that you are the same old person you

always were and yet you're not because

fundamentally you've woken up and you no

longer believe the narratives in your head

that make you the most important being on

the planet and make everything about you,

about I, me and mine and my success and

my depression and my upset and my this.

All of it's true.

It's just not a big enough narrative of

who you really are, is so much bigger than

who you think you are or want to be, or

wish you weren't or anything like that.

And when you tap into that fundamental

dimension of awareness that is part of

our human repertoire and learning to

inhabit it and cultivate it in the ways

that mindfulness practice in various ways

is all about, then, in a certain way,

the practice is doing you rather than the

conceit of yes, I'm doing the practice.

It's like no, make yourself available

and let the discipline and the

kindness and the embrace and the

intentionality and the motivation, the

core motivation to do no harm and to

optimize the potential for being of

use on this planet, helping others who

are suffering, that it flowers all by

itself if we get out of our own way.

But as long as you're on a giant sort of

personal, let's not call it an ego trip,

but a personal pronounship, because ego

is just the Latin person pronoun for I.

And you can be aware of that.

You could be mindful of what

we sometimes call selfing.

How much of the day we echo of our

mouth just selfing, selfing, selfing.

You can be also and the first thing that,

I don't need to be telling this group

of people that, but for beginners at

least, the first thing that happens when

you cultivate mindfulness is you realize

how mindless we are most of the time.

And our so-called default mode

or default mode network from the

neuroscience side of things is really

running this constant story of me,

my life, my successes, my failures,

my future, my past, my relationships.

Nothing wrong with it.

It's like, if you didn't know who you

were, I mean, it'd be very hard to

wake up in the morning and go to work.

But that's not all of who you are.

And if you don't remember why you're

going to work or who the real you is, or

you don't live in your body, but you're

only up to here and most of the time

lost in thought, then the Dukkha, the

suffering, the sort of unsatisfactoriness

of life really rears its head in ways

that ultimately are just very painful.

And no one, no one can fix that.

This is not about fixing, even

though we work in medicine.

MBSR is not about fixing people's

chronic diseases or chronic

pain or depression or anxiety.

It's about putting out the welcome mat

for things as they are - the good, the

bad, and the ugly, another movie title.

And then discovering that your awareness,

for instance of sadness, isn't sad.

And it's not like we give

a lecture about that.

Experiment for yourself.

Is my awareness of my sadness sad, or

is my awareness of my anxiety anxious,

or is my awareness of my back pain or

headache actually experiencing suffering.

And this is empirical.

And look, I mean, your

life is a laboratory.

Our bodies are a laboratory.

Our minds are a laboratory.

Our hearts.

And so there's an awful lot of learning

that we just never learned in the

school, but it's like here for us.

And in some sense, then that's why I said

life itself becomes the curriculum, if

we're willing to enroll in that school.

I'd like to talk a little

bit more about how we...

I have two quotes that I think talk about

something really fundamental about the

human condition, the kinds of things

that stop us from actually stopping and

dropping in on the present moment and

actually being in touch with ourselves

in the way that you're talking about.

The first quote is by Eckhart Tolle and

he says, "When we lose touch with inner

stillness, we lose touch with ourselves.

And when we lose touch with

ourselves, we have a tendency

to lose ourselves in the world."

The second quote is by Blaise

Pascal and he says, "All the

problems of mankind stem from...

his inability to sit quietly

in the room by himself."


Whenever I'm teaching in France, because

I speak French more or less, I always

go back to Blaise Pascal, 17th century

genius, mathematician, philosopher.

I mean, true what they

call second order genius.

And it's sitting right there and it's

saying, "All man's sorrows, all man's

difficulties stem from his inability

to sit quietly in a room by himself."

And I can hear all the women going,

yeah, that's true for those men.

We're included.

It isn't that it is just men.

It's all of us.

It's just they only talk about men.

But it's the nature of the human mind

when it doesn't know itself to not be

comfortable, unless it fills up the space.

And so once we filled up all this space,

then we just like juggling all the time.

And we're not smart enough to

fill up the space with space.

So we don't see the space.

We just see that clutter.

And it's all urgent of course, because

I have to get it done in order to have

the next thing happen and the next

thing, and I'm not knocking any of this.

It's true.

And we need to take responsibility

for getting work done, getting things

done and taking care of the children

and taking care of the garden and

getting, contributing in the work world.

I mean, this is where meaning

comes out of our lives.

Butif we don't know who's doing the

doing, then we're in deep trouble.

That's a really important

juncture though, isn't it?

Like there's this really

important juncture.

So what Eckhart's talking about is

what we've been talking about of like,

and this is true in my experience,

that when I'm fully present in the

moment, when I'm in touch with the

deepest aspect of who I am, there is

a kind of background easefulness and

contentedness, even when things get tough.

Now, the opposite of that is when

we lose touch with that, we lose

touch with ourselves, we lose

touch with the present moment.

And my experience is that there's

an inner discord or an unease or a

sense ,you could say, of think I'm not

whole yet, I'm not complete, I'm not

enough, or this moment's not enough,

whatever the story is in the mind.

And I feel like this is such an

important juncture in our lives

as mindfulness practitioners,

because it's where we stop running.

It's where we start seeking.

It's where we start

Running away.

We start running away from

that feeling of not enough yet,

I'm not whole, there's unease.

And instead of dropping in, we run,

we start running right at that point.

And so...

Why would you, if you weren't taught

this, only one person in millions

can have discovered for themselves.

That's the beauty of this, isn't it?

They're practices that anybody can do.

And then the discoveries are yours.

It's like you are the original

researcher in the laboratory of your

own life and you discovered just this.

So look, Eckhart Tolle experienced it.

And it came out of a huge amount

of pain, a huge amount of pain.

And so when he talks about the Power

of Now, it's coming out of a whole life

that required him, in some sense, to

wake up to what we're talking about

and then live it in a certain way.

And of course he's been an inspiration

to many people, but then you can

turn even that, or anybody's teaching

into, again, a catechism in you.

You read the book, but, and it resonates

with you, but you don't do the work.

I mean, he sat on a park bench for

two years in the middle of wherever

in enormous amount of pain and then

woke up and it's really worth reading.

I know him.

It's really worth reading his account

of it because it's like, how many

people does that happen to, you see.

And it came out of like he had

major exposure to practices.

But this is, in some

sense, his own realization.

And everybody's realization is our own.

So yeah, this is a critical

fulcrum that you're pointing to.

And do you have, I know there's an easy

answer to this, but it's not that easy

to practice, but do you have any advice?

I feel like this juncture is

something that we can get stuck in.

Spiritual practitioners, everyday people,

everybody, we can really get caught

in these cycles of keeping on running.

It doesn't really ultimately work

because the unease stays there

because we haven't dropped back in.

So what advice or any guidance that you

have on helping us to come into more

skillful relationship in that, in those

quiet moments, when we're in the room

alone and we come face to face with that?

Well, really it's to be disciplined

about it and have a certain kind of

confidence, maybe from reading, maybe

from other people that you know,

or whatever, some certain kind of

confidence that what looks like nothing

or complete idiocy, isn't nothing.

And all this talk about mindfulness

that somebody from the outside who

thinks it's garbage, could just say,

this is like much ado about nothing,

you know, the famous Shakespeare play.

But it's not much ado about nothing.

Although granted, it looks

that way from the outside.

It's much ado about what looks from

the outside like almost nothing, but

turns out to be just about everything.

So there's a certain amount of

confidence that a certain amount

of discipline is required and

you sit through thick and thin.

And I use the word sit just the

way you did like it means anything.

You could stand on your head, hang from

your fingernails, run, lie down there,

four classical meditation postures.

Although most people only

practice a few of them.

But sitting, standing - a very

powerful meditation practice.

We teach all four in MBSR,

which is kind of unusual.

Lying down, which is one that's one of

the most powerful meditation practices,

but I have to remind people it's about

falling awake, not about falling asleep.

But even falling asleep is

good because everybody's sleep

deprived, and then walking.

So the advice that I would give

to people is don't give up.

Hang in no matter what,

through thick and thin.

Read books, listen to guided meditation

tapes, study with tons of teachers, and

don't think this is some sideline while

you get the rest of your life together.

This is not separate from life.

And the more you learn how to inhabit

the field of awareness or heartfulness

or mindfulness, the more you, I

think we'll find that, you grow

into the actuality of who you are.

It's not, it doesn't make

you stupider to just sit.

From the outside it looks like, oh, silly

people sitting and they'rewasting time.

