Mindfulness, Stress Reduction, and Healing – Jon Kabat-Zinn


AIMEE CHRISTIANSEN:
Welcome, everyone. My name is Aimee Christiansen
and I’m working on climate change for google.org. And my good friend Meng asked
me to do the introduction to Jon Kabat-Zinn, and I’m
honored to have the opportunity to do so. But I first wanted
to thank Meng for organizing this event. It’s such a special occasion,
and I thought that Meng’s title was especially appropriate given
that he’s known as Jolly Good Fellow here at Google. It best captures John’s
teachings. So just a little bit of
background on his bio. Jon Kabat-Zinn is a scientist,
writer, and meditation teacher engaged in bringing mindfulness
into the mainstream of medicine
and society. He’s professor of medicine
emeritus at University of Massachusetts Medical School
where he was founding executive director of the Center
for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and
Society, as well as founder and former director of its
world renowned stress reduction clinic, which, I don’t
know about you guys, but I could use a little
bit of that now. I’m looking forward to this. He’s authored many books,
including Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of
Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, as
well as Wherever You Go, There You Are, the book that
introduced me to him. Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s work has
contributed to a growing movement of mindfulness into
mainstream institutions in our society, including medicine,
health care, schools, corporations, and perhaps
even here at Google. Dr. Kabat-Zinn received his
Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT in 1971, and his
research focused on mind-body interactions with healing and
various clinical applications of mindless meditation, training
for people with chronic pain and stress
related disorders. We’re hoping that his teachings
will help all of us to not only optimize our mental
output for Google but also optimize our quality
of life wherever we are. So welcome, John. Thank you. JON KABAT-ZINN: Well, thank
you for that very sweet introduction. And it’s wonderful for
me to be here. I’ve never been here before
and it does feel like an interesting planet to be on. I’m just feeling my way. But I, too, want to express
my gratitude to Meng for inviting me. And I understand that I’m
part of a much larger scheme in his mind. How many of you heard Alan
Wallace talk when he was here some time ago? Not that many. So we’re covering a very broad
spectrum because I’m sure a lot of people showed
up for his talk. And then Paul Ekman is going
to come in May, I’m told. And Paul Ekman is also involved
in this kind of work in another way, some of which
I’ll explain to you when I get to the slides. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] JON KABAT-ZINN: What’s that? And Matthieu Ricard, whose face
you’ll see in some of the photographs I’ll be showing,
is coming next week, and I highly recommend
you to see him. We have sort of a parallel
background in that I was a student of Salvador Luria’s at
MIT, who won the Nobel Prize early on in the history
of molecular biology. And he was a graduate student
at the same time at the Pasteur institute in Paris,
France with Francois Jacob, who was a close friend
of Luria’s. And then he happened to go off
to Nepal and was so struck by what he felt from the Tibetan
meditation teachers that he met there that he gave up
molecular biology and has been a monk for 40 years. But now, as you’ll see, he’s
been engaged in a larger enterprise to do science on
meditative experience and look at the neuroscience of what
happens in the brain when people have been meditating for
very long periods of time and with tremendous motivation
and intensity. So it sounds like there’s
something of a sequence of speakers coming to Google that
are in some way all pointing to some hidden dimension of
reality that’s in some way hidden to us, in other ways
completely self-evident. But when it isn’t self-evident, it is really opaque. And I like to think of it as
an orthogonal dimension– that is, rotated 90 degrees
in relationship to conventional reality– but one that allows in quantum
mechanics, for instance, as I understand it, an orthogonal
relationship allows, actually, two different entities
to occupy the same space at the same time. And in the mind, that is a very,
very useful feature to actually bring online
as opposed to leave just as potential. So I’m going to be talking
from a number of different angles. I entitled the talk, after
talking with Meng about it, Mindfulness, Stress Reduction,
and Healing, because that’s what a huge amount of our work
in the past 28 at the UMass Medical Center has been about. But there’s another parallel
element to it, and it partly depends on how you feel about
stress and stress reduction. But when we use the word stress
reduction, we’re not talking about some kind of dime
store relaxation attempts to calm people down and just
make them feel a little bit better so that they can work
a little bit harder. We’re talking about, actually, a
transformation in the way in which we relate to our lives, to
our bodies, to our calling, to our loves, to our ambition,
and so forth, so that we can live lives of balance and
fundamental, profound satisfaction. And I believe that’s true
for human beings, that that is possible. And I think that a lot of time,
the society entrains us, if we don’t do it ourselves,
into severe imbalances that can sometimes be unbelievably
addictive, intoxicating, and wonderful on one level, and on
the other hand, maybe actually draining your life’s blood on
another level or killing you. And so, in a certain way,
metaphorically speaking, I would say that in this society,
we seem to more and more be dying for some authentic
door into ourselves in a way that’s bigger than just
what usually defines us. And that’s not to deny the
beauty of what we often do, how creative we can be, how
important it is to– I mean, at a place like this
where you’re basically redefining the world and the
universe in ways that potentially are tremendously
healing for the planet. But to have this be, in some
sense or other, held in a kind of awareness that ordinarily,
we’re just not taught in school and that requires a
certain kind of intimacy in cultivation in order
to be able to have it more at our disposal. So if we’re going to start
with stress and stress reduction– periodically, Time magazine and
Newsweek and so forth put stress right up there
on front because– I mean, I started the stress
reduction clinic in 1979. And when I think back to 1979,
I say to myself, 1979– what stress? Because of you folks and people
like you, I can get more work done in a day than I
used to be able to get done in a month, and it’s
far better work. But it still has a cost. Do
you know what I’m saying? Because then the expectation
is– not just from other people but from myself– that I will just be– so the digital revolution
already has catapulted us into a condition where increasingly,
there’s no end to the work day. There’s no end to
the work week. And so there’s a way in which
work can encroach all of life. And if you love work more than
anything else in the world, hey, no problem with that. And there have always
been people like that on the planet– scientists, musicians– where it’s all that. But there’s also potential
costs to pay in terms of burnout, in terms of addiction,
in terms of overdosing, so that you’re not
actually tapping into the creativity that maybe
you once were. And it requires more and more
effort to get the certain kind of return, as opposed to less
effort, more dance. But for 20 or 25 years, there
has been a lot of research being done epidemiologically,
what the effects of various kinds of risk factors on human
health, mentally and physically? Everybody knows smoking is a big
thing in this society, to actually demonstrate that
cigarette smoking is not good for your health. And in 1964, the Surgeon
General’s report actually came out and said that. So there’s that and there’s
high blood pressure and there’s high cholesterol and all
sorts of risk factors for coronary disease, for
cancer and so forth. But stress was always considered
not measuring up to a bona fide risk factor. But a couple years ago at UCSF,
in the laboratory of Liz Blackburn, Elissa Epel, who
actually happens to be a mindfulness teacher but is a
young assistant professor at UCSF, did a study looking at the
rate at which the repeat subunits at the ends of all of
our chromosomes, which are called telomeres and which are
required for every cell division in every cell in our
body that divides, that it turns out that long-term chronic
stress can accelerate the rate of telomere degradation
enormously. And so if you have ever heard
the words coming out of your mouth after a particularly
horrific experience, “god, that one just took years
off my life,” it turns out it’s true. Because the telomeres, once they
degrade, the cells can’t divide any more. So if stress increases the rate
of telomere degradation, I mean, you can’t get more
somatic and molecular than that in terms of evidence that
stress has, potentially, if it’s not mitigated, the
consequence of basically increasing aging. And I’m not going to go into the
study in any great detail. It was published in the PNAS– Proceedings of the National
Academy of Science– in 2004. But just to say that they did
this study on parents of children with chronic medical
problems that are basically not going to get better. So it just doesn’t get any
more stressful than that kind of thing. It’s not like, well, at a
certain point, I’ll get to go on vacation or this will
evolve in some way. No, that’s just going to be
the way it is for life. But they actually took parents
