Monday, August 18, 2008

A speech by Kabat-Zinn

I tried to wrap my head around a few ideas that were once inspirational. This morning I watched an online video of Thich Nhat Hanh, then a related video of Jon Kabat-Zinn describing Mindfulness to a room full of Google employees. Hahn and Kabat-Zinn are easy targets for criticism, quite honestly, and I have a few points I'd like to level at them. But Jon Kabat-Zinn makes a good polished presentation and it is hard not to like the guy after hearing him. His speech is liberally laced with anecdotal references. At one point (15:45 in the video) he gives a humorous, though very illustrative, anecdote when he quotes an old teacher who while meditating says through broken English as he slowly exhales "Who am I?... Don't know..." And he is not afraid to use self depreciation to remove any defenses people put up in the face of strange ideas. At one point (36:24) he begins to speak about awareness in somewhat flowery language, then adds "and not in any grandiose new age bullshit kind of way". I was reminded of Janwillem Van de Wetering, who during an interview (6:00 in the audio recording) described the monks he stayed with while in Japan as a bunch of wise guys. He actually liked them quite a bit.

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