Shinzen Young interview: stress, equanimity, & sensory clarity

The following is the transcript of a July 12, 2019 interview with Shinzen Young during a retreat on the science of longevity, along with my co-hosts Ivanna and Anastasia. Shinzen is a noted meditation teacher and author of The Science of Enlightenment; audio recording generously transcribed by Evan O’Leary and Hunter Meyer. For my work on the neuroscience of meditation, see here.

It’s a pleasure to speak with people with deep practices, but it feels particularly special to discuss the mind with Shinzen, who combines his with a keen analytical mind and a very generous, playful energy.


Michael Johnson: How are you?

Shinzen Young: I am terrific – I’m just gonna put a clock here so I have a general idea of what time it is… and it’s great to see all of you beautiful people right here in front of me, and I am going to get to do the thing that I most like to do, which is talk to people about mindfulness, so just whatever questions you want, feel free.

Ivanna Evtukhova: Yeah, so we were wondering first of all how you usually start your morning, and what, maybe, morning routine you have – in terms of allowing yourself to go through the stress, or stressful day, without actually being involved in that. Do you have any special technique or practice that helps you with that?

Shinzen: Well, what I do is something that I call the ASIA algorithm. That’s an acronym, A-S-I-A. So is this going to be interpreted from English into Slovene, or are we going in English?

Michael: Everything English.

Shinzen: Ok great, I didn’t realize that was the concept. When I broadcast to Russia, we translate everything – do you know Victor Shiryaev?

Ivanna: Yes, we know him.

Shinzen: Yeah, so when I do programs with Victor, it takes a long time, because he translates. But you’re saying we’re going to go in English then – good, that will give me more time. But also, I am going to try to speak slowly and in small sentences.

So, there is a procedure that you can use to make sure that your day is mindful. Now, I’m going to define “mindful” as being a kind of awareness. When you are concentrated, sensorially clear, and you have equanimity, then we’ll say that you’re having an experience mindfully. So, concentration power is the ability to focus on what you want to, sensory clarity is the ability to keep track of what’s going on, what’s on the inside, what’s on the outside, what’s visual, what’s auditory, what’s [embodied?] – keeping track – inner or outer, activation/rest states related to see/hear/feel, if we put smell and taste under “body”, that’s sort of our whole sensory experience, so the ability to know what you’re experiencing with clarity – that’s an important awareness skill.

So, concentration power: the ability to focus on what you want to focus on. Sensory clarity: the ability to untangle the strands of experience – what’s visual, what’s auditory, what’s somatic, what’s inner, what’s outer, and so forth. And then there’s a quality that I call equanimity, which is the [ability to] let the senses operate without self-interference. So, as equanimity goes up, inner friction goes down. Or, another way to put it is that equanimity is the inverse of self-conflict. When you bring those three skills simultaneously to a given sensory experience, then we say you’re being “mindful”.

So, there is a way to structure mindfulness during the day. So you asked me, what can I do, or what can any other person do, to make sure I’ll be mindful today? So the first thing is: try to, as soon as you wake up, analyze the day to come into situations. For example, today, my first situation was “take a shower”. My second situation was “answer some emails”. My third situation was “do this program”. After this, I have to go to the bank. After that, I have to go to my lab, where we’re doing research at the university. So this is a [seek?]; I’m sort of analyzing the day into situations. And then the next step is – and this is as soon as (cuts out)

(discussions about the cut-out)

13:09

Shinzen: So I began by defining mindful awareness, as 3 skills working together: concentration, clarity, equanimity. Now, the way you develop these skills is by doing mindful awareness techniques. For example, Ivanna, you were at the retreat, and you learned see/hear/feel and a bunch of other techniques. And each of those techniques will, in general, develop concentration, clarity, and equanimity. So, if you do an exercise – physical exercise – you’ll find that your strength, endurance, and flexibility increase. The result of exercise changes the fabric of body. Well, the result of physical exercise changes the fabric of the physical body. And the result of mindfulness – or, we could call it “meditation exercise” – is that it increases the strength of attention. And just as bodily health has these 3 aspects – strength, endurance, flexibility – attentional health has 3 aspects: you’re “strong” in terms of your mind power if you have concentration, sensory clarity, and equanimity. Equanimity means you don’t waste energy fighting with yourself. Concentration means you can focus on what you want to focus on. And clarity means you’re not overwhelmed if too much is going on all at once, because you’ve trained yourself to track what part is see, what part is hear, what part is feel, and so forth.

