Religious practices of meditation and contemplation have recently emerged as “mindfulness based interventions” (MBI) in medicine, education, the military, the arts, and popular culture. In most of these settings, the religious and historical affiliations of these practices are downplayed and their uses for developing spiritual, even mystical, states of consciousness are minimized. In this class, we go the other direction to explore the relationship between MBI and religious/spiritual practices. We will be thinking about cross-cultural ideas of health and medicine, spirituality and well-being, and what happens when these ideas migrate across cultures and historical eras. We start with a close reading of key secular texts devoted to mindfulness
and we compare and contrast these with a range of original texts from religious sources. Along the way, we use theoretical and philosophical work from religious studies, cultural studies, and gender studies to contextualize and politicize key terms and concepts. Authors and texts
include Jon Kabat-Zinn, William James, Pierre Hadot, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Buddhist Sutras, Plotinus, and Cloud of Unknowing.