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Lions Roar : November 2018
For decades, Mirabai Bush has been at the forefront of the spiritual revolution, helping to shape and lead it. ANDREA MILLER on how Bush has helped make contemplative practice relevant in the modern world. N 1972, Mirabai Bush traveled overland to India, planning to stay for two weeks. Then one day on a street in New Delhi, she happened to meet a young woman named Sharon Salzberg, who told her about an upcoming meditation course with the Vipassana teacher S. N. Goenka. It was going to be his very first retreat for Westerners. “I had never even sat cross-legged before,” Bush re- members. “But it was like having wine and cheese in Paris, something you’re supposed to do. We’re in India, so let’s try meditation!” Though Bush signed up for the Goenka retreat on a whim, it had an enormous impact on her. Indeed, it impacted the whole burgeoning spiritual movement in the West. Many of the students in attendance went on to become influential spiritual voices in America, including Buddhist teachers Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein, psychologist and best-selling author Daniel Goleman, and spiritual icon Ram Dass. Today, Mirabai Bush may not be as famous as some of the other meditators at that seminal retreat. But in the forty-five years since then, she has been at the forefront of the spiritual revolution in the Western world, helping to shape and lead it. Over the course of her long career, Bush has framed the meditation practices she first learned in India so they are applicable and accessible to people in the modern world. As cofounder of The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, she has helped introduce mindfulness into diverse fields—social engagement, the tech industry, higher educa- tion, and more. She was a key contributor to Search Inside Yourself, a groundbreaking employee program at Google, and a founding board member of the Seva Foundation, which has given the gift of sight to four million people in Asia. She has co-authored books relating contemplative practice to education, neuroscience, and organizations. Her new book, Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Lov- ing and Dying, is a dialogue with her close friend Ram Dass. As Bush explains it, love has been the guiding force in her life’s work. Many years ago, Neem Karoli Baba, her Hindu teacher, taught her to love everyone. “That has been a central practice for me—trying to do it, failing, trying again, seeing where my resistances are. “What does it mean,” she asks, “to discover this central place of love in others and create environments where we can all be loving?” MIRABAI BUSH WAS BORN Linda Thurston in 1939. Her father was a New York advertising man—think Mad Men—but by the time she was seven he had succumbed to alcoholism and abandoned the family. Bush didn’t know anyone else whose parents were divorced, and for that The Quiet Revolutionary PHOTOBYANASUYA I LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2018 59