Wise Counsel Interview Transcript: An Interview with Shinzen Young on Mindfulness Meditation

David Van Nuys, Ph.D.

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Dr. David Van Nuys: Welcome to Wise Counsel, a podcast interview series sponsored by CenterSite, LLC, covering topics in mental health, wellness and psychotherapy. My name is Dr. David Van Nuys. I'm a clinical psychologist and your host.

On today's show we'll be talking with the internationally respected mindfulness meditation teacher, Shinzen Young. Shinzen Young became fascinated with Asian culture while a teenager in Los Angeles. Later he enrolled in PhD program in Buddhist studies at the University of Wisconsin.

Eventually, he went to Asia and did extensive training in each of the three major Buddhist meditative traditions: . Upon returning to the United States, his intellectual interested shifted to the burgeoning dialog between eastern internal science and western technological science.

In recognition of his original contributions to that dialog, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology has awarded him an honorary doctorate. Shinzen's innovative techniques for pain management derive from two sources. The first is his personal experience dealing with discomfort during intense periods of meditation in Asia, entering Shamonic ceremonies with tribal cultures.

The second is some three decades of experience in coaching people through a wide spectrum of chronic and acute pain challenges. Shinzen leads meditation retreats in the mindfulness tradition throughout North America and he's helped establish several centers and programs.

Now here's the interview:

Shinzen Young, welcome to Wise Counsel.

Shinzen: Thank you.

David: Well, let's start out having you tell us a bit about your journey. I heard that you actually started learning Japanese in your teens and went to a Japanese school in Los Angeles. Do I have that right?

Shinzen: That's correct. I got fascinated with Asian culture when I was in, what was then called junior high, now called middle school, I think.

David: Wow.

Shinzen: And I discovered that there was a whole parallel school system for Japanese-American kids. In addition to American public school. So, I attended both. When I graduated from Venice High as basically a nerdy nobody, I simultaneously graduated from Sawtelle Japanese Language Institute as the class valedictorian in Japanese.

David: Amazing. Wow. How interesting that you were so drawn to that at such an early age. Now at what point did you become drawn to meditation?

Shinzen: Well, it grew out of my interest in Asian language and culture. After high school I went to UCLA as an Asian language major and that led me to be a study abroad student in Japan in my senior year at UCLA. I had the tremendous advantage though that I could already speak, read and write Japanese pretty much like a native by the time I arrived in Japan.

I basically didn't really attend classes very much for that year. I just each morning I would walk out on the street, see what was going on, and just start up a conversation with people.

In those days, I don't know what the situation is now, but in those days it was very unusual that a foreigner could speak, read and write Japanese well. So, I was immediately welcomed into any situation from the Yakuza -- the gangsters, the slums -- all the way up to the imperial palace. It was just open to me because of that language and the rarity of being a gaijin -- a foreigner who had mastered the idiom and the culture.

So, naturally one of the cultural byways that I investigated was Zen temple. I came into contact with real live Zen monks, who sat still and didn't move, which was just amazing to me since basically I myself by birth was very fidgety and a total pain wimp.

I just couldn't imagine how these people could sit for these hours without moving, but they could. They seemed to have a secret. I got this vibe that they knew something. It was like this secret that they would be willing to share with you, but they would never force upon you.

Like a hand reaching out to you with something to offer but not pushing it on you. I thought, "There's something here". When I got back to the states and graduated from UCLA I wanted to go do graduate school.

David: Now, let me just interrupt to ask...

Shinzen: Yeah, go ahead.

David: What year was that have been that you were in Japan?

Shinzen: That would have been, I guess, in the mid-sixties.

David: OK, just wanted us to have a little bit of an anchor. Go ahead.

Shinzen: Yes, I'm an old fart. [laughs] I'm 63 now. So in any event, my favorite professor at UCLA pointed out that the University of Wisconsin had a Buddhist Studies program, where you could get an academic degree in Buddhism. So I though, OK, that's what I'll do. That led to my academic involvement with Buddhism.

Then they sent me back to Japan to do research for a PhD thesis, but the place that I went wouldn't teach me anything unless I actually practiced it. So I had to actually do the thing that amazed me: sitting still, meditating and so forth.

Needless to say it was not easy. I told you about my basic genetics and upbringing, that I was extremely fidgety and extremely intolerant of any physical discomfort or emotional discomfort. So it was quite a challenge to do the meditation, but they weren't going to teach me anything unless I did.

Then I started to like the meditation and then I got so much into it that I decided to take a leave of absence from scholarly Buddhist studies because I realized that I would never understand this stuff just by reading a book. Anyway, so that sort of shunted me in the direction of meditation practice. So that's a long answer to how I got involved in meditation.

David: Yeah, that's a good answer. How long did it take you to transition from fidgety guy to somebody who actually wanted to meditate?

Shinzen: Well, it was a gradual process, but I would say it was a good two or three years. I had gone over there. I was supposed to spend a year, gather data for my dissertation and then come back. I did end up staying for three years. Not gathering data for this. Well, in sense gathering data, experiential data.

So I would say it took about three years to make that transition. I definitely, I went there one person and I definitely in three years came back a very, very different kind of human being.

David: How would you describe that difference?

Shinzen: Well, pretty much along the lines of what I just said, not afraid of physical discomfort anymore, I mean afraid of it, sure I don't, you know, to get out but I realize that if I am in physical discomfort there's something I can do that pain doesn't equal suffering. Pain and suffering multiplied by resistance and divided by your sensory clarity.

So did I say that right? Suffering, no, no, I am sorry. Suffering is pain multiplied by your resistance to it and yes, divided by your sensory clarity so that means that the more sensory clarity you have, the less suffering. On the other hand, the more resistance you have or the more suffering, meaning that through training you can increase your sensory clarity and decrease your resistance and therefore you can have a very big pain with very little suffering.

I know that, I know that directly from my own experience and I know that the same thing works for emotional discomfort. So knowing that pretty much turned me into the opposite kind of person that I originally was.

David: OK, well we'll come back to talking about pain and suffering and that.

Shinzen: I'll briefly stop for a second, I am sorry, could you repeat that?

David: Yes, I said we'll come back to talking about pain and suffering in a bit but moving along I know that now you are a teacher and vipassana or mindfulness meditation and I am curious, is vipassana a relatively new term? I thought I knew something about Buddhism and meditation but I don't think I started hearing the term 'vipassana' until sometime maybe in the mid 80s.

Shinzen: It might be a new term in the western world but it is certainly a very, very old term in Buddhist history, in fact it's the oldest term. It's the original word or one of the original words that was used uniquely by the Buddha himself to describe his process.

The reason it's a new term in the western world is that the history of the exposure of the west Buddhism has gone through various byways you might say, but basically the earliest Buddhist practice historically was vipassana which involved teasing apart the strands of sensory experience.

You could describe it in one vocabulary you can say its like the time honored method of science, divide and conquer, meaning if you can break the complex system into its natural components you can conquer your ignorance about it and so the original discovery of the Buddha was vipassana actually, the notion that if you keep track of the sensory strands, the individual sensory experiences that produce you know, sense of limited identity moment-by-moment then you will be free from that limited identity.

It's an extraordinary discovery, one of the major paradigm shift that our human species has come upon, it's huge, absolutely huge and I think will stand to test of time as one of the major discoveries in all of human history.

So that was called vipassana, 'vi' meaning 'distinct' and 'pasana' meaning 'to see'. So when you, in my formulation, the way I would put it in my modern and somewhat personal way, which is that when you can keep track of your mental images, your internal conversations and the emotional type sensations in your body, when those are all vipassana, when they are all seen distinctly, then what you have is mental images, internal talk and emotional type sensations, you do not have a limited identity in a suffering self.

On the other hand when you lose track of them, which is a normal state for most people, they don't just add together, they crisscross, they multiply together and they produce a kind of poison that traps your identity and limits you in time and space.