But actually there is no time

to waste because we only have

moments in which to live.

And most of them we do miss because

we're on autopilot so much of the time.

This doesn't mean that your

stress is going to go away.

We call what we do,

mindfulness-based stress reduction.

And we did that for many reasons,

but most people, when they, someplace

in the middle of the eight weeks of

MBSR, they wind up having a kind of

enlightenment experience, so to speak.

This isn't stress reduction.

This is about my whole life.

And it's like we say, hmm, interesting.

Because it's not that the stress

reduction part of it is not important,

but it's not so much reducing your

stress that would be trying to

attain a certain kind of end point.

Desirable, yes.

And it doesn't mean you can't change

your life to reduce your stress, if there

are certain stressrs that are there,

but it's more that what you're really

changing is your relationship to stress

and to everything else in your life.

And once you know that, once you

practice it, once you exercise that

muscle on a daily basis, not just

like, over the weekend or something

like that, then everything that

arises becomes part of the curriculum.

And the real practice is

how you live your life.

Not just how long you sit in the

morning, or whether you do a body

scan lying down in bed before you

wake up, which I highly recommend.

Or just lying down meditation,

nevermind the body scan.

Just even four or five breaths

every morning when you wake up.

Be sure you actually wake up before you

jump out of bed because most of the time

you're on autopilot, brushing your teeth

mindlessly and running through the day.

But just that few breaths or

a few moments or 20 minutes

of waking up early and in bed.

So nobody can say, I

don't have time for this.

It's too uncomfortable to sit.

So these are a few of the sort

of pointers, but I think the

primal thing to emphasize is

remember what your motivation is.

If this is just the big fad for you,

everybody's talking about mindfulness,

now you have to become a meditator

on top of every other annoying thing

you have to acquire, then give it up.

Go to the gym.

Just run on a treadmill or

whatever, or chop vegetables.

If you do those mindfully,

then it's all practice.

You cannot escape from it.

And pretty soon you're going to die.

So, all of us are.

So the question is not like, some

people say like what happens after life?

And my question is really not

what happens after life, but

it's their life before death.

And that would require us to really

zero in on the actuality of our lives.

And then the pain, the suffering it's

still there, but our relationship to it

really can transform and that is wisdom.

It doesn't mean you won't get sick.

It doesn't mean that

tragedies don't happen.

It doesn't mean that things will

go the way you thought they were

when you mapped out your life

at the age of 15 or whatever.

But it means that you will find a way to

be that's authentic, that's true to you.

And then that almost

defines beauty, in my view.

And you can see it in people's

faces, even over eight weeks of

MBSR, faces change profoundly.

You can see it in front of your very

eyes, people becoming themselves and

the stress, the lines, the clenching

of the face somehow just dissolve..

But it's not by trying to do anything.

It's not like rather than

the Botox I'll take MBSR.

It's like, no, it has to be, this root

practice really needs to be practiced

for no reason, not to get someplace else.

This is very radical.

But to just, in some sense, the reason

is to just wake up to be, to not

miss your moments, because as I said,

sooner or later we're going to die.

And the real question is, have we lived?

Thoreau, our famous philosopher from

Concord, Massachusetts, famous for

having said, "I went to the woods,"

because he went off to the woods and

lived in a cabin for two years and just

watched the days unfold and the nights.

"I went to the woods because I wished

to live deliberately, to front only

the essential facts of life, and see

if I could not learn what they had

to teach, and not, when I came to

die, discover that I hadn't lived."

So, I like to say another way of

looking at the meditation is die now,

get it over with, and then all the

rest of our moments will be free.

And the funny thing is that when...


You die to your, to

those personal pronouns.


And you die now and then you find out that

all that's really left is the unfolding

miracle of life, which is, I think the

sacredness that Saki was speaking of.


And you can call that...

Oh, the interweb stopped in that moment.

Oh, we just had a tiny pause.

Yes, it did stop at that moment.

I was wondering whether I

should comment about it.

But that's part of the process, is it not?

I don't know why that...

But it makes it more real in a way.

And everybody watching can go, yeah.

This is just Skype and it

doesn't work all that well.

But it is a miracle.

I mean, 20 years ago, we could

not be doing this with hundreds of

thousands of people in real time.

And so there's a certain wonder and real

awe associated with the fact that we

can have these kinds of conversations.

