Tag Archive: Shinzen Young

Quaking the subject

This post continues my thinking on the topic of a process-relational “bodymind practice” – an existential art or “technique of the self” building on Buddhist meditation practice reinterpreted and augmented through process-relational philosophy.

In this post, I incorporate insights obtained through the practice of Quaker silent worship. See the posts “ What a bodymind can do” parts 1,  2,  3, and update for background on all of this.


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Supermind & Son

The following provides an updated diagram and some further notes pertaining to my three-part article “What A Bodymind Can Do.” The earlier parts can be read here: part 1, part 2, part 3.  (Please note that this version has corrected a minor error in the originally posted article, and added a bit more information at the end.)


“What A Bodymind Can Do” was an attempt to map the possibilities of human perception, action, and realization by synthesizing Shinzen Young’s systematization of mindfulness meditation practices (primarily Buddhist, but with reference to others) with a process-relational framework rooted in Whiteheadian process metaphysics and the triadic phenomenology of C. S. Peirce.

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This is the concluding part of a three-part article. Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 here. They should be read in the sequence in which they were published.


The True, the Good, and the Beautiful

All of this can be related to the triad of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful — or, in their Peircian sequence, aesthetics, ethics, and logic. Aesthetics, as Peirce conceived it, is most directly concerned with firstness; ethics, with secondness; and logic, with thirdness.

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This continues from the previous post, where Shinzen Young’s model of core mindfulness practices was expanded into a system of classifying what a human bodymind can do. Here the model is deepened following the process-relational insights that are at the core of Shinzen’s system as well as of other (especially Mahayana and Vajrayana) Buddhist systems, and of the philosophies of A. N. Whitehead and, in some respects, of C. S. Peirce, Gilles Deleuze, and other process-relational thinkers. This part is followed by a concluding segment, found here.


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Working with Shinzen Young‘s system of mindfulness training, which I’ve described here before, and thinking it through in the process-relational logic I’ve been developing on this blog (and elsewhere), is resulting in a certain re-mix of Shinzen’s ideas, and of Buddhism more generally, with Peirce’s, Whitehead’s, Wilber’s, Deleuze’s, and others’. Here’s a crack at where it’s taking me…

I’ve divided this into three parts due to its length. Part 1 builds on Shinzen’s “5 ways to know yourself as a spiritual being,” which presents five core mindfulness practices, to develop a basic classification of ways in which the human bodymind can know itself and the world. Part 2 deepens the model by pushing beyond traditional dualisms through incorporating what Shinzen calls “flow,” which is analogous to the central insight of process-relational philosophies about the fundamentally processual nature of subjectivity or mentality, objectivity or materiality, and the dynamic and interdependent relationship between the two. Part 3 provides some concluding thoughts and caveats.


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(I love this photograph, so here it is again…)

I think the idea and image of dark flow streaming out of our universe has also been resonating with me because of the work I’ve been doing using Vipassana teacher Shinzen Young’s system of mindfulness training. Young is one of the most erudite and intellectually rigorous teachers of Vipassana (mindfulness) meditation, having synthesized decades of training in Zen, Theravadan, and Vajrayana Buddhist traditions along with what seems a voracious appetite for languages, into an “algorithmic system” that takes what, in other places, seems a morass of mutually incommensurable terms and makes it thoroughly coherent and applicable.

Many meditation teachers teach ways of developing clarity, concentration, and equanimity, but none of them — at least none of those I’ve come across currently living (and, of all places, just down the road from me, when he isn’t traveling) — draws in so many different traditions, East and West, into a system that is very approachable, practicable, and yet somehow thorough and complete. (See links at bottom to his talks and writings.) More than that, his system resonates with many of the ideas I’ve been exploring on this blog, including the process-relational and Naturphilosophical streams of Continental philosophy, and in some respects the Lacanian-psychoanalytical (as I’ll point out below), not to mention, of course, other Asian field-theories such as Daoism, western traditions of Hermetic philosophy and Christian negative theology, and the like.

Shinzen describes human subjective experience as phenomenologically distinguishable into three primary “fields,” “spaces” or “elements”: Feel, which are bodily sensations experienced as emotional; Image, which are internal forms of visual thinking; and Talk, which are internal forms of monologue/dialogue/talk or “auditory thinking.” The three subjective “spaces” in which these arise develop in sequence from infancy: first we learn to feel with our bodies, then we start to see things (once our eyes learn to focus on them) and “image” the world and its relationships through imaginal fantasy, and finally we learn the words and the linguistic-discursive constructs that come to shape both our subjectivity and our world for us. And over time the three kinds of elements (distilled, for simplicity’s and usability’s sake, from Buddhism’s “five aggregates”) become densely entangled and knotted into emotionally-laden force-fields.

In a very interesting sense, these three spaces correspond with Jacques Lacan’s tripartite analysis of the psyche into the Real, a kind of nondual state of nature from which we become separated as we take on the qualities of socially defined subjective experience; the Imaginary, the image-based world of self-other relations and fantasies that emerge through the “mirror phase,” when we learn to recognize the body that appears in a mirror as the same one that others see when they see “me”; and the Symbolic, which is the language- and narrative-based world that “interpellates” or “hails us” into being the kind of subject that would fit into the social world.

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