Shinzen is one of the world’s most unique meditation teachers and he happens to live in Vermont. That’s very fortunate for us here and fortunately for everyone else, Shinzen travels around the country offering retreats and has a YouTube channels with talks and interviews (see below). He has a very approachable, structured, and fun way for learning mindfulness and I have been fortunate to have him as a dharma brother and meditation colleague.
Shinzen Young has enjoyed a lifelong interest in Asian language, culture, and philosophy. Fascinated by a samurai movie when he was a kid, he started learning Japanese and enrolled in an alternative Japanese-American school in Los Angeles. When he learned that Japan was influenced by China, he learned to speak Chinese. When he learned of the impact India had on China through Buddhism, he learned Sanskrit. In 1968 he entered a Buddhist studies doctoral program at the University of Wisconsin. Three years later he was ordained as a Buddhist monk at Mount Koya, Japan. He later encountered Vipassana and also sat Zen in America at the Mt. Baldy Zen Center in Southern California with Joshu Sasaki Roshi. Shinzen has been conducting meditation retreats throughout North America for over 20 years.
Central to Shinzen’s interests is the merger of Eastern meditation with Western science. In recognition of his contributions to this field, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology recently awarded him an honorary doctorate. He teaches an astute style of Vipassana meditation. Astute in how he teaches working with the geography of the mind. He refers to three objective factors or spaces including what you see, what you hear, and what you feel as physical sensations in the body. The three subjective spaces include thoughts or “talk,” emotions or “feel,” and images. The mind will typically be engaged with one of these mind spaces, either exclusively or in combination with one another. He works with students interactively and uses his background in mathematics and physics to guide students with moment-by-moment decision trees. These decision trees are being developed into an interactive computer-based program. Shinzen is a mindfulness innovator and leverages upaya (“skillful means”) through his teaching style, making the teachings accessible to people through modern technology, computer-based algorithms, and innovatively using music on iPods to teach mindfulness to inner city kids. To help reach people who cannot afford the time or expense to travel to retreats, Shinzen offers phone-based weekend “mini-retreats.” Here is what Shinzen has to say about the purpose of these distance programs, “Many people experience immediate positive effects from Mindfulness, but its real power to foster broad and deep psycho-spiritual transformation only becomes evident through ongoing practice. The problem is that most people are not able to get away on a regular basis to do extended retreats. Without regular retreats it is usually difficult to realize the exponential growth potential of the practice. Family and work responsibilities, the expenses involved and the travel required prevent the vast majority of those ready to take on a regular practice from doing so.” Shinzen is the author of Breakthrough Pain: How to Relieve Pain Using Powerful Meditation Techniques that helps people “turn abject suffering into spiritual purification,” and the Audio CD, The Beginner’s Guide to Meditation. He maintains two websites Shinzen.org and Basic Mindfulness. You can also watch Shinzen videos on his YouTube channel Expand Contract and interviews on YouTube Channel Shinzen Interviews.
“If I were forced to give a short description (of enlightenment), I would say it is knowing for sure there never has been a thing inside you called self. Enlightenment is not a peak experience. It’s a permanent shift in paradigm that deepens day by day.”
The Buddha used metaphors as upaya, which translate to skillful means. One Buddhist scholar said, “The Buddha’s skill in teaching the Dharma, demonstrated in his ability to adapt his message to the context in which it was delivered. Parables, metaphors, and similes formed an important part of his teaching repertoire, skillfully tailored to suit the level of his audience.” Of course Buddha itself is a metaphor, a buddha is one who has become buddho – awake. In this case awakened to the nature of reality. This reality includes what he called dukkha. This is a tough concept to translate from the original Pali, and is often translated as “suffering” Suffering but literally translates as “bad-wheel”. Suffering captures some of the concept, but not all of it. Dissatisfaction captures another portion or a sense of something being off with all our experiences. The Buddha explained dukkha through the metaphor of the bad wheel an oxcart whose axle was out of one of the wheels creating a wobbly, uneven ride down the road. That image captures the sense of dukkha that can’t be captured in words themselves. It pervades everything and biases how we think and feel.
The Buddha used metaphors relevant to the material of his time: fire, water, earth, wind, war, and so forth. The suttas are rife with metaphor. For instance, the self was likened to a fire; it has some kind of existence but changes moment by moment. It’s a process not a solid thing. When I wrote my first book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness, I used a lot of the the Buddha’s metaphors, but at the time I didn’t realize how pervasively he relied upon them. I also knew that to understand the mind we must turn to metaphors and the self too. What I didn’t realize until later when I was teaching workshops based on the book that not can we only understand the self through metaphors, the self, itself, IS a metaphor. Our understanding of ourselves in this moment is understood and experienced through reference to previous moments of self (remembering) or anticipated moments of self (imagination). This is what the Buddha meant when he said the self was empty — anatta (no self).
The Three C's of Self-Forgiveness Imagine a situation where you "lose it." You get angry, your blood boils, you may yell at the person who has occasioned this anger or you may throw something or swear in vain. This feeling is no stranger to me. Sometimes, a situation catches us off guard and we react instead of meeting it with equan
Oliver Sacks Writes his Pre-Obituary The neurologist and author Oliver Sacks recently wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times about his impending death and the light this news casts on his life. His reflections are the epitome of equanimity. What we hear from him is not anxiety, rancor, or regret but rather gratitude, love, and reso
Getting Out of Our Own Way: Finding Liberation in the Moment If you are like me, you spend more time than you would like caught up in imagined stories that don't feel good and keep you stuck. How can you get out of your own way and stop beating yourself up with regrets. My mind can sometimes get stuck and I'd be in big trouble if I didn't have a mindfulness p
Living in the Present Moment of Clinical Work There are a number of name brand mindfulness-based interventions for use in clinical work, starting with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in 1979. Since then, we’ve seen the emergence of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), Acceptance an
Happy Nirvana Day Yesterday was Valentine's Day; today is Nirvana Day or Parinirvana Day. It is the day that celebrates the Buddha's death or his release into the final state of nirvana. A few years ago, in a post about Nirvana Day, I commented on the assumption regarding rebirth that this description requires. Today
“How can we be true to our deepest nature with so many claims on our time, senses and energy? In The Awakened Introvert, psychologist and author Arnie Kozak offers a roadmap based on the teachings and practices of mindfulness that helps us stay connected to inner clarity, creativity and peace in the midst of daily living.” —Tara Brach Ph.D., Author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge
Dr. Arnie Kozak
Long before mindfulness was fashionable, Arnie Kozak, was studying, practicing, and teaching mindfulness and Buddhist psychology. Beginning with a journey to India in the 80’s, Arnie began his lifelong practice in mindfulness meditation. As a psychologist, he has integrated ancient wisdom into his psychotherapy practice.
Arnie writes books and blogs about mindfulness, Buddhist psychology, and introversion. Arnie's ability to translate ancient healing traditions into pragmatic applications suitable for modern lifestyles through the use of metaphors have made him a contributing voice in the Mindfulness Revolution.
Arnie Kozak is a Clinical Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, University of Vermont College of Medicine and a Lecturer in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences where he teaches mindfulness courses. Arnie is on the guest faculty for the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, and the Copper Beech Institute.
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Arnie Kozak, Ph.D., Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapist, Author, and Speaker; Clinical Instructor Departments of Psychiatry and Medicine, University of Vermont College of Medicine.