So, to develop these basic mindfulness skills, you need to do mindfulness techniques. But a mindfulness technique has another side to it: it can also serve as a strategy. In a certain life situation, I can apply this technique while I’m in that situation, and it can help me deal with that situation in one way or another. So each mindfulness technique has two mechanisms whereby it helps with happiness. On one hand, every technique develops concentration, clarity, equanimity. So it elevates your base level of mind-strength or attention-strength. On the other hand, the different techniques have you focus on different things and focus on different ways. And those – focusing on different things and in different ways serves as a strategy for dealing with life situations. So in order to understand how to be mindful during the day, you have to first understand what mindfulness is – we explained that – and you also understand how mindfulness is developed: well, you do techniques that increase your base level of concentration, clarity, equanimity. But any of those techniques can also be looked upon as a strategy to deal with a life situation. So at the beginning of the day – now I’m getting back to your original question: the original question is “What do I do in the morning to assure a mindful day?” – well, I do what anyone can do: first, I analyze the day to come in terms of situations. Some situations last a long time, some are a short time. Some are complicated, some are simple. Some are pleasant, some are unpleasant. Some are a mixture of both. Some are neutral. So, I look at all the situations that will happen from this moment when I opened my eyes, to the moment when I close my eyes tonight to go to sleep. Among those situations, I decide: in which situations am I going to do intentional mindfulness technique? For most people, it’s not reasonable to keep a mindfulness technique intentionally going all day. But in some of life’s situations, you should do an intentional technique – at least a little bit each day. So I decide where I’m going to put intentional techniques. Usually that means at least ten minutes in the morning, early, when I just do pure formal practice of some sort. So that’s my formal practice situation. Then there’ll be other situations in the day – for example, right now I’m giving a presentation; I’m not implementing an intentional technique during this presentation, I’m just giving the presentation. But when I’m done, I’m gonna walk to the bank. That walk will take me a half hour. I’m going to do an intentional meditation technique during that walk. After that, I’m going to ride to the lab. During that bus ride to the lab, I’m also going to do an intentional technique. When I arrive at the lab, I’m going to be talking to other colleagues in our group. I’m going to do micro-hits of “feel-good”, which is like focusing on the pleasant emotion of being with those people. When I’m done with the lab meeting, I’m coming back here and I’m doing some research. I won’t be doing an intentional technique at that time. 

So you can see what I’m doing: I’m analyzing the day into situations, then I decide in which situations I’m going to intentionally meditate. Usually it’s simple situations like taking a walk or enjoying being friendly with other people.

[Discuss switching from audio to video]

Shinzen: So, you analyze the day in terms of situations, then you strategize: in which [what?] situation are you going to do intentional practice, and what technique? And the technique will often be a strategy that’s good for that situation. For example, when I’m with coworkers, and we’re talking – we’re gonna have lunch, we’re gonna discuss things – it makes sense that I would be radiating loving-kindness to everyone in the background as an intentional technique.

When I do a walk, everything is very simple, so usually I’m doing a – I’m focusing on expansion and contraction as my technique, which is actually a very deep and demanding technique, relating to flow of a certain sort. Usually I’m focusing on that in the simple situation of doing a walk. And so, then, at the end of the day, so, you strategize – and then still at the beginning of the day, you sort of motivate yourself – you remember why it’s important, at least occasionally, during the day – while I’m moving, while I’m doing something that’s an action of life – I’ve also got some intentional practice that I’m bringing into my ordinary life. So I motivate myself – and that’s Inspire (a-s-*I*; I for Inspire). And then, at the end of the day – the final A of a-s-i-A, or “Asia” – is: I *Assess* – what did I follow through on in terms of strategies – which ones did I actually do, what was the effect, what can I do better tomorrow, or how do I want to build on this tomorrow, etc. That’s how you can end the day just as you’re going to sleep.

