Thursday, October 7, 2010

From No-Self To Knowing Yourself: The Psychology Of Zen Buddhism And Its Real-World Applications

The unexamined ox is not worth training. Art by Max Gimblett.
Celebrities do it, Oprah endorses it, and we’ve already mentioned it: making a Zen escape to calm the nerves and unwind after a stress-filled day. But how does Buddhist philosophy and its mediational practices actually relieve stress and enable us to get in better mental shape? And how can we incorporate it our overly examined lives?

One of the world's most regarded experts on the subject, psychiatrist and author Mark Epstein (Thoughts Without a Thinker, Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, Psychotherapy Without the Self), addresses these questions and more in Mindful Living, an intimate evening talk with oxherding contributor and author Lewis Hyde .

In the discussion Epstein and Hyde examine the connection between Zen teachings and psychology with an emphasis on awareness of the self and compassion for those around us and the world we live in. Both Zen philosophy and psychology deal with an examination of the self (or no-self, as the case may be), recognizing that if we understand ourselves we'll be better able to control our senses and emotions rather than being controlled by them. Zen meditation is a centering practice, allowing practitioners to achieve an increased sense of alertness and presence in their lives. Epstein shows how people can be more present, more tolerant, more generous, and more loving in daily life by incorporating meditation techniques into their routines. 

With the oxherding connection, the discussion also touches on how art and poetry can best express one’s feelings by providing an outlet for the senses. Hyde demonstrates how reading poetry, especially in multiple translations, enables readers to obtain new perspectives on the world and take solace in the mutability of language. He also shows how inspiration and compassion pour from paintings by classic artists such as 18th century Zen master Hakuin and contemporary artists such as Max Gimblett, Hyde's oxherding co-creator.

In addition to this one-time discussion, Japan Society offers a series of related workshops, from freeing the written word with Lewis Hyde and freeing the image from a sumi ink-soaked brush with Max Gimblett in October, to Zen for Everyone mediation workshops with Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara in November. Regardless of how you get to Japan Society, there's many paths to enlightenment once you arrive!


No comments: