First time I met "James Hillman was when I recorded him at the New York open center in the mid 1980's. When was the last time you associated mindfulness and the bone-crushing gridiron sport of football? Editor's Note from Diane Renz: Continued from Part 1, here is Part II of the eloquent interview with Jon Kabat Zinn (a leader in Mindfulness and founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), done by Tami Simon of Sounds True. So as [you] cultivate that, you get more and more at home in not having anything have to happen. Not knowing is a very, very beautiful way to be in relationship to things because most of what we know isn't true anyway. I mean, we're in such a bad economic situation that people are out there on the streets in so many different degrees of depravation.
I think that everybody has that beauty, but most of us live very far from it most of the time. So you know, I think that there is a certain way in which, in terms of social movements and in terms of politics, in terms of economics, in terms of medicine, in terms of education, in terms of the military, the world is responding to this. Tami Simon: Jon, if it's OK, I'd like to ask you a personal question about mindfulness in your life.
I mean, you can't touch without being touched, and by extension, all the senses are in some way relational. So there is a way in which we have, in the past couple of hundred years, drifted away from recognizing the reciprocity of all of the senses and all of all our various ways of knowing.
Tami Simon: You've done this tremendous work in helping introduce meditation, calling it mindfulness to a mainstream audience.
You know, I think one of the hurdles that people [often] talk about is, "How can I really introduce mindfulness in a deep way, where people are really resting in awareness, if people want everything spontaneously?" You know, McFastfood-like?
Well, I'm not sure exactly how to answer that except, you know, I work with hundreds, I would say thousands of colleagues around the world now who teach MBSR and the vast majority of them—you know, you can't teach it Jon Kabat-Zinn's way. But one of the things that we've discovered over time is that mainstream Americans will take to this like ducks to water. When people understand that, then life itself becomes both the meditation teacher and the meditation practice. And not only that: I just got back from China where I was teaching for two weeks and had the privilege of actually going to a Zen monastery that is about 800 years old. And they want to know about the science of it, and how it changes the brain and all of that kind of stuff, which we haven't really talked about, but which is a huge part of why it's moved so fast into the mainstream. Tami Simon: If you were able to just say the one or two discoveries from science that you think have made the biggest difference in terms of impressing people about the power of mindfulness, what would it be—just the biggest highlights?
But I did a study a number of years ago with people with the skin disease psoriasis, showing that if they meditated while they were receiving ultraviolet light treatment for their psoriasis, that their skin healed four times as fast as if they were just getting the ultraviolet light by itself. The other, I would say, is all this brain research that's coming out that's showing not only changes in the activity of the very important regions of the brain that have to do with learning, that have to do with memory, that have to do with executive function and decision-making and emotion regulation. So in eight weeks, in MBSR, they're seeing thickening in various regions of the hippocampus and certain regions of the insula and the neocortex, and then the thinning of the amygdala. I think that we can really help each other in this regard, rather than this being about self-improvement or anything like that. Here you have got [that idea] that it takes almost [until] adulthood for the brain to completely wire itself. At the same time, because there's no denying that we're now in a digital age, make use of the technology in age-appropriate ways that don't lose the beauty of the analogue.
Jon Kabat-Zinn: [Laughs] I feel like a grandfather with a very big family and a very big smile on my face.
That said, I'm not trying to shirk responsibility for, you know, my sort of personal role in it, so to speak. So actually, it requires this kind of commitment to the love affair over an extended period of time, because otherwise, it's just conceptualizing a new, wonderful thing that you have to get hold of and you're missing and that when you get it, you'll be a better person.
Sounds True was founded in 1985 by Tami Simon with a clear mission: to disseminate spiritual wisdom. Sounds True exists to inspire, support, and serve personal transformation and spiritual awakening. Sounds True is an independent multimedia publishing company that embraces the world's major spiritual traditions, as well as the arts and humanities, embodied by the leading authors, teachers, and visionary artists of our time.
The mission of Sounds True is to find teachers and artists who serve as a gateway to spiritual awakening and to produce, publish, and distribute their work with beauty, intelligence, and integrity. Oprah and Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, offer an introduction to mindfulness meditation and the benefits it can bring to our everyday lives.
Subscribe to O, The Oprah Magazine for up to 72% OFF what others pay on the newsstand — that's like getting 19 FREE issues! Kabat-Zinn takes the listener to his Massachusetts Stress Reduction Clinic for demonstrations of sitting, prone, and standing meditation, as well as testimonials from stressed-out patients who found some peace through his program. He is professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, founder of its Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society and of the world-renowned mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) clinic. Jon is able to converse on the deepest level offering his decades of insights that are born from his own full practicing of Mindfulness.