If each day, you go through the procedure upon waking: *Analyze* the day, then *Strategize* what techniques and what mode of practice (formal, informal), what’s the focus range, what’s the instruction set (these are the dimensions that determine a technique) – so what technique, in which situation, and then like, “here’s why I want to do that, here’s what I learned yesterday, here’s what I hope to learn today”; *Inspire* – and then at the end of the day, look back; *Assess*, and then you’re set to build for the next day.

Those four steps, if a person does them every day, that will guarantee that they have a component of practice that I call “life practice”. If they also do occasional retreats, them they have the pillar called “retreat practice”. And if you have those two pillars, plus you’re able to get support and understand about giving support, then you have all of the four pillars of mindfulness practice, and it will be highly likely that you will be not ten percent happier, but, by the end of your life, ten *times* happier than you could of have been otherwise. So, long answer to a short question.

Ivanna: Amazing answer. I think that’s a life strategy for how to actually improve life happiness in the long run. So, yeah, I’m impressed actually.

Michael: Yeah, that’s absolutely fantastic – I was wondering, what do you think stress is, in the brain?

Shinzen: Wow.

Ivanna: *laughs*

Shinzen: That is a science question. And it is also maybe a speculative question. So a science answer to that, I am not prepared to give – because I would have to look at the different ways in which stress is defined in neuroscience. And, you know, this is very interesting, because very seldom do I get asked a question that is a new question for me. I almost always get asked a question that I’ve been asked a hundred times. So I have very facile answers, as you saw – right, all you have to do is, like, press the button and I’m off – [*gestures*?] I don’t know if you could see but it says “magic robot”.

Michael and Ivanna: *laughs*

Michael: Fantastic.

Shinzen: So, you just turn him on and he’ll give you these answers. And he’s a robot, and he’s magic ’cause he’s studied for decades and decades, is a nice guy… that’s my magic robot. But this is a new question that I don’t have a robot for, and I will therefore have to investigate it, because mindfulness-based-stress-reduction – MBSR – is the other main school of modern mindfulness besides my system. MBSR – and my system, Unified Mindfulness – are both “modern mindfulness”; we’re both developed interacting with science. And because John has used “stress” in the name of his program, I would have to see how science has designed it to define stress. And so I would not give an answer to “what is stress in the brain” without doing some more research, actually, but now you’ve inspired me to do that research. But I think I can answer you in a speculative way.

Michael: Please!

Shinzen: By that I mean: I can look at my own experience, look at things that I would say are stress, and then sort of give you a subjective view of what might be going on there. So, let me see what I would come up with. It seems to me that one component of stress – whenever we would say that someone is “under stress” – we would say that they are having an unpleasant experience of their mind and their body. So one thing we could say about stress, I think, is that it’s a specific instance of an unpleasant mind-body state.

(30:00)

Shinzen: So that’s stress as a sensory experience. Whenever we think about stress, I think we not only are aware that it can be a sensory experience, but we may be thinking about what causes the stress. I think those are called stressors. So they might be external circumstances that trigger this unpleasant sensory event of stress. So obviously one way to reduce stress is to change the external stressors. So you reduce those and therefore you will reduce that uncomfortable experience of being stressed. But I would say that another way to reduce stress is through having equanimity with that uncomfortable sensory experience because I think that the perceived suffering that you get from that uncomfortable sensory mind/body state is not a function only of the external stressors, it’s also a function of how much you fight with the sensory event of stress. So by training yourself to not fight with the mental image, mental talk, emotional body sensation and physical body sensation, those are the four components, sensory components that potentially are present when you are having the experience of stress. So an external circumstance can cause stress, however if you have the equanimity skill and you don’t fight with the mental image/mental talk, physical body sensations, and emotional body sensations of the stress then that stress experience will cause you less and less suffering. And equiminity is to the consciousness engine as oil is to the engine in your automobile. 