who didn’t have chronically ill children, which are the
blue points, and what they found was that they were also
showing telomere degradation. And what really mattered was how
much stress they thought they were under. They were under a lot less
stress than the other parents, objectively speaking. But if you think you’re under
absolutely intolerable levels of stress, you create
that reality. But that’s a very positive
finding because it says, if you change your relationship
to your perception of the stress, then you could actually,
potentially, reduce the rate of telomere
degradation. And now, every study on
meditation has thrown in the telomerase assay and so forth
now, and we don’t know any results yet. But looking to see whether
training in a course of meditation over a period of time
might actually slow or restore to normal, say, the rate
of telomere degradation. So I just want to throw that out
to you because there’s so many exciting things going on
in the field nowadays about that kind of thing. But I want to make some pretty
fundamental points here. If you stare at that word for
too long, it doesn’t mean anything, as you know. But I want to make a distinction
between how much doing we know we do
and– what’s that? AUDIENCE: Doing. JON KABAT-ZINN: Doing. Yes, if you’re Swedish,
it’s doing. How much doing we wind up doing
over the course of the day, as opposed to what you
could call, and the Chinese might call, non-doing, or what
I like to call “being.” We’re called human beings. But it might be more
appropriate, the cliche goes, for us to rename ourselves
“human doings” because we seem to be very much doing
all the time. And often, the doing is coming
out of the head, but not necessarily coming out
of the heart or coming out of the body. And so it’s, in some sense,
disembodied doing. And over time, even the greatest
doing, disembodied, can get you into real trouble
at the level of the body and its health but also at the
level of our human relationships. Have I lost the audience
already? Or am I making some
sense here? OK, because a lot of this is
going to be impressionistic. In the amount of time I have,
I’m not going to be able to go into this in tremendous
detail. But what I’m going to be doing
is trying to point you at some places where you’ll be able
to verify this or not for yourself on the basis of your
own experience just by paying attention in a certain kind of
way that ordinarily we don’t. And if you want a brief
definition of meditation, it’s about paying attention. It’s got nothing to do with
Buddhism, mysticism, the East, the West. It’s about
paying attention. So by virtue of the fact that
it’s about paying attention, it universalizes it. It’s about something that’s
totally universal. And it’s not attention
for its own sake. It’s attention for the sake of
a profound capacity that we all have innately that we
ordinarily never pay any attention to. And that is awareness. And I’m going to argue that
awareness has a way of balancing out thought in ways
that are profoundly intuitive and also profoundly creative. And we were would never
taught that in school. Were were only taught to think
in school, and we get better and better at being critical
thinkers, but we are not so good at holding our thoughts
and emotions and sensations and relationships in ways that
have coherence, groundedness, the potential for greater
satisfaction, balance, and, if you will, happiness. And Matthieu Ricard is going
to talk on happiness. And he’ll come in his very
colorful Tibetan robes. And Matthieu is the real thing,
so you’re going to really enjoy him, and I urge
you not to miss him. So we call what we do “mind-body
medicine.” We’ve been calling it that for
a very long time. Finally, the media has
picked up on that. Because from the very beginning,
we’ve been trying to actually transform
medicine. Medicine itself is suffering
from some serious chronic diseases. You may have realized that in
your own encounters with the medical profession. And so we’re, in some sense,
trying to breathe new life into medicine, and through
science and through some other ways, get it back to its
Hippocratic roots and not lose the art of medicine while we’re
developing the science of medicine. I’ll just point out in passing,
the word meditation and the word medicine sound a
little bit alike in English, don’t they? And there’s a very, very deep
root meaning that they share, and that makes it not quite
so weird that we would be bringing meditation into the
mainstream of medicine. Whereas, it could have been
thought 30 years ago that it’s tantamount to the Visigoths
being at the citadel and about to tear down the gates of
the city and so forth. Far from it, meditation has now
become completely accepted within mainstream medicine
the past 30 years. And I’ll show you some
evidence of that. This is basically a photograph
of a 150 doctors and other health professionals being
trained in mindfulness in one of our professional
training retreats. I just got back from another
one last week. And what we call
mindfulness-based stress reduction is spread– this map is 10 years old. And by the way, I’d just like to
pitch– this is the perfect environment to do it. If any of you folks can put me
in touch with software that I can put points on a map
at will, I would that. Without the coordinates. Just name the city and
it shows up on my map of the world. I’m looking for it. And I’m serious. I’d love that. So this is a poster of a daylong
seminar that was held at the National Institutes
of Health at their giant auditorium in the Natcher
Conference Center, right on the grounds of the NIH in 2004
called Mindfulness Meditation and Health. And what I want to say is, from
the perspective of 1979 when I started the stress
reduction clinic, the idea that the National Institutes of
Health would hold a daylong symposium entitled Mindfulness
Meditation and Health, it’s more infinitesimally improbable
than that the big bang would stop expanding
and the universe would begin to collapse. I mean, this is like a huge
sea change at the NIH. And they are now funding studies
of meditation in the range of between $10
million and $100 million at the moment. And are really interested in
this, in part because the more you can teach people how to take
care of themselves as a complement to what the health
care system can do, the cheaper it is and the
more effective. Because then what you’re doing
is you’re creating a participatory medicine as
opposed to an auto mechanic’s model of medicine. And we mostly practice auto
mechanic’s in medicine. So this is another stream
of it that I just want to point out. I’m part of a group
of people– Matthieu is as well– called the Mind and Life
Institute, which has been around since 1987 and which
holds periodic conversations between Western scientists and
the Dalai Lama and other Eastern contemplatives on
subjects of mutual interest having to do with, basically,
two things. The nature of mind and the
nature of reality and how these different streams and
epistemologies and way of knowing might actually inform
each other if they have conversations together. And these have all been
private meetings. I’ll show you some photographs
of them in a bit over the years, except that His Holiness
then, at a certain point, said, “I want to have
more people be able to attend these meetings.” So we held a
public one at MIT in 2003. You probably read about it in
the New York Times Magazine about that time. And that was on neuroscience
and meditation. And at that MIT meeting, at
least 90% percent of the questions were about the
clinical applications of meditation. So we decided we had to have a
second public meeting, Science and Clinical Applications
of Meditation. And that was held in Washington
with twice as many people as the MIT meeting,
so about 3,000 people in November of 2005. And I also want you to note,
from the point of view of the sea change in medicine, that
it’s co-sponsored by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine,
which is the oldest, most venerated school of medicine
in the country, and Georgetown. So they no longer are in
foxholes, not wanting to be associated with either the
subject of meditation or with somebody wearing
Buddhist robes. However, originally we were
going to do it on the NIH campus, and they just couldn’t
handle that because it would look like the National
Institutes of Health was promoting Buddhism if the Dalai
Lama stepped on there. And so we took it
out of the NIH. So now I’m going to give you a
brief parentheses and speak about the Mind and Life
Institute just so you have a sense of this and a kind of
parallel universe of what’s going on here, especially since
Matthieu is coming in. This is Matthieu Ricard. And this is the 17th Karmapa,
who is, I think in that picture, 17 or 18 years old. And in Tibetan Buddhism,
everybody is the incarnation of everybody else. They’ve been family
for a long time. And this is one of the Mind and
Life meetings where lots of monks come. And Here’s His Holiness, and
His Holiness’s translator, Thubten Jinpa. And then Alan Wallace, who
was speaking here a month or two ago. And then, the Karmapa. And His Holiness, one of the
reasons the Karmapa is part of it is that, being 17 or 18 years
old, His Holiness is hoping that he would get
interested in science because the Dalai Lama is very
interested in science. He’s just really into science
and engineering. And you can read about his
history in that regard. But it’s just a natural
scientific curiosity. And if you spend days in a room
with him talking about science, he’s always
interrupting the presentations and saying, “But have you
thought about doing this?” And they say, “Well, Your Holiness,
that’s the next study that we decided to do.”
