Mindfulness as a Lineage of Global Awareness

October 27, 2014

This week’s contribution comes from my friend and colleague Justin Wall (Lama Karma). Enjoy!


In many ways, the Mindfulness Movement is being established as a new lineage of the Buddhadharma.  This lineage is by and large a product of various Asian lineages of Buddhism meeting modern Euro-American culture.  Whether it is through the lens of science, consumerism, psychology, or any of the other important narratives of our culture, Mindfulness is the modern response to and interpretation of the various Asian manifestations of the Buddhadharma.


This meeting is delicate business, to say the least, and there is much to say about how this may and may not go well, but these issues are in many ways reflective of the broader meeting of East and West, of the challenges and opportunities of globalization.  This is a unique time in human history where all of the cultural inheritances of the world are present to one another, and we are for the first time able to envision a truly representative global awareness, cognizant of a global unity in the midst of limitless diversity.


The Mindfulness Movement is a symptom of globalization, but it is also uniquely poised to be a major catalyst for globalization in a way that can be a far more sustainable and nourishing force than global economics, politics, media, and technology alone.  Because behind all of these forces are people, and fundamental to any person is their mind.  Mind is fundamental to all experience, and in a certain light, it is the basis of reality itself. Training the mind to be more focused, compassionate, unbiased, and open is to train people to reflect those same qualities, thereby affecting the whole global network of relations.


When mindfulness is brought into the global marketplace, global politics, technology and so forth, these pre-existing global forces can accelerate their connectivity and ingenuity while at the same time become more sustainable and less harmful. But beyond simply imbuing existing globalized aspects of culture with the qualities of mindfulness, Mindfulness itself engenders a global awareness by connecting one to an essential and universal aspect of human experience.


I am fully aware of the risks of essentializing “Mind,” or of “The Dharma,” of passing it through some sort of clinical filter in order to extract its essence, while actually only serving to confirm the presuppositions of the filter itself.  This is a recurring theme of what has been called “Protestant Buddhism,” and part of the discourse of “Buddhist Modernism.”  And I am also wary of celebrating some sort of universal aspect of mind, a core truth that is relevant across lineages and cultures, and is reflective of a universal human truth.  This perennialism is itself a culturally situated agenda, in many ways growing out of Romanticism’s reaction to the defects of scientific materialism.  Its contemporary manifestations are evident in the distortions of the New Age movement.


But as it is said, “concepts divide, experience gathers,” and when we sit down to practice, when we sit and create a space of awareness with other practitioners, there is an indisputable attunement, a resonance, a communal experience that is validated again and again in personal and interpersonal experience.  It is this shared experience of attending to one’s awareness with attention and an open heart that will have the power to connect individuals across cultures, as well as express the connections that already exist.


It is in this light that my friend Lama Denys Rinpoche, the founder of the “Open Mindfulness Network,” one of the largest European mindfulness foundations, is in the process of proposing mindfulness as “An Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” for recognition by the United Nations through UNESCO.  This will no doubt be a landmark in the emergence of the Mindfulness movement, but also in the process of ensuring the sustainable emergence of a lineage of global consciousness itself.


Justin Wall (Lama Karma) has over seven years of teaching experience, both as a facilitator of Mindfulness training and in more traditional contexts.  He graduated with honors from Columbia University with degrees in English Literature and Religious Studies and completed two three-year retreats in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.  He is currently finishing a year-long Certification in Mindfulness Facilitation course through the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA.  www.marc.ucla.edu.  He lives in semi-retreat and is the resident teacher and director of a retreat center in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. www.mocd.org and facilitates mindfulness through Clear Light Mindfulness.www.clearlightmindfulness.com