So when you lubricate the automobile, it has two effects: it reduces unnecessary heat and it frees up energy that is wasted in friction, that is dissipated. It saves on your use of fuel because you’re using the fuel more efficiently. So I would say analogously, when you bring the skill of equanimity to the mind/body state of stress, then that stress causes less suffering. And also does not waste life energy. Because remember equanimity is the reciprocal or inverse of self-interference or the piston grinding against the cylinder, friction, in the consciousness engine. So when you bring equanimity to the actual mind/body state of being stressed as opposed to, which is a sensory experience, which is in contrast to the objective circumstances that create the stress. Which could be circumstances in the world or your health circumstances. Your body could be stressed because of lifestyle decisions you’ve made and so-forth. So what happens then is since the equanimity is like lubricating the engine, it has the same two effects as oil in an automobile. The first effect is less wasted energy dissipated, so more efficient use of life fuel. The second effect is reduction of heating of the engine. Now what happens if the engine heats? It doesn’t function well and if it heats too much it actually gets damaged. 

Well it turns out that when you have a mind/body experience of stress and you don’t have equanimity, there’s a lot of suffering there and that’s analogous to heat. And that suffering means you’ll respond less effectively. Your decisions and actions will be sub-optimal because they’re distorted by this heat. If the heat is bad enough, if the person suffers enough from stress it will actually warp the engine. They will actually become permanently damaged as a human being. Less able to function in the world. People can be damaged forever by stress. Well not forever, it can be repaired by mindfulness. Everything can be repaired eventually. But I would say that it’s important to distinguish external reality or ground truth that may be causing the stress from the sensory event of mental image, mental talk, physical sensation, and emotional sensation. That combination creates the mind/body experience or body/mind experience of being stressed. If you bring equanimity to that experience it will reduce the suffering and free up energy. 

The reduction of suffering is good for you and the freeing up of energy is also good for you. The reduction of suffering and the freeing up of energy is also good for others because reduction of suffering means less distortion in your thoughts and actions so more skillful action in the world. And the freeing up of energy, energy that has been bound up in friction that’s now free for action, because you’ve reduced inner friction through the mindfulness component called equanimity, that energy is now available to take action, appropriate action in the world. So action is a vector. There’s a direction. My action is in this direction and there’s a magnitude. How much force am I exerting in a given direction is an action. We want to make sure that the action is the right direction and has enough force behind it. So equanimity with the stress makes it likely that your response to the source of the stress will be both more skillfully directed and more powerful. More skillfully directed because there’s not the distorting heat of suffering, it’s just a sensory event, you’re not as enmeshed in it as most people would be. And then energy is now freed up so both the direction and the clout, the force of your action to deal with the stress, is likely to be improved by the equanimity skill. 

So now I’ve given you a speculative answer, what is stress? And also a mechanism based on mindfulness for dealing with stress. Your question though was a science question. What is stress in the brain? So if we follow the formulation, the speculative formulation that I just gave you, then stress in the brain is essentially lack of equanimity. So then non-stress asks the question: what in the brain is equanimity? And the answer is no one knows. But we’re trying to find out in my lab, the SEMA Lab at the University of Arizona. That is one of the markers we’re looking for. We are trying to find if is there something we can identify in the nervous systems that shows when you’re in a state of equanimity. And if we can find that, I mean really find that and prove it, and then make clinical applications from that, we will be the first team that gets both the Nobel prize for physiology or medicine and the Nobel prize for peace for exactly the same achievement. That would be pretty big in the history.

Michael: Yeah

Shinzen: Other labs are looking into this. If I were to make a guess based on what I know so far and once again, this is a guess, you can’t hold me to it, I would say that equanimity may have something to do with the ability of the different sensory circuits to interpenetrate without interfering. So do any of you play the drums? Anyone in that room play the drums? 

Ivanna: No.

Michael: I have a little bit

Shinzen: Say what?