So if you want to become free from that limited identity, what the Buddha discovered is, all you have to do is keep track of the sensory strengths and they won't multiply together into an exponential, overwhelm, they will just add together with linear manageability, you might say.

That's a mouthful, I mean to really understand what I just said is about equivalent to really understanding E=MC2, I mean you can say it in a couple of seconds but you really tease out the information packed in this short notation, you know, takes a little bit of time but anyway the original discovery of Buddhism was this sort of tracking of the elements of 'I am' ness.

Yeah, now I described it in the imperialistic language of divide and conquer but it could also be described in a more politically correct way as untangle and be free. So that's early Buddhism and then that developed into what is called 'Mahayana' Buddhism or the great vehicle and the great vehicle went to China and sort of mated with Confucianism, Daoism and broadly Chinese culture and produced this wild and wonderful hybrid child called 'zen', which was known, zen practice was known in the western world before vipassana practice was known.

And then Mahayana developed into something called 'Vajrayana' which is also known as 'Tantric Practice' and that dominates in Tibet and that's the third major practice tradition except that tantric practice, a little bit of it actually found its way into east Asia and into Japan as a school called Shingon.

So v is Japanese Vajrayana or tantric practice and I actually started my practice with Shingon. Then I did Zen then I came to Vipassana. So I pretty much reversed human, I reversed Buddhist history, I went from the diamond vehicle tantric practice to the great vehicle in its east Asian form, Zen practice, to the small vehicle in its south east Asian form which is mindfulness or Vipassana practice.

David: OK, well thank you for that overview.

Shinzen: That gives you a pretty good overview of the same.

David: I think it does. Now you've, you know, long been both a seeker and a teacher, what do you see is your particular mission? I sense you do have a mission.

Shinzen: I definitely have a mission. You remember that I began with an interest in Asian culture. When I was a kid, when I was 14, 15, 16, what I wanted was, to be an Asian. I wanted to be like the Samurai of 300 years ago or something. I just wanted to know everything that could be known about that and to become that and I actually was pretty much on a path of becoming a light-skinned, big nosed Japanese.

Then I encountered this meditation practice and I realized this is the pinnacle of what the east best to offer. This is something they did better than anyone else. When it comes, I mean meditative traditions are in the west too. There is Christian contemplation, there is Moslem Sufi practice there is Jewish Kabala and so forth.

Meditation exists in the west but it was never honed to the refinement and efficacy that it was in the east and particularly within the Buddhist tradition. So its like I sort of came to the pinnacle of Asia with the meditation and its like where to go from here?

I have seen the best that they have to offer and it has worldwide significance. So I am standing at the peak of Asia looking out and what do I see? I see one other peak when I survey all of human culture and history. It is something else that stands out there that's as impressive as Buddhist techniques of meditation.

David: Ahem, and that is...?

Shinzen: Western science.

David: Yes.

Shinzen: And technology. So back there in you know, early 70s when I had come back to the western world, the US, I sort of asked myself, well, what would happen if the best of the east made it with the best of the west? I know what happened when Indic spirituality made it with Chinese spirituality, it gave birth to a whole new direction called 'zen'.

It is very different from either Daoism, Confucianism, on one hand or Indictivism on the other; it's really its own friend, very creative, very vital. So then I had to ask myself, well what's sitting around for Buddhism to make with in the modern world the best candidate is science and technology because that's the best of the west. We did that better than anybody.

I mean there's just, I mean sure there's lot of technology in ancient China and in India, they were quite good in certain areas of mathematics and so forth but the thing that caught fire ever since Copernicus and Bacillus in the 16th century, something just took off, [inaudible] and Newton and then Maxwell and then Einstein and... it's very impressive.

So I thought OK, well I still have intellectual interest but they're not in Buddhist scholarship anymore. So a good area to develop would be in science, because some day there's going to be a deep dialogue, there's going to be dating with it hopefully or there could be, these two worlds could date and then eventually make and then something unpredictable but wonderful and powerful would come out of that.