And then the real question: is the

conversations are all fine, but it's

just talk unless the resonances that

are underlying what we're talking about,

we were talking about as the sacred

element of it or the beauty element or

the truth beyond truth element of it that

resonates with the core of our humanity.

When that's alive, then you

don't have to really do anything.

And that's what it means to practice.

And that's what it means to be.

So do this practice, trust the

practice and you find out, I guess,

that dimension unfolds by itself.


Let life be the teacher.

Life is the teacher.

Life is the curriculum.

And it's all the curriculum.

Not that it's all wanted,

and some of it's horrific.

But again, if I had to use one

word to describe mindfulness and

people often ask me that, I've come

to, my response is relationality.

So it's how are we in relationship

to whatever it is that unfolds,

including in the body, the breath,

the mind, thoughts, emotions,

likes, dislikes, pain, suffering.

And there's where the

degrees of freedom run.

Enormous degrees of freedom in that.

And then freedom is freedom.

Like it means freedom, non-attachment,

clarity, wisdom, and intrinsic kindness,

because you have seen and lived and

understood the interconnectedness of

everything so that we are not separate.

And I'm not talking about

Skype and the internet.

This is interconnectedness that goes

way beyond the Skype or the internet.

And the old ancient Buddhist

and Indian image of it is

what's called the Indra's net.

It's a model of the universe where

every single feature of the universe

is like a multifaceted jewel,

and in particular, creatures, and

in particular, human creatures.

And with multifaceted, and all of

us have many, many facets, and the

universe is basically the net reflecting

every facet and every other facets.

So we are completely

interconnected and inter-embedded.

And then the only natural

response to that is compassion.

Because you're not, again,

you're not who you think you are.

You're not even you.

We're all, sometimes the images

used are the waves on the ocean.

And individually rise.

We rise up and then soon gone.


But it's all life.

It's one ocean wave.

And so we can wave to each other

on Skype or on our cushions

when we're not on Skype.

And just with tuning into Indra's

net, you don't need a cable or

any other kind of technology.

And so there's one more

question that I'd love to...

I know what it is.

I now you know what it is because I

know you've been watching this summit.

I don't have the slightest idea

of what I would respond to it.

I'm not planning ahead.

Well,, I'll ask you

and see what comes out.

So, as you know it's been said

that mindfulness has the capacity

to change the world from the

inside out, one person at a time.

And I'm wondering...

Who said that by the way, as long

as we're saying it's been said?


Joseph Goldstein.

Oh good.



He's a wise man that man.

I love Joseph.


And so my question to you is do

you believe mindfulness has the

capacity to change the world?

And if so, what would that look like

do you think if mindfulness were

to hit some kind of critical mass?

Well, first of all, no, I don't believe

it because of what I said about belief.

So I know it.

I know it from direct personal experience.

And what does it mean to change the world?

I mean, if you're different,

the world is already different.

And you could say in a completely

trivial, insignificant way, but

because of the interconnectedness

of the universe and of all beings.

If you were transformed, the whole, what

I sometimes call crystal lattice structure

of all of humanity is already different.

And it's not trivial.

It's not insignificant.

And there've been many, many instances

where one person's conviction makes a huge

transformative difference in the world.

Even if that person winds up

being burned at the stake or

dying for their convictions.

So there's no question in my mind that

mindfulness, and I wouldn't be doing

what I was doing and writing books like

Coming To Our Senses, which are really

about, in some sense, the potential to

transform the world through mindfulness,

and a lot of that would be healing.

If I didn't know, in some sense, that

we were capable of this and that the

human species needs it in order to

grow into the name we gave ourselves,

homo sapiens sapiens from the Latin

sapere, which means to taste or to

know, and not to know conceptually with

the head, but to know in the sort of

deepest of ways, beyond the conceptual.

So with a species that knows and

knows that it knows or awareness

and meta awareness, and I think

that's a great name, but I don't

think we've quite lived into it yet.

We're a very, very new species

from an evolutionary point of view.

And of course we're capable of

completely obliterating ourselves

and everything else on the planet

except maybe cockroaches and bacteria.

They'll do fine.

But, yeah, we need to sort of wake up as

a species and we know we're capable of it.

And all the beauty that humanity is

capable of comes from when we live

inside that aspect of ourselves.