So he’s right up there. Even though he’s only had, like,
a high school education, formally, in terms of science,
he’s really well read and also extremely well tutored by some
Nobel Laureates and so forth. So he’s got this love
for science. And this is, let’s see,
a bunch of scientists. This is Steven Chu, who is a
Nobel Laureate in physics, who is now doing molecular
biology. Eric Lander, from MIT, from the
Broad Center, who may very well win the Nobel Prize
for some element of– AUDIENCE: Steven was here
just last week. JON KABAT-ZINN: Who was? AUDIENCE: Steve. JON KABAT-ZINN: Oh, Steve
Chu was here last week? Well, what do you know? So it’s a very tightly-woven,
interembedded family that, no doubt, Google– I mean, where is Google not? But this is a sort of framework
about it, in these private conversations. And we dialogue. It’s a real dialogue, an
inquiry, and very beautiful. And every one of these
has a book come out. So you can find them
on Google and read them if you have time. And this is a picture of the
meeting in Washington where I’m presenting to His
Holiness about mindfulness-based stress reduction. And here’s Matthieu, Ajahn
Amaro from the Theravadin Buddhist tradition, and Richard
Davidson, who’s the head of the Keck Laboratory
for Neural Imaging at the University of Wisconsin and
a collaborator of mine. And to just say, for those young
scientists here who are interested in this interface,
for whatever reasons that I couldn’t even imagine but the
maybe you could, because mostly we’re talking about
neuroscience and behavioral medicine and things like that,
but it may be Google people who could add a whole other
element to this thing. We hold periodic, every summer,
summer research institutes at the Garrison
Institute in New York City. And this is an example just of
us being in conversation with a bunch of young faculty and
graduate students and even undergraduates in neuroscience
and medicine and clinical psychology on these deeply
interesting questions of what we can learn from each other. So that’s the end of
the parentheses. If you track just the number
of scientific papers in the literature on meditation, it’s
beginning to look like it’s going exponential. And this is the University of
Massachusetts Medical Center, where the work that I’m going
to describe comes from. So we call what we do mindfulness-based stress reduction. What is mindfulness? I had a friend of mine make
some calligraphies for me. And then, when I went to China
for the first time to talk, I thought, well, I’m going to have
all these calligraphies. I’d better bring them. So this is the calligraphy
for mindfulness. And the reason I show it to you
is that, as you know– and I’m sure many of you here speak
Chinese, but I don’t know any Chinese, so I’m only
saying what I’ve been told– and some people say it’s good
calligraphy, other people say it’s not so good calligraphy. There are a lot of different
opinions about this. But as I’ve been told this, is
the word in Chinese, “nian,” for mindfulness, and it’s made
up of two ideograms, one for presence over the ideogram
for heart, OK? And the reason I’m showing it
to you is not because of the Chinese but because if you hear
the word mindfulness, it’s very easy to think
of it cerebrally. And it’s like, mind, OK, and
so it’s about some kind of cognitive, discursive
thought process. But it’s not that at all. In Asian languages, again, I’m
told, the word for mind and the word for heart is the same
in all these languages. So we need to, when we hear
the word mindfulness, also hear heartfulness so
we’re not going to understand what it is. And my working definition of it,
operationally speaking, is it’s moment-to-moment,
non-judgmental awareness that’s cultivated by
paying attention. So moment-to-moment,
non-judgmental awareness. Why moment to moment? Well, because the present moment
is the only moment we’re ever alive in. It’s the only moment
we can think. It’s the only moment in which
we can be creative. It’s the only moment in
which we can relate, perceive, do anything. And there are two interesting
things about meditation that are very often really not well
unpacked in our society. One is that, just like
anything else, it’s a learning curve. And so there’s a certain way
in which meditation is instrumental, just like driving
a car or learning to play a musical instrument. You just do it over and
over and over again. You do it. You follow the algorithm of the
instructions and so forth, and you think that you’re going
to get better at it and you’re going to have benefits
that come from it. And so it’s goal seeking and
there’s a certain kind acquisition. And it’s always incomplete
because it’s on the way to someplace else, some
better place. So there’s an element
of striving and an element of thinking. And it’s like with any
skill that you learn. That’s the instrumental
element. But unlike anything else that
I know, and the reason that meditation is so powerful
is just like in quantum mechanics, when you take an
elementary, let’s say an electron, so I don’t have to use
the word “particle.” It’s both a particle and a wave. Or
it’s neither until you do the experiment. And depending on what kind
of apparatus you use, it manifests as particle. It manifests as wave. But we
can’t really say what it is when we don’t do
the experiment. So it’s kind of just different
mode of reality, and they speak of it as being
complementary, that the particle and the wave
are complementary elements of the non-thing. And the non-instrumental
dimension of meditation is that there’s no place to go
and there’s nothing to do, that there’s nothing to attain,
that this is it. And if you drop into this moment
that it’s not about ever it getting any better than
this because it can’t get any better than this. This is it. You’ll just lose more telomeres
in the next minute, if you’ll pardon my putting
it that way. But it’s like we tend to persist
that in the future, it’s all going to come together
better when Google is much bigger or when you work out
all the kinks or whatever. But that’s a very limited way
of thinking about this thing because the future that you’re
living in now, this present moment, was the future of
when Google started. So look how successful
you are. Do you know what I’m saying? It’s all an element of
perspective on it. And if we’re always blasting
through the present moment to get some better moment, in a
sense, we’re not reading the present moment. We’re not inhabiting
the present moment. And as you’ll see, some very
famous people have made some very interesting comments about
the downside of that. So as it says in the Heart
Sutra, the great Mahayana text and all the Buddhist traditions
in Asia, “Nowhere to go, nothing to do, nothing
to attain.” You’re already complete, already whole,
completely endowed. And the thinking is not
attached to anything. The thought is incredibly
powerful, but when it glomps onto, like, we insist that it
has to be a certain way, then our thoughts can blind us. And we’re talking more about
the quality of awareness. So the way I like to put it
in that kind of present participle form, is
awarenessing. So mindfulness is, in a sense,
it’s awarenessing, We do it all the time, but we’re not
aware of it, so we need to actually cultivate
metaawareness, metacognition, or metacognitive awareness. And I just want to say– I don’t want to go into this
in any great detail– that this is based on a kind of non-dual view of the universe. That we do create subject and
object, we separate things as me the viewer and what is
viewed and all of that. And from a conventional point
of view, that is fine, but there is some other element that
unifies what Wordsworth called “discordant elements”
and makes them work in one society, There’s some deeper
element of integration that, very often, we are opaque to. And so that’s beyond relative
opposites, like what I like and what I don’t like. That can rule my life. I only react to things that are
pleasant and unpleasant things, I try to escape
from all the time. So I’m always trying to get what
I want and push away what I don’t want is a very
imbalanced way to live. Getting stuck in positive
emotions and negative emotions. I believe that there
are no positive and negative emotions. All emotions have information,
and if you know how to handle that information, then it can
all be really useful. Whereas if you say, “well, anger
is a negative emotion,” sometimes anger is a very