So I thought I know I am going to be more or less a professional mediator, I would like to be a paraprofessional scientist so that I could really at a deeper level participate in that dialogue and Lo and Behold, it has come to pass big time.

The Dalai Lama, you know more or less calling for the end of Buddhism and its merging with science, I mean can you imagine the pulp saying that with regards to Kabalahcism?

David: I can't.

Shinzen: No, we can't but in Buddhism its like not so straight. So I have actually a three-tiered mission. Tier no. one is to take the traditional Buddhist practice and reformulate it into modern language, totally modern secular vocabulary that makes sense to everyone.

So that was like my first goal with my life. Second goal is to figure out a new delivery system for this practice. People can't go away to retreat, their family situation, their financial situation, their geography, their work responsibilities, often their health situation prevents them from even taking a day off to go to a center if there was even a center around them which there usually isn't.

So I needed to figure out a delivery system that was inexpensive and could reach the people of the world with a liberation-oriented practice not a watered on practice. So tier no. 1, figure out a completely modern formulation of the vocabulary and the techniques.

Tier no. 2, figure out a completely modern delivery system that will make it available to anyone in the world whatever their finances or geography or whatever maybe. So I have achieved those two tiers but tier no. three I don't know that I will live to see but at least I can be part of it.

Tier no. three is to make Buddhism obsolete. That sounds so, what shall I say presumptuous and offensive but I can justify that.

David: OK.

Shinzen: To make it obsolete, not in the sense, to make it, well maybe that's not exactly the right word but let's put it this way, Newton was incredible but relatively stick and quantum physics or take it to a whole, that level. They don't exactly replace Newton but they're based on the, but they show us things that Newton could have never even dreamed of, you know, if you had told Newton the results of relativity, I mean he could have eventually understood it but upon first hearing, something like E=MC2 or that its essentially chance but responsible for these forces, OK?

The quantum view, upon first hearing the relativistic or quantum view of physics and Newton would have freaked, totally freaked and yet of course eventually he would understand it but it takes it to a whole other thing.

David: Yes.

Shinzen: So what we need, I believe that the Buddha was the Sir Isaac Newton of spirituality, absolutely, truly generous in a class by himself. Now, what we need is an Albert Einstein and a Richard Simon all trained in western science, neuroscience to say, oh and you guess by the way here are the equations that describe enlightenment and here's some alternative interventions that are, can really speed the process along for the average person in the world. That's period no. 3.

David: OK, boy.

Shinzen: I don't think small, OK?

David: Yeah, right, right, well I love...

Shinzen: Because the person that figures out your no. three or it probably won't be a person and probably be a team of enlightened neuroscientists.

David: Well, you know speaking of neuroscience, I have to take this little by way here for a moment because I was just exposed to a video presentation, I sent you a copy but you might not have had a chance to see it because I didn't send it till late last night, but there was a presentation by a doctor Joe Bolt Taylor who is a neuroscientist, who suffered a stroke and she ended up with a hematoma, the size of a golf ball in her left side of her brain.

This forced her into, she describes it, for while she could only function from the right side of her brain and the experience that she describes of expansiveness and of energy, that of the lack of boundaries between herself and the objects and the feeling of getting larger and larger and a kind of ecstasy that was associated with that, really began to sound very much like some sort of sartorial experience.

So that got me to wonder...

Shinzen: What happened... oh I am sorry, go ahead.

David: That got me to wondering if in fact meditation, the practice of meditation perhaps is the whole, you know, conversation about quieting the mental chatter and so on, if that isn't a discipline that somehow effectively quiets down the left hemisphere so that the right hemisphere can emerge.

I have to run that by you.

Shinzen: It's something I have given a lot of thought to and it's something in the light that but definitely not that simple but something like that but no one knows the specifics of the light that, in other words, its incomparably more complex then just that but its something like that, I believe and therefore there will be alternate interventions.