And all the horrors and the genocide

and the crime and the suffering on

this planet that comes out of the

human mind when it doesn't know

itself is just equally colossal.

So I'm not worried about how it will

look when the 1.2 billion people on

Facebook, and I'm not one of them.

And I'm not worried about when 1.2 billion

people or even sort of imagining what it

would be like when 1.2 billion people are

meditating, if you will, or are mindful.

I have no question that it will evolve

maybe very quickly in such a way that

it won't be easy, but that we'll find a

way to ride the vector of humility, of

humanity, of ethics, of non harming, of

wisdom, of compassion in ways that will

be beyond our imagination and create

institutions to really support that.

And laws that actually regulate

greed, hatred, and delusion.

So there you have it.

And I don't know how far away that is,

but I hope it's on the agenda for us.

And maybe it will be in our life time.

But that's one of the reasons to teach

mindfulness in the schools, because

when you learn that tuning of your own

instrument early on, and not as some

kind of belief system or anything like

that, then the potential good that can

unfold from it is really incalculable.

And there's so much

suffering on this planet.

And a lot of it, we do generate ourselves.

And if we could learn how to really serve

each other and be here for each other in

ways that are authentic and heartfelt and

heartful, then the world would I think

look more or less the way it does, but

we'd have more of those smiling faces.

I'll say one other thing, because

it just happened this week.

The parliament in the UK, as you may have

heard, as people may know, issued a report

that you called the Mindful Nation UK

after Tim Ryan's title of his book in the

United States, the Congressman from Ohio.

And they have been practicing mindfulness,

the House of Lords and the House of

Commons together for quite some time now,

several years and going through eight

week training programs in mindfulness.

And there's a long waiting list.

So this is remarkable that a parliamentary

governmental body would issue such a

report pointing to four areas in which

mindfulness really needs to be explored

much more and funded much more to do the

kind of groundwork to decide whether it's

up to the task in a practical way that

would really be valuable for the society.

And those areas are health, education,

criminal justice and business.

And so, wow.

That's quite extraordinary

that they have done that.

And I just send them

all a deep bow for this.

It's an all parliamentary report, which

means that all party parliamentary

report, which means that all the

parties like are represented themselves

in this commonality of purpose.

Now, I would love to imagine that that

were possible in the United States where

the antipathy between people who dress

up as donkeys and people who dress up as

elephants, or Democrats or Republicans,

for those of you who don't know that

much about the American politics.

And has reached a point where

it's basically dis dysfunctional

in ways that are creating huge

amounts of pain and suffering.

And most of it is driven by

greed, hatred and delusion.

The same for banking and many other

things that are really out of control

and we get the dregs of it, but

the amount of harm that's caused

by a non mindful, non-heartful,

non wakeful way of doing business.

The consequences for the environment,

for the planet for every aspect of

human life are just so great now.

And we know that that we have

to become more mindful of these

larger domains than just my body,

my breath, my success, my failure.

And again, it's not, there's nothing

wrong with the body, the breath,

success or failure, because there's

no success without many failures.

But the my is something that we

could actually really look at.

And if we do that as individuals

or as a species, we're going

to be in very, very good shape.

And I think this summit, and the

reason I agreed to be part of it is,

in some sense, an indicator or, how

should I put this, a signature of

what human beings are capable of.

I don't know where this came from in

you, but Joseph didn't call you up on

the phone and give you this idea, nor did

I, nor, I'm guessing, did anybody else.

It comes out of you.

And you see the beauty of that is insane

because it's distributed everywhere.

So everybody has the potential to

add to this conversation, to this

unfolding, to this flowering, to

this flourishing on the planet.

And the only way you

can do it is your way.

You can't pretend or

adopt someone else's way.

There are infinite number of ways

to practice mindfulness in ways

that are deluded and hopeless.

But there are also an infinite number of

ways to practice wise mindfulness or right

mindfulness, and there's no one right way.

So again, you've got to

do that interior work.

And I just love that we're all

in this together, so to speak.

Yeah and thank you so

much for bringing that up.

It's such a warm and open and

accommodating thing to bring

to the floor for people to know

that there's not a right way.

We're all very different, but it is

important to be authentic to ourselves

and to, as best we can, to embody the

practice and to live and breathe it.


And to not think that you're inadequate.

Of course you can think you're inadequate.

We all do.

Like I'm not the Buddha or I'm not

enlightened or all of that stuff.