appropriate emotion. But if it leads to mindless
violence, for instance, then it’s not a very good
use of your anger. And even you and me, there’s a
separation there that is not necessarily fundamental. Awareness itself. If you start to become
aware of your awareness, it’s boundless. There is no center. There’s no periphery. It’s non-dual, but it is
discerning without being completely thought grounded. And that’s something you can
discern for yourself. So anyway, mindfulness is
universal, as I said, but the most articulate expression of
mindfulness on the planet comes out of the Buddhist
tradition. And apocryphally speaking,
people used to go up to the Buddha and say, “Are
you a god?” And he was said to have
responded, “No, I’m awake.” And if you know anything about
Buddhist iconography, all of these kinds of forms, whether
it’s the Buddha or various bodhisattvas and so forth,
they’re not about the deities. They’re representations
of states of mind. They’re representations
of states of mind. And that’s the representation
of the state of mind. Awake. So the implication is that we
are somehow in a hypnotic dreams state that perpetuates
itself. And we’re kind of awake, but
kind of not awake and, in some sense, a slave to that
unawareness. So we can zone along on
autopilot for years at a time, more or less unconscious,
even while we’re thinking we’re conscious. And the implication of that–
and you can check this out for yourself– is that you may never
be where you actually are because you’re always
somewhere else. If you start to see how much
of the time your mind is in the future, for instance, how
much of the time your mind is in the past, the present
moment tends to get a little squeezed. This can have profound
implications for creativity, for well being, for happiness,
and for physical and psychological health. This calligraphy is the
calligraphy for tao, or path. So it’s suggesting, in those
traditions, that there is a kind of lawfulness of the
universe, often mysterious, but a way to be in
line with that. That’s the chi kung and
tai chi and all those martial arts are about. When you align yourself with a
certain lawfulness of things, then a certain kind of harmony
results from that. And when you don’t, then
something else. So the notion of a way with
a capital W. So part of meditation practice is finding
your way with a capital W. It’s not like there’s
one right way. You have to find your own way. You can’t just have some
arbitrary authority tell you what you need to be doing
to be more awake. It’s like your job, with a
capital J, or your way with a capital W. And if you don’t know
what your way is, great. We always want our own
way, don’t we? I love it, though, you can see it
happening in supermarkets a lot when the kid has a meltdown and wants
three different things at the checkout line. And the parents says, “You can’t
always have your own way.” And the child says, “Why
not, mommy, why not? And you wind up saying, “You’ll
understand when you grow up.” But isn’t it true? We’ve grown up, and don’t
we all want our own way? But if somebody with a shaved
head and robes comes in with a far-out looking, gnarled and
carved stick and asks you, “What is your true way?” you
might not be able to even open your mouth. And this is the calligraphy
for, literally, turning. But it means breakthrough. So what is a breakthrough? It’s that orthogonal turning
toward something, especially when you feel aversion for it. Instead of recoiling from
it, you turn towards it. The whole martial
art of aikido– blending, moving in,
turning towards. And if you know Rumi’s
poetry– “The Guest House,”
for instance. It’s all about putting out the
welcome mat for all the stuff that arrives at our door,
whether we like it or not. “This being human is
a guest house. Every moment a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some fundamental awareness comes as an
unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain
them all! Even if they are a host of
sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its
furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be cleaning you out
for some new delight. The dark thought, the
shame, the malice. Greet them at the
door laughing”– that’s advanced practice
–“and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes. Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.” That poem is 900 years old. But what it’s suggesting is,
turn towards rather than recoil away from. And see, open your eyes,
take a look. That’s what this is
really all about. And it’s suggesting that when
you do that kind of turning, there is the potential
for breakthrough– breakthrough insights,
breakthrough behaviors, breakthrough rearranging of
your cellular organism. because the body is listening
to what the mind is doing. And when the mind learns how to
self-regulate in particular ways through self-observation,
interesting things happen. So Thoreau said famously– if you go back and read Walden,
you’ll see it’s all a rhapsody about the
present moment. “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 it had to
teach, and not, when they came to die, discover that
I had not lived.” Martha Graham– “All that’s
important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment vital
and worth living. Do not let it slip away
unnoticed and unused.” And William James, I’m not even
going to go into that, in the interest of time. But he’s basically saying that
a method to voluntarily bring the mind back when it wanders
off would be the foundation of the best possible education. But he says it’s easier to
conceive of that than to find one that would really work. But it’s evidence that he didn’t
know anything about Buddhism because that’s exactly
what it is, is the mind goes off, you
bring it back. The mind goes off, you
bring it back. The mind goes off, you
bring it back. The mind goes off, you don’t
want to bring it back, you bring it back anyway against
the resistance. And something starts to grow
against the very resistance that’s a lot more interesting
than a bisect. And it’s mindfulness. MBSR is a compliment to medical
treatment, not a substitute for it. In the hospitals, it’s fully
integrated into medical clinics and subspecialties. It does involve a certain degree
of discipline and work, although I like to think of
it more as play than work. And with our medical patients
who suffer from severe chronic medical conditions
of all kinds– including anxiety and
panic and so forth– it’s a fairly intensive
time commitment. It’s 45 minutes a day, six days
a week for eight weeks. And there are four formal
methods that we teach: a body scan, which is a lying down
meditation, a sitting meditation, mindful hatha yoga,
and mindful walking. And so this is an action
shot of the body scan. Just goes on like this. Another view, sitting
meditation. It looks like nothing’s
happening. I want to tell you, this is the
hardest work in the world. To be in the present moment,
non-judgmentally, for even a fraction of a second
is hard work. And I’m basically challenging
you to consider that it might have some enormous benefits. We do it in Spanish as
well as in English in our inner-city clinic. So it’s shown to be
cross-cultural. Mindful yoga. I won’t say more about yoga. We’re in the Bay Area,
after all. And I know that there’s yoga
here and massage here and meditation here. So in a sense, I’m
probably just wasting my breath talking. The real meditation practice,
however, is not these formal practices. It’s living your life is
if it really mattered. So in other words, your
whole life becomes a meditation practice. That’s what this is
really about– living in awareness, living with
a certain degree of self compassion and kindness, and
cultivating what the Dalai Lama– and other people–
calls wisdom. And the body has its
own natural wisdom. The mind also has its
own natural wisdom. And sometimes, we get out
of touch with it. So I’ll just give
you one example. The next time you’re in the
shower, just as homework from this talk, check and see if
you’re in the shower. You may be already at Google. Of course, maybe you’re
always at Google and you shower at Google. But you would be amazed how
much, like, when you’re in the shower, you’re already
at work. You might have your whole first
meeting of the day in the shower with you. You might be in the middle
of an argument. But you’re not feeling the
water on your skin. So you can begin to
