Someone sent me a link to Tricycle magazine’s “Daily Dharma” for February 3-10. My first response, when I get such links from the Buddhist glossies is to hit delete. Ready for some procrastination, though, I read this one. The advice distilled in this “Wisdom Collection” confirmed a growing suspicion of mine: meditation/mindfulness in present-day North America is hardly distinguishable from lobotomy.
Consider this. Among the “good results” of a prefrontal lobotomy are calming of obsessive-compulsive states; reduction of chronic anxiety; lessening of recursive introspection; amelioration of affective disorders; reduction of feelings of inadequacy and self-consciousness; reduction of emotional tension. Sound familiar? Most significantly—Kabot-Zinnites take note!— prefrontal lobotomy
has also been used successfully to control pain secondary to organic lesions. In this case, the tendency has been to employ unilateral lobotomy, because of the evidence that a lobotomy extensive enough to reduce psychotic symptoms is not required to control pain. (My source for all of this is Leland E. Hinsie and Robert Jean Campbell . Psychiatric Dictionary. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press.).
I am not saying that meditation has similar effects as a lobotomy. How could I? Pardon the pun, but “meditation” is nowhere near as cut and dry as “lobotomy.” My point is that the contemporary western rhetoric of meditation/mindfulness suggests a similarity. In case you think my comparison of the two is overly cute (as opposed to merely cute), here are some pearls of wisdom from Tricycle’s “Daily Dharma.”
In “Finding Sense in Sensation,” S. N. Goenka recommends that we attend to the “arising and passing” of sensation. Why? Well, precisely not to feel life more acutely; precisely not to be more alive to the rich, intricate textures of human existence. No. The “sense in sensation” is to “understand its flux,” in order to “learn not to react to it.” Fuck that is my reaction. Read the rest of this entry »