Over the past 25 years, Tricycle has covered the mindfulness movement from a variety of perspectives. We’ve shared practice instructions by Buddhist teachers, interviewed a neuroscientist about how mindfulness meditation research is being portrayed in the media, and published a point-counterpoint debate about whether mindfulness belongs in public schools, among many other pieces.

Along the way we’ve tried to strike a balance between exploring critical issues for the Buddhist tradition and advocating for a practice that enriches people’s lives. In the following pieces, we continue this tradition by offering an essay from scholar Jeff Wilson that examines the nominally “secular” mindfulness movement as a religious phenomenon and a series of personal reflections from real-life MBSR practitioners.

Sam Mowe, Contributing Editor

The Religion of Mindfulness

by Jeff Wilson

Not long ago, I was at an academic religious studies conference presenting research on mindful sex. Among all my vaguely pornographic slides and details about how Buddhist-derived mindfulness meditation techniques are being used to assist with orgasm and sexual performance anxiety, I tried to make a coherent argument that this represented a natural—if perhaps eyebrow-raising—evolution of Buddhist practice in a culture that values indulgence over renunciation and considers sexuality something to actualize rather than to overcome. During the subsequent discussion period a Buddhist studies scholar commented with disgust, “But this is all just secular, it isn’t Buddhist.”

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