just gently– and remember, it’s
non-judgmental. So you don’t beat yourself up
for non-performance on the meditative side. But you just let the water
be in touch with your skin and know it. That’s that sensorium
of feeling. You can know it, and that
becomes meditation practice. So was a slide that
I was showing His Holiness and that talk. I was trying to get through
about MBSR. I said, well, if you consider life to be the
bicycle, then MBSR– or any training in
mindfulness– would be like training wheels. You just get the feel of it,
but then you throw the training wheels away. It’s all about the somatic
experiencing of it. And you can’t, I don’t think
even– at Google, you can develop an algorithm
for riding a bike. You read the algorithm, and
you just ride, never fall. The body has to learn
from doing, from the engagement of it. And then, once you do know how
to ride, you don’t need the training wheels. And there are a lot of different
ways that people approach bike riding. How many of you ride
bikes to work? I saw a lot of bikes
out there. So there’s biking and biking. And there’s meditating and
meditating too, OK? But it’s not about– Einstein never needed to be
like Lance Armstrong. It wasn’t his thing. Seven-time winner of
the Tour de France. The amount of mental energy that
it takes to accomplish something like this– virtually
unthinkable. It’s why the issue of
drugs will come up. But the fact of the matter is
that you don’t have to be like anybody else. You use your bicycle
your away. So in the last few minutes of
this before we have questions, I want to just run by you some
clinical studies so you have a sense of the kind of
work that’s being done in this area. And just very briefly to say,
with a whole bunch of medical patients going through the
stress reduction clinic who were medical patients– they had
chronic pain conditions, heart conditions
and so forth– but they also qualified for,
clinically, a mental health diagnosis in either anxiety
or panic disorder. So they had a psychiatric
diagnosis on top of the medical diagnosis. And you can see that, if this is
an anxiety scale, you have a step function down over the
eight weeks of the stress reduction clinic. People come to the hospital
once a week, 2 and 1/2 hour class. In the sixth week, there’s
also a day-long silent meditation retreat. And so it is eight weeks, 2 and
1/2 hours once a week, 45 minutes of practice every day. You see a step function
in anxiety. You also see a step function
in depression. And then, I won’t show you the
data, but that goes out not just three months
but three years. So something people do in eight
weeks can have an effect on their lives three years
down the road. Now I’m going to just very
briefly talk about two randomized clinical trials. One, the effect of
mindfulness-based stress reduction on emotional
processing in the brain and immune function in response
to a flu vaccine. And then, if there’s time, very
briefly, the effect of the mind on the healing process
that you can actually see and photograph. Because healing is sort of a
double-edged word in medicine. You have to be very careful how
you use it or people start to roll their eyeballs and
think you’re weird. But wound healing, nobody
thinks that about. So we tried to find a healing
process that would not create that kind of resistance. So this is a study that we
published in 2003 with Dr. Davidson, my collaborator. Can mindfulness training in the
form of MBSR be used to modify the central circuitry
of emotion? And I just want to say– and
maybe Paul Ekman will talk some about this– but you
probably know that in the past eight years, the entire basis
of neuroscience has been transformed by the discovery
that the dogma that we were taught for a generation, that
after about the age of two there’s no new neurons
laid down in the central nervous system. And that it’s all loss of
neurons, it’s downhill from about the age of two and you
can hear the neurons going exponentially, that turns
out not to be true. It turns out that we’re
not to not just synthesizing new neurons– which is called neurogenesis– but laying them down in
particular regions of the brain, and they’re functional
up to the day we die. And it’s driven more than
anything else by experience, and more than any kind of
experience, repetitive experience. When you do the same thing over
and over and over again, like ride bikes up mountains or
meditate or play the violin starting at a very early age
where what you do with the right hand and what to
do with the left hand are very different. It turns out you can morph
what’s going on in your motor cortex and somatosensory
cortex by just fingering a lot. And there’s a very famous study
of the London taxi cab drivers downloading the street
map of London into their heads, and you see the anterior
hippocampus shrink and the posterior hippocampus
get bigger over a period of two years. Losing a limb. Very often, different aspects of
the brain are recruited to different parts of the
body because the limb is no longer there. So neuroplasticity, basically,
means that the brain is not static but is continually
morphing itself in response to experience. Negative traumatic experience
can actually atrophy brain function and, actually,
brain size. And therapy and moving in the
positive direction can restore it, potentially. That’s an area of ongoing,
very exciting research. So I’m going to talk about a
part of the brain called the dorsal lateral prefrontal
cortex, which has a kind of division of labor
left and right. There’s an asymmetry in
the lateralization. So left activation is
associated, shorthand, happiness, feelings of well
being, approach behaviors. Right activation, all other
things being equal, avoidance behavior and difficult
emotions. There are also, of course,
many other complex regions of the brain. So this is the left prefrontal
cortex associated with positive affect in
some studies. So here is the summary slide. Left, happy. Right, unhappy. I won’t belabor it, in the
interest of time, except that if you take people and put them
into scanners or use a quantitative EEG electrode
helmet, which I’ll show you shortly, and just get people
and you don’t do anything with them. You just study whether
they are more left or right activated. People who are more left
activated described themselves with words like interested,
excited, strong, enthusiastic, alert, and active. And if they are more right
activated, they described themselves this way. And it is thought that
in adulthood, you’re pretty much fixed. It becomes a trait. And a study that I will show
you now suggests that that, what was called a set point,
is actually malleable, that with training in meditation,
in eight weeks in a work setting, it will change. And we did this in a biotech
company in Madison, Wisconsin. So this is Matthieu, who is
coming next week, who has been a subject in many of these
studies along with a lot of other monks. And the qualification is you
have to have at least 10,000 hours of intensive meditation
practice. Which is the equivalent of,
say, the concert master violinist in one of the great
symphony orchestra. Lots and lots of practice
and training. But mostly, these monks
are over the 40,000 or 50,000 hour. And if Dr. Davidson comes, he
will show you a lot more about this story. And this is just to give you
a little background, than. This is 150 undergraduate
psychology majors and their profile in terms of
left and right. So you see there are some
outliers on the left, there’s some outliers on the right, but
it’s basically a Poisson distribution. Nice bell curve. This is Matthieu when he’s
meditating, cultivating what they call non-referential
compassion. Non-referential compassion. No subject, no object. And in case this distance looks
fairly close, this is eight standard deviations
from the mean. Eight standard deviations. Neuroscience had never seen
anything like this. And we’re seeing this
time and time again. It’s reproducible, not just in
one person but in many people, that the brain is capable of the
same kind of thing Lance Armstrong is capable of when you
push the envelope in that kind of way– in the non-dong kind away, in
the non-striving kind of way, in the non-instrumental
kind of way. And then this is more evidence
from a study in PNAS with Richie and Matthieu, who’s an
author on the paper, and Antoine Lutz, just showing
undergraduates and Buddhist monks. I won’t say any more except