And the irony is, from the non

dual Buddhist point of view,

you're already enlightened.

It's just that you don't know it

because you haven't yet woken up

or gotten out of your own way.

It's the I that's the problem,

not the enlightenment.

And maybe there are no enlightened

people when all is said and done.

Maybe what there are, are

only enlightening moments.

And the more we align ourselves with

that potential in ourselves, the more

things will move in a direction of

greater wisdom, compassion, and sanity,

and a kind of deep flourishing that will

take care of the fact that, hopefully

will take care of the fact that we

only have this home, this home planet.

And we have given it a fever and it has

its own dynamic now, and this is no joke.

And we're seeing it in the ferocity

of the storms and the slow increase

in the losing of the glaciers

and the ice caps, polar ice caps.

That's part of mindfulness practice too.

It's like we're all in this together.

And so what could be

more beautiful than that?

And there's where the, that whole thing

we were talking about it being not

trivial, that I'm just one person, that

I'm only little old me and how much, even

if I meditate, can I change the planet?

Your beauty is exactly

what the planet needs.

I like to say that every one of us

is a flower and the world needs all

of us to flower in our own ways.

And then in talking with each other and

working together and teaming up and making

things happen that we care about, because

this is not just about individuals, it's

about our interconnectedness socially.

It's about social justice.

It's about transforming our societies

and seeing how much pain is involved

in what we've talked about it before.

Racism and all sorts of isms that

ignore or degrade certain kinds of

people, because they're not like

me, all of that is potentially

healable if we wake up in this way.

Yeah, I think Blaise Pascal had

it right back all that time ago.

Yeah, exactly.

Except that I have to emphasize, because

sitting quietly in a room by yourself is

great and I do it and I've done it for

a very long time, relatively speaking.

But the real practice is how we live

our lives from moment to moment.

That's the real practice.

Not how much time your

ass is on the cushion.

That's essential.

It's necessary, but it's not sufficient.

And not just it's not sufficient

now because we have all these

global warming problems.

It was never sufficient.

It's an embodied way of being.

And so if you're a great meditator,

but you don't attend to your children

or to your parents, or to what needs

doing now and asking yourself what

requires doing now, or how should I

be in relationship to this moment or

this challenge, then you can go on

all the meditation retreats you like.

But I think that there's a certain way in

which it will be found to be incomplete.

And yet we do need people who go on

long meditation retreats and who are not

social activists and who just hold down

whatever it is that they're holding down.

But I'm not worried about it.

But I think that we need

all sorts of people.

And the only way that is really going

to change is if you find what you love.

Each one of us find what we love and

just give ourselves over to it and

then not claim any credit for it.

Thank you so much for that, Jon.

And I just want to also take this

opportunity to thank you so deeply for

the work that you've done in bringing

us more access to these teachings.

And also to so many of the other amazing

pioneers who've taken part in this summit.

Many of the people who have taken part

in this summit have done incredible

work to, for somebody like myself when

I wanted access to these teachings, they

were here for me because of the work that

yourself and a lot of other people did.

And that is just the most incredible gift.

So my heartfelt, heartfelt gratitude to

all of the pioneers and all of the people

who took part in this summit because it

was only because you believed in my crazy

idea that the summit ended up happening.

So thank you so much for believing

in this and for doing the work

that you do and continue to do.

My deepest, deepest, respect

and deep bow to you all.

Thank you.

I got to say, you've

become my teacher as well.

This whole process has

become part of my learning.

Many of the people who you've featured

over these past weeks are, literally,

my teachers, as well as metaphorically.

And some of them might be my students,

but they're also my teachers.

So again, an example of complete

interconnectedness and inter-embeddedness.

So I think from here, we're going

to be moving on to a livestream kind

of thing at some other to really

tie the bow on this whole month.

I feel incredible gratitude for

having the opportunity to engage in

that extended guided meditation and

inquiry together where we won't be

in conversation as I understand it.

So I want to just sort of, and I'll do

it sort of literally bow to you Melli

and to Matt, who's the other aspect of

this team, in making all the technology

happen, for everything that you've done

to create this and all the learning

that's gone on and some of the challenges,

the stress, the unpleasantness.

And so it's all part of

the flowering, so to speak.

And I feel really honored

to meet you in this way.

And a deep bow to you too, Jon.

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