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Mindfulness: The Possible Revolution, by Shinzen Young

By Frank Simons

The Meditation Center presents the Tricycle retreat series What Is Mindfulness? Part 6, “Mindfulness: The Possible Revolution,” by Shinzen Young. This response to a question by a retreat participant shows how thoughtful Shinzen is. “What ‘insight’ characteristics would a seasoned meditator have? Thanks again for your gift of the retreat.”

Film Meditation
What Is Mindfulness? Part 6
Thu, Nov 19, 5:30pm
Meditation Center
Callejón Blanco 4
Free, donations accepted
415 111 0644

“Speaking just within the context of people who use Basic Mindfulness (that’s what I call my approach, as explained here:, and speaking about general tendencies only, a common progression of insight might be something like this:

• An initial aha experience because the person realizes that “thinking” is tangible (composed of mental image and mental talk) and that thinking is not always there (sometimes the mental screen goes blank and the head goes quiet), and that sometimes even self is not there (mental screen goes blank, head goes quiet, and body becomes emotionally peaceful all at once). These insights are a consequence of the sensory taxonomy I use and often happen quickly after one begins using the system.

• Later on, a person notices that suffering due to physical sensations is equal to the pain sensation multiplied by resistance. In other words, suffering equals pain divided by equanimity. This changes that person’s relationship to physical pain forever.

• Later on, they see the same is true for uncomfortable emotional sensations (anger, fear, sadness, shame, impatience, disgust, etc.). This changes that person’s relationship to emotional discomfort forever.

• Later still (sometimes much later), they realize that physical and emotional satisfaction equals pleasure multiplied by equanimity. (That’s a subtler realization than the suffering piece.)

• Later on still, they gain direct experience of no-self/true self (see this article for more details:

• Finally, they come to true non-dual awareness. All the time, every day, as they’re bopping around in the world doing ordinary things, they experience both self and world arising from and returning to zero—i.e., they no longer move through the world; both they and the world are loved into and loved out of existence moment by moment. Self and world are understood as born in the cleft that arises when zero splits briefly into plus and minus. This is the description of enlightenment according to Joshu Sasaki Roshi ( and, a contemporary Japanese Zen master who has strongly influenced my thinking.

• A corollary of this final insight is a lifetime of spontaneous service (bodhicitta).”


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