Michael: Just a little bit

Shinzen: Okay, so professional drummers that I know talk about something called four limb independence. It means they can move their right hand, left hand, right foot, and left foot without any interference without any interference between them. They can all do completely different things as though they’re on autopilot. They’re able to interpenetrate to make perfect music, but there’s no subtle interference between the different limbs. So you can try just two limb [inaudible] on your left, even that is very difficult. So we know in the motor circuitry that certain individuals through a combination of genes and training are able to get motor circuits to function in a way that they rhythmically, beautifully interpenetrate, but there’s no interference. There’s no wasted energy from the right arm fighting with the left arm. So it is possible, it is plausible, that the inner and outer visual circuits… The outer visual circuits subtend or create external sight, the inner visual circuits create visual thought, mental image. You have also outer and inner auditory circuits, physical sound, mental talk. Metaphorically, you have the physicality of the body, but you also have the limbic system which causes emotional type body sensations. That’s the limbic brain. So you have metaphorically an inner and outer field systems in the body. So if we just take those six systems, putting smell and taste under feel out maybe, it’s possible that if we were to look at the four limbs in a professional musician operating interpenetrating without interference, and then we would look at the see/hear feel circuits of a 50 or 60 or 70 year meditation master we might find that there’s an analogy and therefore we found the neuronal signature of equanimity or interpenetrating without interfering. You hear this idea here first, no human being has ever spoken these words in public. It’s something we’ll be looking into here, but we’re not the only lab that’s trying to find out the neural signature of what we might call the solution to stress, which is equanimity. So once again, long answer to a short question. 

Ivanna: Thank you.

Michael: That’s a wonderful answer. That’s so good.

Shinzen: So we probably have time for a couple more, right, it’s a one hour program, is that correct?

Ivanna: Yeah.

[Michael/Ivanna/Anastasia Safronova discussing quietly what to address next]

Michael: So we’re thinking about your quote about how modern science might give us more tools than the Buddha had to reach enlightenment.

Shinzen: Yes

Michael: And also in your book you mention many things, sort of about applying a mathematical frame, a physical frame to the mind and to the brain to understand, for example, suffering as a form of turbulence was one idea that I personally enjoyed.

Shinzen: Yeah, that was just a given example. You know, just an easy example. Not sure if it’s true or not. But yeah.

Michael: I see, is that your intuition that it is true?

Shinzen: Turbulence. So you know the joke about turbulence? The physicist joke about turbulence?

Michael: Uhh no.

Ivanna: No.

Shinzen: Okay so, oh who was this, there’s different versions of this. Let’s see. So in one version, the physicist dies and he goes to heaven and he meets God and God says, “I’ll answer two physics questions for you. You can choose two physics questions and I’ll tell you the answer” and so the joke is: the first physics question is why quantum physics, why at the fine level of spacetime do we get this physics that looks so different from the meso level, why does the micro level look so different from the meso level. At the micro level it is, you can walk through walls. But at the meso level it’s going to take you a long time to achieve that. Why are these so different? That’s the first question. And the second question is: what is turbulence? And the joke is, the physicist says “I’m reasonably sure God can answer the first question.” Meaning that’s how mysterious turbulence is. From a real science point of view if I could tell you what turbulence was. If equanimity was non-turbulence then I would actually get a Clay prize because I would be able to probably… if you could answer turbulence I think you could probably answer the Navier–Stokes existence in the smoothness question, which is a million dollar mathematical question. Not entirely sure of that, but let’s just say if I knew what turbulence was I would also be getting a Nobel prize and other prizes. So don’t really know what it is, know a little bit about it, it makes a nice metaphor. It’s possible that it’s even what’s going on. That we’re actually creating more laminar flow in the energy and information in the nervous system. But, if I had to make a guess… I’m sorry, what was the question again?

Michael: Whether your intuition was that turbulence would be a good frame for understanding this.