What happened when that, did they eventually get rid of the hematoma?

David: Yes, they did and she reports that it took her about ten years to recover fully, you know, where she now is able to, she has regained all of her functions. I am hoping to interview her. I have sent off an email to her.

Shinzen: Well you know that would be a dynamite interview, would be a dialogue between her and me.

David: Well, I'll try to set that up, that sounds like a wonderful idea.

Shinzen: Because I can give an expert opinion as a professional teacher about the various dimensions of her experience. That would be extremely interesting.

David: Well, in the video that I saw of her, she had a kind of missionary zeal and it was very short, its only 18 minutes, so I don't know her whole story and her whole sense of mission but she really seem to be advocating to people, look, its right there, you just need to step into the other side.

Shinzen: This, can't speak that, that was the question I was going to ask you. It didn't wear off after they cured the condition...

David: Definitely...

Shinzen: She had a change in her consciousness, is that correct? It was permanent.

David: That was the implication, was that I got the sense and this is what I would want to ask her, I got the sense that she would now be able to shuttle back and forth between these two kinds of awareness.

Shinzen: That's exactly the kind of thing I am speaking of, something where we, we are not going to... divide your left temporal lobe, OK, but consider this, there is something called TMS, transcranial magnetic stimulation.

David: Yes.

Shinzen: That can temporarily cool out a certain region in the brain. So if it were properly aimed, you could get a reversible version of what she talked about theoretically.

David: Ahem, you don't know of anyone whose working on that, by any chance.

Shinzen: Me.

David: OK, good.

Shinzen: And other people.

David: Oh yes.

Shinzen: That's a long story.

David: OK, well I am going to bring us back sort of what's on track for this podcast series and I am hoping that you and I can have additional conversations and interviews maybe here we can follow this other path in greater detail but this particular series is devoted to issues of psychotherapy and mental health, so I would like to focus in on some of the ways in which you see mindfulness meditation intersecting the field of psychotherapy and what's known as mental health.

Shinzen: Fascinating.

David: Yeah.

Shinzen: I need to ask you about how much time do we have left because I can pontificate forever.

David: OK, well...

Shinzen: Give me some limits here.

David: OK, I would say 10 or 15 minutes.

Shinzen: OK, very good, that gives me a bulk time. Well, this is part of the whole intersection of the best of the east and the best of the west. Now, what's happening now is that mindfulness, this specific form of practice, which I sort of characterize to you as divide and conquer or put alternatively as untangle and be free, this form of practice has now become a hot hot topic in the psychotherapy world which makes a lot of sense.

Now my definition of mindfulness is that it's the systematic cultivation of a core skill set and that core skill set is concentration power, sensory clarity and a quality that we call equanimity. So concentration power is your ability to attempt to what has been to relevant in the moment, which of course can change moment by moment.

Sensory clarity is, can be thought of as the ability to keep the strands of your sensory experience from tangling or put all, and particularly the strands of subjective experience, mental image and internal thought and affective sensations in the body.

Equanimity is the ability to let those sensory strands rise and pass away without self-interest theorem. Now if you think about it, concentration, clarity and equanimity are the fundamental skills that you need to be successful in therapy. Makes sense?

David: Yeah, yeah, say that again, concentration...

Shinzen: Concentration defined as the ability to attempt to what is deemed relevant. Sensory clarity, defined as the ability to keep the strands of your experience, especially your subjective experience from tangling and equanimity, which is learning how not to fight with yourself, meaning not to fight with your own sensory experience. Those three skills are core to success in any growth endeavor.

If you have them, you will be successful, if you don't have them you will not be successful. Freud himself said that the only people that for whom psychoanalysis will never work are people that lack concentration power. We can rev up your...

David: I wasn't aware of that.

Shinzen: Yeah, and we can rev up your confidence, he didn't know that concentration power can be developed through systematic exercise but people in the east knew that. He also, by the way, said that the therapist has to be in a special state of concentration called evenly hovering awareness. That also was forgotten about him, and what does the therapy wants you to do?

