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Magid, B. (2020). Epilogue: Your Ordinary Mind Is the Way. Psychoanal. Inq., 40(5):377-379.

(2020). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 40(5):377-379

Epilogue: Your Ordinary Mind Is the Way

Barry Magid, M.D.

One thing we did not foresee when Jeremy Safran’s book first came out was the explosive growth of the mindfulness movement. The unfolding dialogue between Buddhism and psychotherapy increasingly has become narrowed down to a mutual admiration fest between those touting the benefits of meditation, often armed with the latest scans brought back from the frontiers of neuroscience, and therapists almost all of a cognitive behavioral stripe, well versed in an “evidence-based” approach to short term psychotherapy. Psychoanalysis’ role in this dialogue has been increasingly diminished, if not marginalized. If for nothing else, the establishment of an Institute for the integration of Buddhism and Self Psychology comes as much needed counterbalance to this trend. Not so many years ago, I was invited to be part of another panel on Buddhism and psychotherapy, that was attended by over 500 participants. To my surprise, I discovered that for 95% or more of those in attendance, it was taken for granted that Buddhism was synonymous with mindfulness and therapy meant cognitive behavioral therapy or one of its offshoots. Other panelists cited study after study that trumpeted the benefits of meditation for a host of psychological and medical difficulties. It was taken for granted that meditation was done in order to reap these benefits. In my talk I ventured to say, to the contrary, meditation – at least as practiced in my Zen tradition – was useless. In fact, the very essence of meditation as a religious practice was that it opened up a space outside of our usual means-to-an-end thinking, and that the reduction of the cultural and ethical complexity of Buddhism to an instrumentalized mindfulness was something of a travesty, on par with listening to Bach to lower your blood pressure.

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