to say that it’s a global recruitment of the cerebral
cortex in the monk meditators and the college students, with
two weeks of instruction, trying hard, but that
recruitment is something that takes time to teach. So in our study, we went
to a biotech company. High stress, beautiful
work environment. Biotech company. The president agreed to let us
do the study there, randomized people between they take
the eight-week program or they don’t. The anxiety is reduced in the
people that take the program, not reduced in the weightless
control. They all go into
the laboratory. And very briefly, this is just
a way to show left versus right activation. Time one is before
randomization. Time three is a four-month
follow-up. And the meditators are in the
red and the control group are in the purple. And there’s no significant
difference before. By time two, which is at the
end the eight weeks but I don’t have it on this graft, and
time three, the meditators are shifting more from right
activation to left activation. That was not supposed to happen
by the dogma, that there was supposed to
be a fixed point. But in eight weeks, during work
hours learning the stuff, they are shifting in the
same direction as the Buddhist monks. Meanwhile, the control group
is actually getting worse because we are interpreting that
as that by the time they are in the laboratory for the
third time, it’s very, very aversive, and so they’re getting
more right activated. And we gave everybody the
influenza vaccine. at the end of the eight weeks
and then monitored their blood titers for antibody. The meditators mount a stronger
immune response that the non-meditators. And then, when we plot the
degree of brain shift right to left over the antibody titer,
we get a linear relationship with a fairly significant
correlation in the meditators and no relationship whatsoever
in the control group. So that’s just one little
thumbnail sketch of the kind of science that’s being done
now, and it’s coming out of the hospital into the
work setting. And people who took the MBSR
program reported that they were much more effective in
managing their stress. And this regulation of emotion,
you could think of as enhancing the effectiveness of
our emotional intelligence. And then it has effects on
health, at least in terms of the immune system. And we don’t know enough about
it to say any more than that. That’s why all these other
studies are ongoing. I’m just going to say very
briefly about this skin disease that you can see and
photograph in healing. Bill Moyers was filming in the
stress reduction clinic back in the early ’90s. And we had done a pilot study
that showed that people with psoriasis who were meditating
while they were receiving ultraviolet light treatments
for their psoriasis healed much faster than the people
who were just getting the ultraviolet light treatments. Now, ultraviolet light’s not
a cure for psoriasis, but psoriasis is an uncontrolled
cell proliferation in the epidermis, But it’s not
cancerous, but it’s got kissing cousin genes
to cancer. So it was like a really
interesting question. Can the mind influence healing,
right down to the level of gene expression,
control of cell division and so forth, for its own sake and
also because of its potential applications for cancer. So when he was filming in the
clinic, we had this very exciting pilot result, but we
couldn’t talk about it because we were in the middle of doing
the replication study. So this is what psoriatic
skin looks like. And it can cover the entire
body, and it’s very labile with emotional stress. So the more stressed
you are, the more– your body can be covered. This is what an elbow looks
like, and that’s what the same elbow looks like clear. So we randomized people between
two conditions. They either get the meditation
while they’re undergoing ultraviolet light, or
they just get the ultraviolet light by itself. And this is how you get exposed
to ultraviolet light. You go into a light box like
a telephone booth. it’s on wheels so the door closes. And then it’s like you’re
standing there naked with a pillowcase over your head and
goggles on to shield your corneas from the UV. It’s not like going
to the beach. It’s more like going into
your toaster oven. I’m serious. So you are really
getting grilled. You can only be in for short
periods of time and we titrate people up in time as they
accommodate to the intensity of it. And we put speakers on the
top and we did a guided meditation, if you were in the
experimental group, while they were doing it. And I’ll just jump to the chase
and say, this is the probability of clearing graph
for the meditators listening to the guided meditation tape. That’s the only meditation
training they got. No person, just a disembodied
voice. No classes, no group support,
anything like that. The meditators are obviously
healing with a different kinetics from the people who
are just getting the UV. And that’s whether it’s what’s
called photochemotherapy– I’m glossing over a lot of the
details, but these are published studies– or just
the ultraviolet light by itself, which is a weaker
treatment, so everything’s translated more to the right. But still, at the midpoint of
the probability of clearing, you’ve got a 35 to 40
day difference. And when you do the statistics,
it turns out the meditators are healing at four
times the rate of the non-meditators. And I won’t walk you through
the table but, there are implications of the study. One is that the mind can
positively influence the healing process and speed
it up by a factor of approximately four. That’s pretty interesting,
if that’s true. We’ve seen it twice, so we tend
to believe that more than we would otherwise. And it’s got to do it down to
the level of gene expression. There are all sorts of other
implications of this study which I won’t go
into right now. And just for the sake of having
some time for dialogue, I’m going to stop and just quote
William James again– of for the first time, since
I didn’t the first time. “I have no doubt whatever that
most people live, whether physically, intellectually, or
morally, in a very restricted level of their potential
being. They make use of a small portion
of their possible consciousness, much like a man
who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a
habit of using and moving only his little finger.” And then,
very famously, “We all have reservoirs of life to draw
upon, of which we do not dream.” So I just want to say in
closing, there are plenty of opportunities to do this kind
of training if you’re interested. The Bay Area has more
MBSR teachers– a higher density of MBSR
teachers than anyplace else on the planet. And if you’re interested in
the work of the Center for Mindfulness, that’s
this website. And if you’re interested in the
work of the Mind and Life Institute and the Dalai Lama,
that’s that website. I want to apologize for blasting
through this so quickly, but I wanted to give
you a broad enough range of this is so that you understand
that there’s an art to this, there’s a science to it, and
the fun really comes in the interface between the two. And then there are very, very
real, 28 years worth of data, on clinical applications of this
kind of thing, now more and more grounded in molecular
changes at the level of cells and also neuroscience and
the level of the brain. So it’s a very exciting time in
both medicine and science to start unpacking these
kinds of things. But even beyond the science of
it, there is the kind of excitement of maybe making
accessible to us a dimension of living that’s been– if you don’t mind my using
this in a pun-like way– right under our noses from the
very beginning and that we easily miss because we blast so
much through our moments. And we’re so into thinking but
not so much into being aware of what we’re thinking. So I want to thank you for your
attention and now open it up to any kinds of questions,
comments, or observations if you care to. MALE SPEAKER: After questions,
can you tell people I’ll be having meditation at 3:15? JON KABAT-ZINN: Yes, Meng is
suggesting that I say that at 3:15, there’ll be a meditation
class for anybody who wants to dive into the actual practice
itself rather than talk about the practice. So please, go ahead. AUDIENCE: It’s just
a basic comment. You showed many pictures
of monks and you did the studies on monks. I just want to say that monks,
they may have less stress, but their lives seem to