Well, it wants you to be clear about what's going on, what are your experiencing, what are you experiencing, what are you experiencing, well your ability to be clear with about what's going on is your ability to keep track of your sensory experience of mental image, mental thought and the flavors of the emotion that are coursing through your body and guess what, that's trainable too, the systematic exercise.

Western therapist didn't know that. They did the talk therapy, OK? Well the talk therapy is fine but it's going to work a hell of a lot better if a person have self-awareness skill and then what does therapy teach you to do? Well, to be less conflicted, or you can be self conflicted with regards to big patterns in your life but what Buddhism says is that the really important self-conflictedness is happening second by second in a kind of push and pull that you're not even aware of, where you're interfering with the natural flow of your subjective experience.

So we teach people the skills that will make their therapy faster, deeper, easier for the clients, easier for the therapist and guess what, lets be honest, therefore cheaper for the insurance company that's going to be funding it or for your personal bursary, your own finances that are going to be funding.

So the psychological establishment is probably going to find out in the next several decades that outsourcing the acquisition of core awareness skills to experts like us will vastly potentiate the therapeutic endeavor and by that I mean specifically make the therapy faster, deeper, easier for both parties and cheaper for whoever is paying the bill.

Now that sounds like an offer you can't refuse.

David: Right, and it is fascinating you know in conducting other interviews in this series, I have come across schools of therapy that specially are using the term mindfulness and they have integrated it in some cases they have integrated it in with a cognitive behavioral approach. In other cases they have integrated in what might be a more you know, Neil, Freudian psychodynamic approach. So fascinating to see that what you are describing actually is, seems to be taking poise.

Shinzen: Committing that they have, with psychology we have definitely gone beyond the padding stage. We are now getting into some really serious making out here and hopefully, eventually that will lead to union and the production of new children.

David: Now I have to ask you is meditation ever contraindicated? Are there some people for whom its bad, because I seem to recall hearing about some research and maybe it was just a doctoral dissertation or something I don't know if that ever found the light of day, but I thought there was some suggestions that maybe its not everybody's cup of tea.

Shinzen: This is an enormously complex question. It's certainly not everybody's cup of tea, that I can say right off without, the question is when we say meditation and then we say contraindicated, what has to be specified is what kind of meditation and then indicated or contraindicated for what kind of diagnoses, OK?

So there's no such thing as saying meditation is indicated or meditation is contraindicated. That question can only be addressed as these kinds of meditations, there are these kinds of psychological conditions, which kinds of meditations are indicated or contraindicated for which kinds of conditions, that's how the question has to be formulated.

The problem is the question is almost always formulated taking meditation as so it were a maneuver sick unity and taking psychiatric problems or psychological problems as though they were unity and then somehow well should people do it, shouldn't people do it, that's vastly over-simplified.

Let me just say this, it very much depends actually on three things, on the type of meditation, the type of psychological problem and the orientation of the person that hands the problem. I've had people with psychological problem that the common wisdom says people with these problems should never 'meditate'.

The most common thing that you hear is people with weak boundaries, borderline conditions shouldn't do meditation because it will weaken their ego further and therefore just make things worse.

So I've had people among my students with absolute diagnosed weak boundary, no sense of personal identity to the degree to which, you know, they could justify they would be institutionalized, they were so bad, OK?

However, I gave them, I did teach them meditation and in fact I taught them a standard technique that I would teach anybody but I put a different spin on the technique that made it relevant to their situation and the second factor is that person really wanted to use the meditation.

They were highly motivated, they felt this is going to do it for me. So what did I do? Well, remember I said you can untangle and be free by keeping track of feel image talk?

David: Yes.

Shinzen: Feel meaning emotional sensation, image meaning mental image and internal talk.

David: Yes.

Shinzen: Well, you can take that same technique and put a slightly different spin on it, with a concentration spin you can give the person the exercise, keep track of your mental images, internal talk and emotional feelings when you're interacting with someone else that you would tend to lose yourself in them and merge in an unhealthy way, you can prevent that from happening by using concentration to be continuously focused on what's happening inside you.

