Tired of the same old left /right arguments? Want to throw your shoe at the shouting heads on cable news? Then join Jeff for a look at current events and culture from an integral perspective. Each week he explores emerging trends in politics, economics, science and spirituality, all with an eye toward spotting the evolution and up-flow of human consciousness and culture.
When Meditation Goes Wrong - Hidden dangers in Western Buddhism and the mindfulness movement - Guest, Dan Lawton
I have studied, taught and practiced meditation for over 30 years. I consider meditation, arising in its endless variations, to be indispensable to spiritual development and I sing its praises regularly on this podcast.
I have also occasionally spoken about my experience years ago when an intense period of mindfulness meditation triggered a multi-year siege of anxiety which began to heal only when, after much suffering, I cast off the instructions of my teachers to “just keep meditating” and got up from the cushion and fled a retreat.
A few weeks ago I ran across an essay written by meditation teacher, Dan Lawton, called When Buddhism Goes Bad; How My Mindfulness Practice Led Me to Meltdown. A committed meditator for ten years and a full-time teacher in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction system, he described his similar (though perhaps more extreme) experience of anxiety and dissociation triggered by meditation.
When I read his story, I felt an instant siblinghood. His essay validated my experience and brought clarity to the risk inherent in lifting a transformational spiritual practice out of its traditional culture where any resulting “hell realms” and “dark nights” are recognized and metabolized.
As meditation practices have exploded in popularity in the West, they have brought with them an array of adverse experiences far beyond the typically-billed benefits of lower stress, decreased anxiety and reduced pain. The terrain of fractured, disruptive and altered states of consciousness has often been explored in Buddhist teachings through the centuries, but when these practices made their journey into Western culture, a sufficient understanding of the downsides of meditation was lost in transit.
One way to avoid adverse effects is to integrate mindfulness practice with somatic, psychological and interpersonal work. For instance, both Dan and I ultimately found relief from our psychic pain through a trauma therapy called Somatic Experiencing, founded by the psychologist Peter Levine.
My ordeal also undoubtedly fueled my later participation in developing Integral Life Practice (ILP) at the Integral Institute in the early 2000’s. ILP is a comprehensive synthesis of transformational practices and is currently offered in many forms through Integral Life. I just wish I had had it 10 years earlier!
If an online search of “adverse effects of meditation” is any indication, the potential dangers of modern mindfulness practice are becoming more apparent. Dan highlights the work of Dr. Willoughby Britton, Director of the Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at Brown University, who studies both positive and negative effects of meditation and has found that 37% of meditators studied report negative impacts on functioning and 6% had “lasting bad effects.” Dr. Britton has founded Cheetah House, a non-profit organization “that provides resources about meditation-related difficulties to meditators-in-distress and teachers of meditation-based modalities.”
Meditation is a powerful and precious tool and I offer this podcast in the spirit of helping us to develop a less naive and more mature relationship with it. I hope you are enlightened by my conversation with Dan Lawton.
If you haven’t already, check out my new YouTube show, “This Week in The New York Times”, hosted by the Post-Progressive Post,
Afghanistan: An Integral Case for Staying, and Leaving
The US withdraws from Afghanistan and the Taliban enters — and all so much faster than expected. In this episode, recorded 8/18, I take a look at what is happening in Afghanistan through the lens of evolutionary theory.
Post-Issue Relationships - Interpersonal development at teal and turquoise
Dr. Keith Witt, integral psychotherapist extraordinaire, joins me for another episode of The Shrink and the Pundit, where we explore the contours of emerging integral consciousness.
Today’s topic is what Dr. Keith calls the “post-issue relationship”, and here’s how he describes it: In a post-issue relationship, each problem is an opportunity to grow and love. A post-issue relationship may still have problems, resentments, doubts, and selfish or thoughtless injuries, but there is always an adjustment to love in response to pain or distortion.
Second-tier living really is more good, true and beautiful! Our conversation starts at 3:16; I hope you enjoy it!.
You can find out more about Dr. Keith Witt here.
Why I Hated the Movie “Pig” - Give me ugliness or give me nihilism, but not both at once
This week I review the new Nicholas Cage movie, Pig, about a truffle hunter in the wilds of Oregon who goes on a quest to find his kidnapped pig. It is the work of first-time filmmaker, Michael Sarnoski.
I am very much an outlier on this movie, which has received rave reviews and a 97% critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The rapturous response — The Guardian called a “masterpiece” — gave me pause and made me reconsider a movie that I would have otherwise written off as being shockingly bad.
Upon reflection I realize that Pig is not a bad movie, it may even be a great movie if you like your nihilism served up as ugly as possible.
There is a strain of postmodern (green altitude) identity that sees modern culture as hopelessly corrupt and exhausted, facing an existential meta-crisis. A significant sliver of them, self-described “doomers,” see a world so degenerated that withdrawal is the only moral choice.