It's very interesting to me how you teach mindfulness, at least in the approach in the Sounds True program Mindfulness for Beginners, where you start by teaching people how to pay attention to something they're eating and then to the breath, and then to the feeling in their body, and then, as we have been talking about, being aware of thoughts, emotions. And not having to have to push anything away or pursue anything just because it comes around as nice or not nice, pleasant or unpleasant. I was walking by somebody who was panhandling, and that happens a lot where I happen to be at the moment, but he wasn't actually panhandling. And in part, as I said starting out, it is responding in part because we are literally starving for some kind of profound experience of authenticity and inner belonging and harmony that we're not going to find outside ourselves.


What gets you out of that seat of awareness and all caught up and bundled up in what's happening? And here in our conversation, you have talked about a mindfulness practice as a love affair, and I wonder if you can talk some about that—this affectionate attention? Well thanks for pointing that out, because it's very important to me and I think to most people who practice. If you don't think that when you see that you're being seen by the world—well, you may not feel that way if you're living in New York City where everybody averts eye contact.
But once you realize that we are completely embedded in an interconnected world, in that and every other way, then the only real response is a sense of profound appreciation or affection for the fact that we are not separate. It's no more demanding than going out and working at a job that you don't like to put food on the table for your children. You know, hundreds and thousands if not millions of people are tasting this and actually going the distance with it. I don't like to make brash proclamations about what's true because probably we will need another 30, 40 or 100 years to sort it all out, if not more. If these results turn out to be true, it is really demonstrating (and the irony is that it's through meditation research) that the human brain is really an organ of experience and it responds to experience by changing its own structure. I mean, on the days that we feel depressed or out of sorts, I think we need to really remember that we're miraculous beings. I'm not that privy to the absolute cutting-edge latest stuff that still hasn't been published. We make use of, without becoming slaves to or addicts of, the digital world, and then that is where I think the generator lies for this renaissance that I was talking about.
The only way I can answer that question is to say that it I feel tremendous gratitude and privilege. I can't have this conversation without your heart and your mind and the sort of care and attention that you've given to the questions and helping me want to respond to them in the ways that I have. He's the author of a new book with an accompanying CD of guided practices called Mindfulness for Beginners.
Since starting out as a project with one woman and her tape recorder, we have grown into a multimedia publishing company with more than 80 employees, a library of more than 600 titles featuring some of the leading teachers and visionaries of our time, and an ever-expanding family of customers from across the world.
Each category is under the supervision of dedicated editors who are passionate about their topic and believe that raising people's awareness is one way to make a difference in the world. He shares with Oprah how mindfulness meditation can be used to help manage stress, anxiety, pain and chronic illness. There is this shift that happens in the final practice, where now we've learned how to be aware of something that we might put in our mouth, objects.
But I don't actually think of it as an advanced practice at all because, [like] I said at the beginning, there is only one awareness.
Like we might know that we don't like somebody, but as I was saying, shift something just slightly and you might like the person. And we're not out best selves much of the time, and then we act in ways that betray even our own self interests and get us into more trouble or alienate other people. And so from that sense, I certainly hope that you're right that we're coming into an age of mindfulness and that is beginning affect social movements. The irony being that the things that I get busy [with] all have to do with mindfulness, but too much busyness is not mindful and is not a good thing. But if you tried to spend the night in the rainforest in the Amazon, say, you'll have the feeling that you're being seen, not just that you're seeing. And it's also a radical act of self-compassion, because you know, it's like giving myself a break.
So everybody in some sense is actually manifesting their own being in training people in the curriculum of MBSR. I mean, there are so many things that we all do and don't recognize that we do in a disciplined way. You have to find your own way, and life being the teacher will show you every time you get caught, every time you get hung up, every time you get attached. And so you have these monks who ordinarily might be thought of [as] separating themselves from the world and meditating in caves or sort of monastic settings, and they are actually making themselves available by telephone and on the web to actually be in contact with people who are suffering, who have no interest, maybe in Jon or Buddhism or anything like that. But to just say from a very personal point of view, one study that I did that is being replicated now hopefully in a couple of places, showed (and I haven't used the word very much at all in our conversation, if at all) healing is a big part of this.
But if you're meditating while you're receiving the ultraviolet light, your skin clears four times as fast.
And its structure is the most complex structure in the known universe, and consists of over a hundred billion neurons, and neurons are only half the population of the human brain.
No matter what the science ends up finding, there is far more right with us than wrong with us, and we really need to seize the moments that we have, which is always and only this one.
