What follows is the spoken introduction for two new episodes of the Imperfect Buddha Podcast. I’m including it here so you can orientate to the material being posted and decide which one you would liek to listen to first. Each has its own merits and for the more astute listener, it will be worth comparing the content, contours and questions being explored by each guest. Age and generation wise, I am pretty much in the middle, and for me the two episodes have different historical and anthropological tones in terms of language, concerns and answers given. Each guest was generous with their time and we at the Imperfect Buddhas Podcast are grateful to them for coming on and discussing topics that will surely be among your own concerns. Full bios and links for each guest can be found below the spoken intro.
“This week, you lucky listeners get two episodes for the price of one! Unusually for the podcast, we recorded two episodes back-to-back in just two days and for this reason they are kin, intimately connected, and shall go forth into the world as such. Each one shares the same intro, but don’t panic, it’s relatively short. Both conversations were less structured than usual. I did have questions, but allowed both conversations more space to evolve and flow, and there may even be a bit of rambling on both sides from time to time, but never enough to bore: We are exploring new creative spaces after all!
Our two guests are at opposite ends of the career spectrum and their interests and concerns mirror generational shifts towards contemplative practices. Zachery Walsh is finishing up a Ph.D. programme, while Robert Forman P.hD has retired from teaching Religious Studies at University.
Robert Foreman isn’t a typical guess for the podcast. Much of our work has been critical of Western spirituality and explorative of more philosophically leaning themes and aimed towards constructing divergent ways of imagining Buddhism, spirituality, contemplation, and notions of path tradition and outcomes. Robert spent much of his career exploring themes that have come up on our podcast episodes uniting his spiritual bent with academic writing on topics including mysticism non-duality pure consciousness and even ending up in a debate with Stephen T. Katz on whether mystical experience is socially constructed, or an innate universal capacity. Robert is a long-term practitioner of TM, that’s transcendental meditation, and we start off our discussion by talking about this controversial practice. We get into a range of topics covering his interests and non-academic writings including his recent “Enlightenment ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.” I do my best to lead the conversation towards more academic topics, but I’m only partially successful. I hope that the attempts to do so make for an interesting conversation all the same, and it must be said that Robert is game throughout our chat and generous with his time. Either way, our conversation remains loosely connected to the academic theme we have this year.
My conversation with Zack Walsh was quite different, but not necessarily devoid of the personal or traces of Mystical inquiry, although perhaps he or I would use slightly different language to refer to such. Zach is currently working in the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Germany exploring the relationship between contemplative practices and ecology. He has written some great work that resonates with many of my own concerns, insightful critiques of mindfulness and meditation culture using a variety of lenses that deserve wider attention, and has more recently developed what he calls the Contemplative Commons, which becomes a central topic of our discussion. We also look at the interplay of social justice, activism and contemplative practices, future directions for the development of spirituality firmly grounded in the imminent world, Metamodernism, and transcendence, and we even get into discussing modern day China, and there is film reference to boot.
Enjoy this tandem cycle through different lives and minds as the Imperfect Buddha Podcast continues its journey onwards through destinations unknown.
Music for these episodes is provided by the Bristol-based artist Hundred Strong, this time in collaboration with Cali Phoenix, a singer from Scotland. Check out her work on the usual sites including Bandcamp and her latest album Voices.“
Robert K. C. Forman
Robert is a long-term TM-practitioner and a critic of the constructionist approach to mystical experience, was professor of religion at the City University of New York, author of several studies on religious experience, and co-editor of the Journal of Consciousness Studies.
Robert K. C. Forman spiritual coaching site
‘Enlightenment ain’t what it’s cracked up to be’ site
Zack is a PhD candidate in the Process Studies graduate program at Claremont School of Theology. His work investigates the material and socio-cultural dynamics of transitioning to an Ecological Civilization by integrating cultural theory and social science disciplines within a broad understanding of political economy and religion. Zack’s goal is to articulate forms of social organization and practice that support human-Earth flourishing via the integration of nascent discourses in political and economic theory, the speculative turn in philosophy, and engaged forms of Buddhist and contemplative practice.
Contemplative Praxis for Social-Ecological Transformation
Critical Theory and the Contemporary Discourse on Mindfulness
Hundred Strong & Cali Phoenix
Hundred Strong is the Alter ego of Bristol producer Ben Dubuisson. Having previously recorded as Purple Penguin for Bristol label “Cup Of Tea,”2013 sees the release of his Fourth lp under the Hundred Strong name, and collaboration with artists including Joseph Malik, Amp Fiddler, Pete Simpson, J.Todd, and Kali Phoenix.
O’Connell Coaching: http://oconnellcoaching.com
Post-Traditional Buddhism: http://posttraditionalbuddhism.com
Good podcasts as always Matthew. I guess that Robert’s was the one you mentioned in your reply to my last post, and it was definitely interesting to hear his views. This seems a pretty realistic idea of what might be possible, and I think he came across overall as very measured, humble and convincing. Makes me want to revisit Richard Boyle’s ‘Realizing Awakened Consciousness’, which had lots of food for thought on this topic.
It was also interesting to hear both him and Zach put an emphasis on mixing contemplational with the relational. I don’t know if you have read him, but Gregory Kramer’s ‘Insight Dialogue’ has some interesting ideas relevant to this. In the past I’ve done things with friends where we meditated, watched an episode of Black Mirror, topped up with a short meditation, then moved into discussion of the ideas brought up in the Black Mirror episode, discussing while maintaining the physical groundedness of the meditation session. There are all kinds of interesting things to explore here in the mixing and mingling of the ideas, the personal anecdotes they bring up, awareness of cravings and aversions related to wanting to speak, agreeing and disagreeing with others, observing this reactivity, and so on.
Interpersonal suffering is huge, and particularly in this age of smartphones etc, I predict that more and more people will be drawn to these less solitary contemplative practices over the coming years. Of course, there’s nothing Buddhist about this. Quaker meetings, the Occupy gatherings, and any relaxed get-together of friends all share some of these qualities, but it definitely helps to inject a specific meditation component, and the intention to stay present and self-aware into the mix.
Hi Gavin, Thanks for more positive feedback. Your Black Mirror practice sounds great.
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