This view is defensible, of course, but inadequate. What’s missing is what integral thinking brings to the party: an evolutionary understanding that its meta-crises all the way down.
Most of human history has been a rolling catastrophe. Welcome to evolution! The modern (orange altitude) stage of development, for all its soulless avarice, has been a boon to humans in terms of security and wealth, giving rise to life conditions that can generate a social critique like Pig, which is postmodern deconstruction at its platonic perfection, establishing once and for all that there is nothing good, true, or beautiful to be found.
In the podcast, I draw a distinction between the aesthetics of ugliness and nihilism, both of which can deeply move me. But you have to give me something more than the told-not-shown love of a pig. These days I require my social critiques to have faith in life, movies like Minari, or even Nomadland. I’ll do a review of these soon! Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS. I love listening to podcasts at fast speed. Last week I learned you can also speed up YouTube videos. It’s great, try it! Just click the gear icon while playing a video and select the “speed” option.
Progress Denialism: Getting us Nowhere
Bill Maher kicked off a cultural meme a few weeks ago with a segment on his popular show Real Time where he skewered the cultural left for progressophobia, which he defined as “situational blindness, except what you can’t see is that your dorm room in 2021 is better than the South before the Civil War.”
In this episode, I map the idea of progress in our culture. Maher’s comments were widely praised in the mainstream media, from Morning Joe Scarborough on MSNBC (center left) to Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal (center right). Together these represent the modern worldview (orange altitude). Traditionalists (blue/amber altitude) see no progress in this wicked world, only the opportunity for redemption or transcendence. Progressives (green altitude), who also have a fallen-world narrative, see the idea of progress as an insult to all who continue to suffer.
The arising integral stage has a chance to revalorize the message of progress. Not as a march to a triumphal future, but as the ever-widening circle of moral consideration we have, individually and collectively, for each other and all aspects of our world. Onward to upward!
On a personal note, many of you may know that our Brother Terry Patten, who I have worked with and hosted on the Daily Evolver many times, is fighting a battle with cancer. I invite you to join me and many of his friends and fans in supporting him at his GoFundMe site.
~ Jeff Salzman
Announcing The Post-Progressive Post! - A new web publication for the politically homeless
The Post-Progressive project proceeds! In this episode, Steve McIntosh, president of the Institute for Cultural Evolution, joins me to introduce a major new web publication created to transcend and integrate our polarized politics: The Post-Progressive Post.
Subtitled, “A Home for the Politically Homeless” the Post-Progressive Post seeks to be a meeting place for integral thinkers, folks who see value in many sectors of the political spectrum and want to join the effort to form an “omni-inclusive” worldview.
In this podcast, Steve guides us on a tour through the site, including:
* Post-progressivism defined: the 100-word version, the 700-word version and the multi-page version
* An ever-growing array of news analysis, opinion columns, blogs and podcasts by leading integral thinkers
* Win-win-win positions on the issues of the day which honor traditional values, modern values and postmodern values
* Quizzes and exercises to help you explore your own integral consciousness
* Portals to the post-progressive Facebook and Twitter feeds, and more ways to get involved
The Post-Progressive Project as a whole is an initiative of the Institute for Cultural Evolution. Steve McIntosh is the president of the Institute and I am on its board of directors. I hope you enjoy the podcast, and The Post-Progressive Post!
Down to Earth Integral Wisdom
In this podcast, Jeff examines current events through the lense of integral theory, relying most heavily on developmental stages (often using the language of Spiral Dynamics) and the four quadrants. I read many of Ken Wilber's books before I began listening to The Daily Evolver, and while they were illuminating in many ways, they didn't do a great job of helping me understand how the concpets of integral theory actually apply to on-the-ground, real life events, which is where The Daily Evolver excels. It has personally helped me to get a better felt-sense of the various developmenal stages as they manifest through political figures, public discourse/debate, social movements, etc. The podcast has also given me a more hopeful sense of the "beautiful but not pretty" arc of history, which Jeff frames as moving, overall, towards greater complexity, truth, goodness, and beauty, and does so in a convincing way. The Shrink and the Pundit series with Dr. Keith Witt is also superb, and has helped me to get a much better sense of how integral theory can be effectively applied to psychology, relationships, and therapy. Some of the episodes, such as the one on regulating anxiety, have been very helpful to me personally. And they're just so fun to listen to! A frend of mine said they are like the Click and Clack of psychology.
Perspective on world events
Jeff is great at using world events to help apply and understand integral theory. The clarity I have gained his greatly reduced my anxiety about what is happening in the world. It is also help to guide my interactions with those I may not agree with.
Very well done!
A hidden gem. Please keep em coming, Jeff! Recommending to friends.