be really boring. For people who are working
at Google, we have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of things
to create. And we do have a
lot of stress. And some kind of a balance
between a monk’s life and an engineer’s life, for people
who have a lot of stress-generating work to do,
how do you handle this? JON KABAT-ZINN: OK, well, I
want to make sure that you understand that the reason I’m
showing the pictures of monks is basically to show
outliers, OK? But the fact is, seventeen
17,000 people have been through our stress reduction
clinic over the past 28 years, and none of them know anything
about monks or Buddhism and could care less and they’re all
stressed up the kazoo, or the wazoo, or whatever. So my point showing about the
monks was that the regular people in the work setting when
we did that study, their brains shifted in eight weeks
in the same direction as the monks who have been doing
it for 40 years. So there’s a tremendous amount
of latitude for dealing with the stress that you’re
under as a person. And very often what we think is,
well, the first thing we want is someone to just
make it better, like maybe drugs or whatever. But there is no real solution to
the kind of stress that we are living with from
the outside. It has to be a kind of from the inside, learning to rebalance. And balance is always losing
your balance and then recovering your balance. So swimming in these
seas becomes something of an art form. And it’s got nothing
to do with monks. It only has to do with regular
human beings trying to put one foot in front of the other and
live our lives as if it really mattered and not get so stressed
out in a particular direction that we lose
sight of some of the beauty in our own lives. On the other hand, not to get
so laid back that we stop contributing to the world or
to our work or whatever. And that is an art form, and
everybody, in a sense, has to do that interior work
themselves, I would say, because no one else is
going to be able to do it for you, certainly. So that’s the challenge. But I think there’s a very,
very good track record– which maybe I didn’t articulate
well enough– that this is for real people. It’s got nothing to do
with Buddhist monks. It’s just as I said, Matthieu
is coming next week. You might come and see him
just for fun, see that he ain’t that different
from us anyway. And believe me, the monks have
plenty of stress, and they don’t think their lives
are boring. I mean, boring is as
boring sees it, so it could be different. AUDIENCE: You defined
mindfulness as non-judgmental awareness moment to moment. Why is the non-judgmental so
important that it takes 20% of the definition? JON KABAT-ZINN: Well, without
that, I mean, that’s the hardest part of it, because
we’ve got ideas and opinions about everything. So the invitation is to see if
you can be with a percept without getting caught
in your liking or disliking of the percept. It turns out to be very,
very challenging. And non-judging doesn’t mean– it’s not an invitation
to get stupid. It’s not like, “Well,
I’m not going to be judgmental anymore. I’ll just walk out
there and if a truck’s coming, no problem. I’ll just walk in front
of the truck.” It’s not about that. We make a very fine distinction
between non-judging, which is like– judging, in my vocabulary, is
like black and white, good and bad, like and dislike. It’s very binary. And we tend to jump into those
binary, plus-minus, good-bad, very rapidly. Discernment is seeing more
the shades of gray between zero and one. Everything in between, between
black and white, so to speak. It’s very much, as I’m saying,
a way of being. It’s an art form where it’s
not that you don’t see clearly, it’s that you do see
clearly because your mind isn’t fogging it over with all
your preconceived zero-one decisions from moment to moment
about what you like and dislike, which is a little
bit like a prison. AUDIENCE: So I thought the
results about the psoriasis were very interesting. But I didn’t think the control
group was actually a control group because in the set who
were given the meditation, they were given something– [TAPE CHANGE] AUDIENCE: –versus if people are
told to take time out and problem solve, whether there’s
that difference. Because it could also be that
if people were played this tape in the middle of their
treatment which said, “Now think about all your problems
and think how you’re going to solve them. Be active,” and so on. “Take
care of yourself. Take care of your health,
eat properly.” JON KABAT-ZINN: We call those
anti-meditation tapes. AUDIENCE: Yeah, anti-meditation. They might also show this
increased result because they might also take time out to
take care of themselves. JON KABAT-ZINN: Now, I’m going
on long-term memory here because I don’t know of any
recent studies of that kind. And you’re absolutely right
in your criticism of the psoriasis study. It was like a pilot study
where we didn’t give the control group something
comparable to either fill their mind– even music– but something comparable, at
least. But I think the anti-meditation, it’s not simply
that you are thinking. There’s a big difference between
the meditators and the thinkers, so to speak. But that is a very interesting
question, and no doubt it needs an awful lot more
investigating than has been done so far. AUDIENCE: I was listening to a
tape recently from a book that the Dalai Lama wrote. And in it, he said something
very funny about neurobiology. He said he was listening to a
lecturer give a lecture about the amygdala– and I think it was Goldman– and
how the amygdala has all these negative impacts
on our emotions. And he laughingly thought
to himself, “Well, then enlightenment is simple. We’ll just cut out the amygdala
and then we’ll all be enlightened beings.” And, of course, it doesn’t work
that way because when you cut out the amygdala, there’s a
whole host of responses that you excise from the
opportunities that humans can have in their interactions,
such as being rightfully afraid. And any time you’re startled,
you need that. However, I was thinking about
the studies and how you were talking about the right and left
prefrontal cortex and how there’s a noticed diminished
activity in the right prefrontal cortex. And then I thought about what
the Dalai Lama was saying. And how do we know what the
effects of the right prefrontal cortex could be and
how they could possibly contribute to a wholesome
life? And do we really want to sort of
shut out those capabilities and being present with fear and
being present with those more negative sides, isn’t that
casting the exact same binary, positive-negative
thing you were talking about before? JON KABAT-ZINN: Yes, and that’s
why I’m just showing you what’s been done and giving
you that frame on it. But the larger, non-dual
perception is saying we hardly understand anything
about the brain. And one of the things that
I glossed over was, that left-right shift had to do with
very specific loci on the left and on the right. Right next door are other loci
that are doing totally different things. The prefrontal cortex is doing
a million things at once, so to speak, most of which
we don’t understand. But it has to do with executive
decision making, all sorts of things. So it’s not a matter of, well,
excise the amygdala or find the exact thing that will get
you a little bit more on the left side, because that’s
also dualistic. So we’re beginning to unpack
some of what are called the neural correlates of meditation,
but we’re light years away from understanding
the brain or what is really involved when you drop liking
and disliking, this and that, and into an awareness that
can hold it all. But we’re doing those kinds of
studies with Matthieu and other people, where they can
rest for extended periods of time, paying attention to one
thing or to no thing. and extend that out and see
what the brain does. And it’s all incremental
learning curve. But nobody that I know went into
meditation because they wanted to make pretty pictures
on fMRI scanners. And they’re going into it for
totally different reasons, but now, because of this interfacing
between science and meditation, it’s becoming
interesting. And the risk is, it’ll
become materialistic. People will glomp onto the
results and they’ll lose the heart of the whole thing. And even His Holiness and
Matthieu are aware of that. OK, last question. Where’d the microphone