Shinzen: Yeah, well, it’s a good example, but science is science. It’s a good metaphor, but science is not metaphors. I can come up with endless metaphors where science seems to be similar to what happens in mindfulness practice. There’s no end to them. But the glory in science is not to the first person that says something that’s new and important. The glory or the credit goes to the first person that proves it. So the first person who can prove what equanimity is at a neurophysiological level will have a major achievement. If equanimity is laminar flow, literally, then that means that the underlying math of the nervous system follows the first principles of the conservation of energy and so-forth that are behind the continuity equations. Those are the continuity equations that are behind the Navier–Stokes equations. So presumably it would only be turbulence if in fact the flow of energy and information in the nervous system represents a conservative field and I don’t think it is. I think it’s a dissipative field so that’s a different math. The underlying math of the nervous system. Oh you gotta stop me with this, because this is where I lose everyone. [inaudible 52:40] wont let me go any further. But let me just say that at least one important part of it is how the axons convey energy. How the energy goes down the fibers. Now there’s much much more to the physiology of the nervous system then just how signals go through fibers electrically. It’s entirely possible that there are other modes of communication in the nervous system that could be optic, could be pressure waves, certainly there’s the transmitter substances that are completely chemical. But we can say this: the reaction of the electrical signal going down a fiber is certainly an important part of how the nervous system functions. Once you get into, really get into neuroscience, you realize the picture is much more complicated than that. But if we just look at that one thing, it’s certainly significant. The underlying math of that is not the same as fluid flow modeled by Navier–Stokes. The underlying math of that is dispersion in an active medium. That electrical signal travels down the axon by the same physical principles whereby a flame travels down a fuse. It is propagation of flame which is interesting because that’s what the Buddha said connects life to life. It’s like one candle going out, another candle… anyway it is sort of interesting. That is a different math and that would require a different model of equanimity. If you wanted to know my intuition, it would.. well see.. these are complicated questions. I’m afraid I’m going to just lose your viewers because what they hell is this guy talking about. You asked me a highly technical question, I will give you for the record the highly technical answer, at least it’s here. And some of this has never been… I’ve never discussed in a public forum so you’re drawing out of me the cutting edge of my science hat. But I suspect that for a wave of association to propagate subliminally, below consciousness, as that wave is propagating it also has to get out of the way of the next wave that is coming up. If it doesn’t die away quickly then there’s going to be a traffic jam. There’s going to be cross-traffic for the next way that’s trying to get through.

???: Unless they can interface, interpenetrate without interference.

Shinzen: That’s right. So now, I don’t know that there is an actual way the waves can cross without interfering, but there’s an effective way whereby, if this is the first wave going this way, this wave dies out exactly perfectly just as this wave needs to go through. So that the timing is absolutely perfect. This does this and just when this would reach it, it dies away as a clear path. So it may have something to do with unnecessary holding so that this is still going while this is trying to cross. So training away the unnecessary holding so that the nervous system timing works more efficiently. That would explain the increase in sensory clarity because you have more information passing through, there’s not a log jam. That would also be related to the equanimity piece because they’re effectively interpenetrating without interfering even though they don’t actually cross each other. The problem is, there’s more to it. As something is spreading in the unconscious, on the surface it’s slowly coming to consciousness. So there’s actually two dimensions. There’s the dimension of spread in the unconscious and as that is growing, as the subliminal association wave is spreading it is simultaneously percolating up to the surface awareness as a conscious experience. As it’s percolating up, to the surface as a conscious experience, the conscious mind turns back and starts to grab on to what’s going on deep down there. So here I’m starting to be conscious and this conscious is invested in pushing and pulling on the subconscious because it thinks it has to control things. And that then causes interference. The unnecessary messing around that the conscious mind, at its various levels, does with the subconscious, I think that’s what gets trained away. And when a person goes into equanimity, their surface conscious mind is learning when it’s appropriate not to turn back and interfere with what the subconscious is doing. And I think that in our lab we may be able to show that that in fact is what’s happening. And we may be able to show that when we impart a burst of ultrasound to the right circuit at the right moment or perhaps just to the right circuit, it may not be time-related, it may just be location related. If we disconnect a certain thing, what that does is that it turns off the interference that the surface levels are exercising on the unconscious, leaving the unconscious, functioning completely on its own, without this inappropriate interference that causes inappropriate holding that causes a log jam in the subconscious. If that’s the case then we will have found a relatively simple and hopefully safe, we don’t know for sure that ultrasound used in this way is safe, but hopefully safe. Certainly relatively simple. We would have found a relatively simple and hopefully safe way to induce perhaps profound equanimity. Now if we get very very lucky, we’ll do that. And if we get even crazy lucky, it’ll turn out that that creates neural plasticity that accelerates the acquisition of the other two skills. Clarity and concentration. Because the training you did with the artificial equanimity was so profound and once again, we’ll get those two Nobel prizes.