In talking about the scientific research, because I know that you're in there working directly with scientists, do you see any discovery that we may be on the verge of that would really shift our appreciation of the power of mindfulness even further? But I think that if I were to guess, I would say that it was going to come in the area of the developing brain and in the whole field of early-childhood and childhood education and learning. It is our goal to create products that not only provide information to a reader or listener, but that also embody the essential quality of a wisdom transmission between a teacher and a student.
We work flexibly and efficiently together to create a cooperative, loving environment that honors respectful authenticity and individual growth.
They also discuss his books, including the best-sellers Wherever You Go, There You Are and Coming to Our Senses. The Watch OWN app is free and available to you as part of your OWN subscription through a participating TV provider. The more comfortable we get at inhabiting it, the easier it is to see its full implications, part of which is [that] there is now the edge to awareness.


So it's always about me and I, me, and mine (the personal pronouns) to a much more, as you were suggesting, body-centered field of awareness that doesn't have to have a narrative or doesn't have to believe its own narrative or take it seriously. So this is actually giving yourself a great gift, and it's not like you have to practice for a certain number of minutes every day or the same time every day.
They have a 1500-year tradition of it, and yet they are inspired by how it's manifesting in the West. But they are suffering and the monks are trying to find modern ways of taking their practice and bringing it out into the world that would be of benefit.
As you know, it is just having gigantic repercussions including enlivening all the meditation traditions because now they actually have a new way of speaking about the benefits of their thousands-of-years-old practice or practices.
The implications of that are enormous because it means that the mind can actually influence a healing process that you can see and photograph and measure down to the level of what has to be gene expression and cell replication. And make maximal use of it without blaming our own circumstances or other people for why we're not living up to our own potential or whatever. We are, in some sense, identifying with ourselves in far too small a way as human beings, and we do need to recognize our own individual and unique genius and then nurture it.
So the unfolding of this kind of thing is a distributive phenomenon that doesn't really have a leader or leadership. Well, that's a nice thing to say ,and it's not untrue, but it's only the hardest thing in the world to be a little bit more in the present moment and a little bit less judgmental.
Through Sounds True, Jon Kabat-Zinn has also created a program, Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief, specifically guided practices with people working with chronic pain. We maintain a healthy level of profitability so that we are an independent and sustainable employee-owned organization. Since respectful discourse is an excellent way to learn and grow, we welcome comments on articles and your participation on the Forums.
And I would like to know, in your experience of teaching people, how you help people make that shift. But there was something about the feeling of moving passed him that I felt like I did not want to pass him by. But when you live in that kind of a way—and without romanticizing it in any way, and I'm certainly not romanticizing him or myself or the practice of mindfulness. But that's an art form that I have not developed as far as it might be developed, I'll tell you that. It's not some kind of cold clinical perspective [where] we're taking on things as you would if you were just thinking about things. So we die to the attachment, including to the attachment of me being special and me being the center of the universe. That is simply how we already are, and it's more a question of getting out of our own way and allowing it to wash through and over us in the same way as the breath is washing through us and washing over us.
I mean, those are all nice and helpful supports, but the real meditation practice is how you live your life from moment to moment. This has implication for skin cancer and all sorts of things like that, because there are genes that are related between psoriasis and basal-cell carcinoma. A large part of that nurturing is by nurturing each other and not being self-preoccupied and self-involved.
And really nurture those different forms of intelligence and genius that all children have.
The world is instantaneously different in ways that may be infinitesimally small, but not at all insignificant. And so you know, when I get too many deadlines, too many things that need to be done in too short a period of time, then luckily, one of the side effects of this kind of meditation practice is that I can be unbelievably concentrated and focused and get huge amounts of stuff done.
It's actually experiencing a sense of being in relationship to everything that is being experienced because the reality is all relational.
And you could very well be being tasted, too, by small creatures, as well as potentially [be] lunch for big creatures.
We just have no more awareness of that than we have of how beautiful life is and how deeply connected we are to all of it.
They are doing remarkable things with their own meditation practice in China that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.
Or if a raindrop fell through, or if there was a cloud coming and going, or turbulence in the atmosphere, anything like that. And then you realize that there's no being alone because you're part of this warp and woof of life that doesn't end at the boundaries of our skin. And I really do feel that that is a love affair with life, and with the preciousness of our moments. And they want to have these kinds of conversations with Western scientists and breathe, in a sense, new life into their own dharma practice.
A field of awareness would know whatever is moving in the field of awareness, but it has its own sort of ground condition of just being the sky, just being awareness and not the objects of awareness. Most of us, very often, when we're in our default thinking mode, we're blasting through our moments to get to better moments, and then [we're] realizing when we die, if we're lucky, that we haven't lived. You know, they experience it, but there's never been the vocabulary established in school or anywhere else for actually talking about this stuff.



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