So using the same technique that can deconstruct yourself, I just put it slightly different emphasis on that technique and maybe into a way of keep in contact with the elements of yourself not losing that as you would tend to in the presence of the other.

And so that helped them strengthen their sense of self but in healthy way. So it depends on a technique and that person was very motivated. I don't know that this would work for the average person with a weak ego structure, but that person with that motivation and that particular spin on technique worked like a job.

I mean it like worked, brought very quick results that they no longer, that they were able to maintain a sense of who they were and not merging on unhealthy way with others.

David: OK, now to take a slightly different direction that I am just so curious about this, I have to ask, I would like to get your, what's your take on enlightenment? Are we talking about a process or we're talking about some kind of instate because seems to me I have heard people deal with it both ways.

Shinzen: A process versus... what was...

David: Some kind of goal instate you know, once you're enlightened you're enlightened and that's it. You have reached the big goal and...

Shinzen: Enlightenment is extremely difficult to talk about. For a dozen reasons, it's extremely difficult to talk about. Why? Well, lets say you were enlightened. One of the things that goes with enlightenment is you realize everybody is enlightened. So then enlighten people in some way are no different from un-enlightened people.

So it's already strange to talk about enlightenment. You can see the enlightenment in everybody moment-by-moment even though they can't. So in a sense, enlightened people are no different form ordinary people. So it's already weird, it's hard to talk about.

David: Yes.

Shinzen: But if I have to give a quick and dirty summary, which actually could be better described as a long and clean summary, the long and clean summary is if you had the four one way or another, think of it as a process, if I had to say is it more a process or is it more an end go I would definitely say it's a process meaning, one of my teachers used to say [foreign phrase] which in Japanese means, you might know the word Sattori, in Japanese that means today's Sattori, today's enlightenment is tomorrow's mistake. It's a constant unfolding.

So yes, there can be a moment of enlightenment and then about 20 years, after about 20 years of growth upon that you realize, you're not nearly as enlightened as you thought you were.

David: OK, OK good. Well, we are getting about what my sense, fortunately its not like commercial radio where we have hard boundaries about how long we can go, it's kind of my call but I just try to make a judgment on sort of guessing how people's tolerance for a listener might be.

Shinzen: Yeah, I think their threshold for attention, I think we have certainly given them plenty of meat in what we have done. I would just want people to know that if they, from a practical point of view, if they wish to study with me, that's available to anyone due to my fully modern delivery system, all they have to do is go to and we will pipe the monthly interval classes and monthly supporting mini retreats right into their home through conference calls, I am on live every month.

So if they go there, there they can see how to actually get in, have a practice on a regular basis wherever they may be in the world and whatever their financial, social, family or professional situation maybe, it's right there. So all they have to do is go, from a practical point of view, if they're interested just go to and it's all self-explanatory.

David: Wonderful, that was going to be my last question anyway and I will put a link to that website in our show notes so that people who go to the show notes can just click on the link and they'll be able to get to the site that way as well.

So Shinzen Young, thanks so much for being my guest today on Wise Counsel.

Shinzen: It has been a huge pleasure.

David: I hope you enjoyed this interview with Shinzen Young. There are a number of topics I would have liked to discuss in greater detail with him, the time did not allow. I would have liked to explore more on his work with pain for example. He does have a book out on that subject which you can find on among other sources. The title is 'Breakthrough pain - a step-by-step mindfulness meditation program' and of course you'll find a wealth of information on the website he mentioned

You might also enjoy the video I mentioned of the neuroscientist Dr. Jill Bolt Taylor describing her right brain experience and you can find a link to that video on her website at In other words, it's 'Dr' for doctor, so it's and there's no www. It says


You've been listening to Wise Counsel, a podcast interview series sponsored by CenterSite, LLC. Until next time, this is David Van Nuys and you have been listening to Wise Counsel.

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