Michael and Ivanna: *laughs*

Ivanna: Okay, thank you so much, it was an amazing deep dive into understanding what is actually equanimity and what is going on in the brain. And as I understand if we actually solved the equations that we discussed we are going to get at least three Nobel prizes and maybe some other prizes. So my question is…

Shinzen: Well two Nobel prizes, one for physiology or medicine because we discovered a new clinical mechanism and then one for peace because that mechanism turned out to be strong enough to change the course of human history for the better. I hope that this is what you mean. The kinds of things you wanted me to talk about because this is more on the theoretical side, although I think it will be interesting to anyone who has those interests. On the practical side I guess they can use some of the other resources I have or maybe we’ll do this again if we didn’t get enough off your practical list. 

Michael: Yeah.

Ivanna: Yeah. And my question is like, I’m wondering how we as a young generation of people in Russia and all over the world can support this kind of research and support you for example for what you are doing in terms of…

Shinzen: You know that, that is really simple. First and foremost, deepen your own practice. Okay, this is science and practice coevolving. So by each person deepening their experience with practice, that’s helping this process. The second thing you can do is understand the spirit of science. What the spirit of science is. You don’t have to be a professional scientist to enjoy the spirit of science. As soon as you start to learn science in middle school or elementary school, you are already coming in contact with what I call the spirit of science. The spirit of science involves a certain way to think about things and a certain way to feel about things. And the way to think about things involves mathematical maturity, physical intuition, critical thinking skills, and the ability to master the social culture of the science world. Those are sort of the intellectual skills that will allow you to understand the spirit of science. And then there are emotional skills. Learning to enjoy the beauty of a theory or a theorem. Its symmetries, its depth, its beauty, its power. This is all the art of science. So there’s the science of science, then there’s the art of science. If you learn those, then you’ll understand the spirit of science. And anyone can do that. It’s free on the internet. No one will prevent you from learning science. And the goal in science is not to learn this or that subject, but to get an appreciation for what the spirit of science is. And a certain way to feel about things that makes science fun and interesting. The best professional scientists are motivated by that spirit. I would say understand, deep in your own practice, appreciate the spirit of science and then you’ll be in an optimal situation to participate in this movement. You can participate by maybe being a participant in a research, you’re actually a subject and come to a lab and we, you know, put electrodes on you or something. You can participate by, if you have financial resources you can donate money. Charitable donates to people who are doing good work in this field. If you understand both the spirit of science and you understand the spirit of contemplative practice or mindfulness then you can be a spokesperson for this movement. The movement being the modern mindfulness movement. So there’s plenty that everyone can do right now to sort of catch the wave.

Ivanna: okay

Shinzen: So I think we’re good, huh?

Ivanna: Yes yes, it was an amazing experience. Thank you so much and we keep in touch.

Michael: Thank you so much, it’s been a real honor.

Shinzen: Well it was, like I said, my favorite of all favorite things to do. So I don’t know. I think one of you is from North America. Maybe Canada? I’m not quite sure.

Michael: I am from the Bay Area, yes.

Shinzen: The Bay Area? Okay. I sense a little something. Have you lived expat for a long time?

Michael: Yeah, I’ve been traveling for awhile now.

Shinzen: So you would know who Norman Rockwell was?

Michael: Yeah.

Shinzen: He was a very eminent painter of Americana. I guess we would say. If you look behind me, I don’t know if you can see. These are four original Norman Rockwells. 

Michael: Ooooooh.

Shinzen: These are actually sketches. 

Ivanna: Wow.

Shinzen: And the main figure, this guy, that’s the father of my student whose house I’m staying in,

Michael: Oh wow.

Ivanna: Wow.

Shinzen: And the little kid is her brother. So this is a little bit of real Americana here, this is like actually Norman Rockwell signed art that my [inaudible] here grew up with Rockwell being a friend of the family. Anyway, I like that as a background just it’s very US, very North American in a sense so.

Michael: That’s fantastic.

Ivanna: Nice.

Shinzen: Just for the culture. Okay very good. Have fun.

Ivanna: Thank you for sharing your energy with us.

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