Day 2 of the Buddhist Geeks Conference 2011 is actioned-packed!
The day started with an #openpractice with Diane Musho Hamilton leading a Big Mind process while highlighting the second-person (You/We) perspective. She brought in the integral flavor in a house full of geeks.
Then it was followed by a series of BGeeks Live talks starting with Kenneth Folk breaking the taboo of enlightenment while pointing out the fact the enlightenment is really for the rest of us. I liked the way he described enlightenment as the tipping point along the spectrum of non-enlightened schmuck and Buddhahood.
Then Kelly McGonigal followed up with her presentation on the neuroscience of mindfulness practice. She showed a series of cool slides of fMRI scans of longtime meditation practitioners. I definitely need to check out those research myself so I could grok the scientific details.
Then Ethan Nichtern delivered a great talk on why the Internet is not your teacher. Basically, Ethan highlighted the importance of sangha in the real world (aka meatspace). This is a great reminder especially for people like me whose main sangha is in cyberspace. Need to grab some tacos in the real world with fellow dharma practitioners once in a while.
After the break there was a Generation Wise panel discussion with Trudy Goodman, Vincent Horn, Ethan Nichtern, Diana Winston, and surprise guest Jack Kornfield. They covered topics such as generational and cultural gaps in the Buddhist world.
And then there’s the Buddhist Geek Workout sessions… I attended Shinzen Young’s “The Importance of Feeling: The Role of Emotions in the Spiritual Path”. Shinzen led a practice session using his “Focus In” technique (one of the Five Ways in his Basic Mindfulness approach). Then I hangout with Shinzen for a while as he narrates his life story on how he ended up as the geeky uber-awesome professional Buddhist meditation teacher that he is today. Basically, his hero’s journey started with a Samurai B-movie.
Then I went to a Buddhist Geek Unplugged session where people talked about enlightenment machines, gaming, and apps for awakening. But there’s this one big problem: There’s no common definition of what “enlightenment” is. My take on this: Enlightenment is such a loaded word. It’s multi-faceted. We don’t need to define it perfectly. We just have to come to an agreement of defining enlightenment as a “bifurcation” or tipping point when a person has the profound experience of no self as thing. But that’s just me.
And then the Keynote of the day was Jane McGonigal’s “Awakening is an Epic Win” wherein she drew some interesting and suggestive parallels between gaming and Buddhist practice. I think there are some similarities but in general, gaming only develops some aspects of Buddhist practice. My preferred model for Buddhist practice (or for any spiritual practice) is Shinzen’s model. In Shinzen’s Basic Mindfulness model he defines mindfulness as the development of three core attentional skills: Concentration, Clarity, Equanimity. As I see it, gaming, for the most part, develops concentration skill. This puts the gamer in a state of “flow.” A person in a state of flow could end up in a state of equanimity. But I’m not quite sure if gamers could develop the “clarity” skill wherein they would start seeing things as they are and then drop to a state of classical enlightenment experience of no self as thing. Maybe it’s possible to lose themselves in the game they are playing at the moment but that is only a temporal peak experience. As I understand it, enlightenment is not a peak experience. The classical enlightenment experience radically alters or re-engineers the personality. It’s an opening that will get bigger and bigger until the personality recognizes that awakening is something that doesn’t happen in time. That even the practice of meditation and seeking is, to use Jane McGonigal’s term, an “unnecessary obstacle.” I have reservations that gaming alone could deliver that awakening experience/non-experience. Then again, if awakening could happen spontaneously even without any practice to someone with the right physiological conditions, then maybe gaming could, in principle, trigger whatever physiological correlates there are to give a person that right kick into infinity. Though I still think it’s highly unlikely. Otherwise, we should be turning in thousands of thousands of gamers by now with all the millions and millions of human hours collectively spent on games and sports. But that’s just me.
Then I finished off the day by watching the awesomely amazing classical guitar performance by Benjamin Beirs. Watch out Ottmar, this kid is smokin’ hot!
So that’s my quick summary for Day 2. Looking forward to another jam-packed day tomorrow…