Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Jeff Wilson's "Mindful America"

Jeff Wilson is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and East Asian Studies at Renison University College (University of Waterloo). He is the author of Mourning the Unborn Dead: A Buddhist Ritual Comes to America (2009) and Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South (2012).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Mindful America: The Mutual Transformation of Buddhist Meditation and American Culture, and reported the following:
Mindfulness is everywhere in America these days: from yoga studios to couple counseling to the military. When I set out to examine this enormous, multi-faceted phenomenon (and industry), I intended to look at various case studies, such as mindful eating, mindful parenting, and mindful work. But as I explored further, I found that certain patterns in the American transformation of Buddhist meditation were of greatest interest to me.

One of the most important of those is the medicalization of mindfulness, whereby this practice is extracted from its original ascetic, monastic, religious context and re-conceptualized in a therapeutic, scientific, and practical mode. So it’s fitting that page 99 of Mindful America falls squarely in the midst of my discussion of this redefinition. On this page I’m walking the reader through several of the important outgrowths of mindfulness, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and I’m noting the input from both Asian monastic teachers and medical researchers of mindfulness.

Much of the page is taken by a quote from a book that advocates mindfulness practice for therapists so that they will be more effective in their responses with their clients. As I sum up the matter:
What we see here is that the therapist has become so mindful that she is in complete synch with the client. These seemingly Buddha-like powers of mindfulness enable her to discern the inner reaches of the body and mind via total attention, greatly assisting the process of healing sought through therapy.
I should hasten to add that I’m not actually confirming the assertion that mindfulness really does enhance the therapist’s effectiveness-- I’m just describing my subject’s viewpoint. This chapter is important, but it doesn’t necessarily contain the most interesting aspects of my project. There’s arguably more spark to chapter five, which talks about mindful sex, or chapter five, which delves into the marketing of mindfulness, for instance.
Learn more about Mindful America at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Dixie Dharma.

--Marshal Zeringue