In his magnum opus, Coming to Our Senses, Jon Kabat-Zinn cautions against “bloviated rhetoric” and offers an approach to living based in mindfulness. I hold a great deal of respect and affection for Jon Kabat-Zinn. I am part of a movement he founded, or perhaps it was the Buddha who founded this movement, some 2500 years ago. And it is not a movement at all. At least not in the typical sense we understand a movement to be. I first met Jon Kabat-Zinn in Boston during the summer of 1993. He spoke at a Harvard conference on mind-body medicine. What he said made perfect sense to me. I’d been meditating Vipassana for several years by then. Mindfulness-based stress reduction. Of course. Eight years later, I bumped into him again. Not him specifically, more accurately what he had set in motion – the Center For Mindfulness. By 2001, Jon had retired to work on Coming to Our Senses and continue to speak, write, and research about mindfulness. I did the Professional Internship Program at the Center For Mindfulness, and after this experience decided to take Exquisite Mind into the community, instead of just corporate environments. The following year, I attended the first annual Mindfulness in Healthcare, Medicine, and Society conference. While there, I had the chance to meditate and do yoga with Jon, and to speak with him briefly. I told him how I appreciated all that he has done, as did, I am sure, the hundreds of others in attendance at the conference. At some level, I understand him intuitively (after all we are fellow Jewbhus), and at another level, he is an enigma – solid and transparent at the very same time. He is that rare person who can eschew notoriety and maintain an impeccable presence. Very curious. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) started as a demystified and stripped down, Worcester, Massachusetts version of the Buddha’s teachings. In the ensuing years since 1979, the sense that MBSR teaches dharma has become more accessible.
I went to Barnes & Noble one evening to purchase Coming to Our Senses. I didn’t expect it to be a tome – some 656 pages! I got intimidated and left the store empty handed (after all, look how many other books I already have cracked open). I just read the cliff notes version in an excellent article appearing in the Shambhala Sun.
Principle 5 of my 7 Principles of Applied Mindfulness comes directly from Jon and his example – teach what you can own. Jon taught by learning. He makes it very clear that in order to teach MBSR one should have a daily sitting practice and have sat at least two 10-day retreats. I have two such retreats under my belt (ignoring the fact that I kicked and screamed throughout each of the 20 days!). The Center For Mindfulness has not trademarked MBSR. I teach a version of it, as do hundreds of other professionals worldwide. And I suspect we each teach it with our own imprimatur. My imprimatur is the Strident Self (and future blog entries will be devoted to this important topic).