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Lions Roar : May 2016
Trudy Goodman: I am not a born teacher, somebody who really likes being up there in front of everybody. For me, the dharma was a way to handle my own craziness. Once I was no longer afraid of my own mind, I realized that psychotherapy might be the career I was looking for. Without knowing it, I was going toward the intersection of meditation and psychotherapy, which in those days didn’t even exist. Though people at InsightLA might have trouble believing this today, I was very shy and never saw myself as a dharma teacher. I had to find my own voice and confidence when I was teaching Zen. I was tougher then because that was the way we were trained. Then, when I joined the Insight Meditation community, I learned to teach in a different way. I think of it as the difference between poetry and prose, in which you really unpack what you’re saying. You make it clear. You don’t rely on resonance and metaphor to communicate. You make it explicit. Sandra Oh: These days, Buddhism and mindfulness are both becoming more mainstream, which is great. What do you think makes a person gravitate to one or the other—Buddhism or secular mindfulness? Trudy Goodman: Mindfulness is becoming integrated into so many sectors of society now that lots more people are using the tools and skills it offers. Everybody now hears that mindfulness is good for you, the way everybody knows that exercise is good for you. Still, there are times when exercise is not the right thing, and we need to rest. Sometimes practicing mindfulness can be contraindicated, unless it’s carefully taught in ways that are sen- sitive to the specific situation. At some point, people who want a deep dive into practice will have to find their way to a Buddhist meditation center and do a residential retreat. Soon, though, there will be mind- fulness centers where you can take a deep dive into intensive retreat and discover the sacredness of secular mindfulness! Sandra Oh: Do you ever think, “I’m not going to speak about the Buddhist teachings because I am concerned that many peo- ple are not ready to hear this?” Jack Kornfield: It depends on the venue. In a lot of places, we’re invited because we are Buddhist teachers. But sometimes I speak at a large corporation or somewhere they specifically want mindfulness. Then I have to be careful, because people have other religious beliefs, or they may have religious injury, and putting things in religious terms is off-putting. In any case, the essence of Buddhist teaching is not reli- gion—it’s a science of mind. It’s a practical way to live with integrity, inner freedom, compassion, and well-being. I think people innately have a longing for something greater than the small sense of self that we find ourselves living in. You could call it a spiritual or sacred longing. Sometimes people first connect with the sacred by walking in the mountains, and they realize that they’re part of something vast. Or they listen to an amazing piece of music or are present for the birth of a child. Then when they learn about meditation and mind- fulness, they realize it’s a doorway to that world. It’s something that connects them to a mystery that’s greater than themselves. Trudy Goodman: So many people are ripe to hear Buddhist teachings, especially the first noble truth. It takes them off the hook of shame and blame for their suffering! And the teachings of impermanence. Yes, there certain places where it could be disrespectful or insen- sitive to talk about Buddhism. But we can be generous and imagi- native; we can speak about Buddhist teachings in our own words, in whatever cultural vernacular we normally use. The Buddha encouraged teachers to speak in the language of their audience. That’s a direct challenge to our creativity and know-how—to attune to who’s listening and speak so everyone can feel included. Sandra Oh: Do you think it’s natural for people in the West who are interested in the mind to veer toward a combination of Buddhism and psychology? Trudy Goodman: Yes! What drew me to the study of both meditation and psychology was intense curiosity about how the mind works and what’s possible for the human heart. And here’s where I offer a bow of gratitude to psychotherapy, because it can really help clear away obstacles to caring for our- selves, each other, and our world. There are areas of overlap between Buddhism and Western psychology, and there are areas of difference. That creates a powerful synergy when people combine them. There are radi- ant dimensions of awareness you can access in meditation that I offer a bow of gratitude to psychotherapy, because it can really help clear away obstacles to caring for ourselves, each other, and our world. —Trudy Goodman ➢ page 74 LION’S ROAR | MAY 2016 43