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What's Wrong with Mindfulness (And What Isn't)

Zen Perspectives

Robert Rosenbaum (Editor), Barry Magid (Editor)


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Mindfulness seems to be everywhere—but are we sure that's a good thing? Teachers Sallie Jiko Tisdale, Gil Fronsdal, Norman Fischer, and more explain how removing mindfulness from Buddhism may set a dangerous precedent. 

Mindfulness is in fashion. Oprah loves it, Google teaches it to employees—it has become widespread as a cure-all for stress, health problems and psychological difficulties, interpersonal trouble, and existential anxiety. But when mindfulness is separated from the Buddhist tradition, is something lost?

The Zen teachers gathered here each offer a unique perspective on what “mindfulness” means, its strengths, and the potential pitfalls.

Gil Fronsdal and Max Erdstein thoughtfully explore the rich Pali roots of mindfulness

Barry Magid and Marc Poirier examine the unintended side effects of exposing a spiritual tradition to the demands of capitalism

Norman Fischer demonstrates how mindfulness informs his creative process

Grace Schireson shows how mindfulness allows her to engage fully with the world as a feminist

And more, including essays on mindfulness and environmentalism, science, and psychology.

Each chapter offers insights to ground mindfulness in a deeper understanding of both where it comes from, and where it might be headed.

Praise For What's Wrong with Mindfulness (And What Isn't): Zen Perspectives

“This book is the best thing I’ve read on mindfulness and the mindfulness movement.”
— David R. Loy, author of A New Buddhist Path

“This thoughtful book offers reassurance to those concerned about maintaining authenticity amidst the current hype about mindfulness. The book presents a range articulate and courageous voices that collectively expand the reader's understanding of mindfulness in the context of Zen teachings. What’s Wrong with Mindfulness merges deep respect for tradition with thorough acceptance of contemporary times.”
— Deborah Schoeberlein David, author of Living Mindfully

“If you’re really into mindfulness; if you really want to know about mindfulness deeply, then this is a book for you to read and, more, to contemplate. This isn’t about how to use mindfulness to make you happy, or to deal with stress, or to help with your business. This is about knowing more profoundly what it is all about and what it isn’t. Be prepared to be moved.”
— Arthur C. Bohart, professor emeritus California State University Dominguez Hills

“More than ever, with mindfulness now an in thing to do rather than be, I am awed, appreciative and impressed by the daring of the editors to examine the meaning of the word “mindfulness” and how it is being lived. It is refreshing to read a book of wisdom and depth by people of experience who are committed to maintaining the integrity of this ancient tradition. I applaud the questions raised and the diversity of thought and practice. May we all be awake, alive and read this book!”
— Elana Rosenbaum, author of Being Well (Even When You’re Sick)

“Raises urgent questions about Mindfulness—capital "M"—now that it has been extracted from its Buddhist roots.”
— Gaelyn Godwin, Abbot, Auspicious Cloud Temple, Houston Zen Center

“What’s Wrong with Mindfulness (And What Isn’t) does a fantastic job of detailing these setbacks and offering a clear picture of what earnest practice looks like.”
— The Tattooed Buddha

“The essays in What’s Wrong With Mindfulness mutually illuminate each other, like the facets of a jewel. The critical and historical analyses create a space in which the personal accounts of mindfulness, grounded in years of Zen practice, sparkle with creativity and the potentiality of free play.”
— Linda Galijan, San Francisco Zen Center

Wisdom Publications, 9781614292838, 208pp.

Publication Date: October 18, 2016

About the Author

Robert Meikyo Rosenbaum is a neuropsychologist and psychotherapist who now devotes himself full time to Zen and Dayan (Wild Goose) Qigong. He received lay entrustment from Sojun Mel Weitsman of Berkeley Zen Center and is authorized by Master Hui Liu as a senior teacher of the Taoist practice of qigong in the lineage of Yang Meijun.  Bob is the founding teacher of the Meadowmont Sangha in the Sierra foothills and the author of Walking the Way: 81 Zen Encounters with the Tao Te Ching and Zen and the Heart of Psychotherapy.  He also enjoys leading annual meditation/qigong trekking retreats in the Nepal Himalayas ( Rosenbaum lives in Emeryville, CA.

Barry Magid is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst practicing in New York City, and the founding teacher of the Ordinary Mind Zendo, also in New York. He is the author of the Wisdom titles Ordinary Mind: Exploring the Common Ground of Zen and PsychoanalysisEnding the Pursuit of Happiness: A Zen Guide, and Nothing Is Hidden: The Psychology of Zen Koans. Magid lives in New York, NY.