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Lions Roar : November 2015
of chairs. As it was the final day of the weeklong training, each participant was offering a few words to describe their experience of MBSR. Their faces were relaxed as they shared intimately and vulnerably, their hearts wide open. Some cried; some said it had changed their lives. It felt a lot like the closing circle of a seven-day Buddhist retreat. Around the same time, a lab at a nearby university asked me if I would be a meditation instructor for a series of NIH-funded experiments. I would teach the students six one-hour classes, which would be similar in style to an MBSR program. In addition to the classes, stu- dents would meditate for twenty minutes A LIFELONG BUDDHIST, I had the typical preconceptions about secular mindfulness: it reinforces self-centered- ness, it makes meditation into a perfor- mance-enhancement product, it represents the commercialization of the dharma. So when I was invited to speak at a Mindful- ness-Based Stress Reduction training for medical and mental health professionals, I felt pretty ambivalent about it. I arrived to find a room of doctors, therapists, and others seated in a circle FROM WHERE I SIT Don’t Diss Secular Mindfulness It has depth and integrity, says SUMI LOUNDON KIM, and it benefits a lot of people. three to five times a week. I have been doing this course for more than three years and have taught mindfulness to several hundred people. Because of this experience, I now have a different perspective on secular mindful- ness meditation. At the start of each course, I ask people to share why they want to learn mindful- ness meditation. Almost without excep- tion, each one is experiencing some major life challenge or stress: a scary diagnosis, a sick spouse, overwhelming demands at home or work, grief and loss, trauma. The first meditation is strikingly hard for most, with restlessness rippling throughout the room. But within a few CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE SUMI LOUNDON KIM is the Buddhist chap- lain at Duke University and minister for the Bud- dhist Families of Durham. She is the editor of Blue Jean Buddha and The Buddha’s Apprentices. MARKMAHANEY SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2015 11