Paris is still light at ten in the evening, the cafes full and the long golden summer sunset illuminates magnificent monuments and lovers as we float on a tour boat along the Seine river. I am here teaching for the French Association for the Development of Mindfulness.
The Association is a dedicated and good hearted group of professionals and practitioners, a community supporting the worldwide work born from Jon Kabat Zinn in applied mindfulness and MBSR. It is apparent that there is a uniquely French approach to mindfulness and Buddhist dharma here expressed through the cultural values of philosophy, science, arts, revolution and education. Many also consider themselves refugees from religion and favor a secular or scientific approach to the teaching. In this spirit we are gathered, 400 or so, in a broad room, off a gracious courtyard used for theater productions, and not far from Notre Dame, to explore the meditative life and work of mindfulness. And of course to have the freshest croissants, baguettes and a leisurely lunch conversation with great wine and equally good conversation.
I offer an evening and a day of Buddhist psychology, presented as a science of mind, blended with a series of practices and trainings in breath, body and emotional mindfulness, and meditations of metta and compassion. A lively panel discussion follows my teaching, with a group of renowned doctors and researchers physicist/philosophers exploring the relationship of mindfulness and meditation to modern philosophical constructs of epistemology, knowing and self-knowledge,( Nagarjuna would appreciate this), and to neuroscience research and examples drawn from the healing arts and illuminated with personal stories and literary references from French poets to Goethe. It was moving and inspiring to listen to the physicians in the group discuss how important it is for doctors to tend the hearts of patients as well as their bodies. Their mindful approach to care includes fostering a spiritual well-being needed for healing chronic illness, anxiety, depression and pain. It is medicine for the soul.
Trudy Goodman and I spoke as dharma teachers and psychotherapists, sparking a genuine dialogue of how the teachings of awareness can best be made available in stressed and troubled modern times. From parenting to education, from the environment and politics all our worldly work benefits when the outer grows together with the cultivation of peace and inner well being. In this Paris gathering there is a sense of being part of a historical moment. The liberating spirit of mindfulness and Dharma is finding its way in a new French form, bringing teachings and practices of wisdom and compassion that are good in the beginning, good in the middle and good in the end to all who come to listen.