migrate to? AUDIENCE: I think this is sort
of a related question, which is, you said a few times that
mindfulness and meditation don’t inherently have anything
to do with Buddhism. As someone who is a Buddhist,
there is something sort of uncomfortable about thinking
about people coming to meditation to cure
their psoriasis. And I just wonder, do you worry
that something might be lost if meditation does come to
be seen as essentially just a medical treatment and not
a spiritual practice? JON KABAT-ZINN: Yeah, but I
don’t see it that way at all. First of all, the people who are
with the psoriasis, they are just agreeing to be part
of a study on meditation. They’re not coming to meditation
the way somebody would come to meditation. And even in the stress reduction
clinic, why do people come to the stress
reduction clinic? Really, one reason and
one reason only. Suffering. And so this question got posed
to the Dalai Lama, around whether this kind of thing is
the death knell of Buddhism because we’re taking what you
might call the heart of Buddhist meditation– people do call it the heart– but if it’s a
decontextualization of it, it would be a desecration or a
denaturing of it, and then offering it to people
who are suffering, that would be a disaster. And I hope we’re
not doing that. What we’re doing, in my view, is
it’s a recontextualization. And I asked him, during their
presentation when it came time to ask some questions, I said,
to him, “Do you see any difference between Buddha Dharma
and universal Dharma? And he said no. And so as long as this
mindfulness is grounded in ethics and morality and all
of the kinds of things– and it is– all of the kinds of
things that would go into a full-spectrum meditation
practice, it doesn’t need to be Buddhist in order to
reduce suffering. And when His Holiness is posed
this question about whether this is a good thing for
Buddhism or not that this happened, he said
the following. He said there are four billion
people on the planet, one billion Buddhists, three
billion non-Buddhists. All four billion are suffering,
so what are we going to do? Just keep it for us Buddhists? And he, actually, is promoting
what he calls secularized meditation, that’s like beyond
Buddhisms or any other isms. And MBSR is really just
an example of that 25 years earlier. And you use the word
“spiritual.” So I just want to say that I have a lot of
trouble with the word “spiritual” because it’s used
in so many different ways. My working definition of the
word “spiritual” is what it means to be really human. We don’t know what it means
to be really human. But I like that because it
doesn’t get into, “Oh, she’s so spiritual and he’s
not very spiritual.” Because what isn’t spiritual? Is chopping vegetables
spiritual? Making love spiritual? Well, it all depends. How present are you? So I love that I’m even here
and that we’re having these kinds of dialogues and
questions, because I think we’re in a place of so
much not knowing. And the awareness itself has an
element of not just knowing but not knowing and
the boundary between not knowing and knowing,
that’s where the juice lies. And so there’s just tremendous
creative opportunities. And I think in terms of
medicine, and I think in terms of our society, in a certain
way, you could say that the human mind has reached a part–
if you don’t mind my branching out a little bit
to a more global view. Thinking from the last ice
age, for instance, all of human history has happened in
the past, say, 13,000 years. Everything. And everything beautiful that
has come out of human culture that is in the Louvre or
anyplace else– or Google headquarters– has come out of the human mind
and the human body in 13,000 years, which is nothing
in terms of the history of the planet. And we’ve managed to
call ourselves Homo sapiens sapiens. What does that mean? In Latin, saperi, the
present participle of the verb saperi is to taste or to know. So we’re the species that knows
and knows that it knows. I don’t think so. I think we haven’t lived
up to that one yet. We are still in our infancy,
not even knee socks. I mean, we’re just beginning to
mature enough to understand the global nature of what we’ve
been able to produce with, say, the internet and
Google and what the implications of this are going
to be for a society that’s still so tribal. For a species, it’s still so
tribal, that you can be Muslims and kill each other over
whether you’re Shia or Sunni, never mind Christian
and Muslim or whoever– Azerbaijanis and Armenians
or Chechens and Russians. There’s a certain way
in which that can’t hold that much longer. Or all of the horrors that
have come out of the past 13,000 years, they also come out
of the human mind when it doesn’t know itself. So the challenge is, could
humanity reach a point where we actually own that Homo
sapiens sapiens thing, take it seriously, and then do the work
of cultivating intimacy with the full range of our human
capacities and of the human mind. And then work out ways to
deal with the dark side. The side where we’re not going
to deny that we can get incredibly violent if we get
angry, if we’re thwarted, if we don’t get our way, if
we feel threatened. It’s not just in other people. And so that we have a thousand
different ways to maintain some kind of mental equilibrium
in the face of our own insanity. That might actually have
political ramifications. Like maybe we need a more
mindful politics where it’s not all about self-interest
in getting reelected. You already got elected. Do something. But if the doing isn’t coming
out of being, it’s going to be the wrong doing. So when the doing comes out
of being, I think– I’ll just close this off by
saying, I sometimes say that the human species like, in
some way, the autoimmune disease of the planet. Without this kind of awareness,
we are the first victim of our own precocity. So we’re both the agent
of the disease and also the first victim. I don’t think we need to stay
stuck in that kind of thing. And I think there are all sorts
of very, very positive and, I think optimistic forces
for us to actually not only heal ourselves as individuals
but heal ourselves in a much more global way. And I’m sure that Google thinks
about this day and night, because of the power that
Google has, and in some way, maybe is at least
collaborating in the shaping of the present in ways that
will profoundly affect the future on the side of
sanity rather than on the side of insanity. MALE SPEAKER: Thank you, Jon. Thank you. So just a reminder, we’re going
to have meditation in the university theater, and it’s
scheduled to start three minutes ago.

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Comments

  1. I forget which KabatZinn videos I've watched, so i must comment just to let myself know in a few years that yes, I've seen this one and I should check out something I haven't yet seen.

    Also, great upload, thanks.

  2. This is beautiful! I really enjoy mindfulness. 👐

    With my mindfulness meditating I have been watching quite a bit of #sriavinashdo recently.
    I find his meditation talks so beautiful and helpful for my life. 🤲❤️

  3. Not knowing the power of our own mind through awareness we are going to fall down the ladder of evolution as Buddha mentioned.

  4. vipassana is a great tool too explore – no cult, religion or dogma. my partner had a flare up of psoriasis and he used meditation and yoga to control and finally get rid of it. he was dealing with alot of stress

  5. I am a neuroscientist who has recently started to try to learn mindfullness in private life. I really like it so far and think I am going to continue.
    However, from a scientific standpoint I am very unconvinced by this talk. A couple of times he used sciency sounding buzzwords (orthogonal, quantum, poisson distribution,… ) where they did not make much sense or were even wrong. For someone who understands what those words actually mean this seemed like an attempt to sound more competent than you actually are. Also, name-dropping seemed to take up quite a large portion of the talk.
    A few of the scientific studies he presented also contained some red flags to any critical scientist.
    I am not saying that all he said is bogus. Some of the results seemed to be promising. I just wanted to let people who aren't scientists know that this is very far from a convincing scientific talk.

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