Eject the avatar. Controversies, certification and scientific paradigm in the emerging field of mindfulness meditation (France, United States)1

    Reception: March 11, 2020

    Acceptance: June 16, 2020


    The unfolding of meditation mindfulness In the most varied spaces of social life, in recent years it has provoked dissident voices within the very world that it constitutes. Faced with a market drift that is considered harmful, the producers of this field of knowledge dictate rules designed to differentiate meditation mindfulness of their avatars. This article explores the frontiers of the emerging field of mindfulness by analyzing the controversies that run through it. The competition between scientific and religious rationalities does not resist the multiple positioning of the actors that move from one context to another, in a strategy of accumulation of plural legitimacies. By claiming the epistemological renewal of research on meditation mindfulness, the “contemplative sciences” question the paradigm of “western science” and defend the dialogue between the experimental sciences and the contemplative practices.

    Keywords: , , , ,

    Expelling the Avatar. Controversies, Certification and Scientific Paradigm in the Emerging Field of Mindfulness (France, United States)

    The display of mindful meditation in the most minute spaces of social life has led in recent years to dissident voices within the very world it builds. In the face of a drift in the market considered harmful, the producers of this field dictate norms to tell mindful meditation apart from their avatars. This article explores the frontiers of the emerging field of mindfulness by analyzing the controversies running through it. The competition between scientific and religious logics does not resist the multiple positioning of actors that transit between one context and the other, in a strategy of accumulation of plural legitimacies. When contemplative sciences demand the epistemological renovation of research on mindful meditation, they question the scientific paradigm of "Western science" and defend the dialogue between experimental sciences and contemplative practices.

    Keywords: mindfulness meditation; contemporary spirituality; scientific field; history of science; care.

    In the United States as in Europe, the range of uses of meditation mindfulness2 it has been expanding continuously in the last three decades. Its institutionalization in the medical field of both frameworks, in which it has gained scientific legitimacy as a therapeutic tool, is being significantly consolidated; the British health system recommends it, for example, in the prevention of depressive relapses, while in France or the United States it was gaining space in the hospital environment. Thanks to these scientific guarantees, it is progressively spreading in the educational, business and prison fields. It is also present on the political scene and has been promoted by Westminster MPs, in a report established by a multi-party parliamentary commission, A Mindful Nation UK (2015), which recommends its implementation, between now and 2020, in the field of health, education, employment and justice3. Created in 2013, the think tank The Mindfulness Initiative spawned a dozen similar groups in parliamentary circles internationally.

    This remarkable evolution is rooted in particular in the initiatives undertaken since 1979 by an American biologist, J. Kabat-Zinn: that year he implemented the program called mbsr (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, based on a protocol of eight two-hour weekly sessions aimed at managing stress associated with chronic pathologies. From a meditative practice inspired by Buddhism it then became a therapeutic protocol in the medical field. Your definition of mindfulness was considered for a long time as the most orthodox, and still predominates among health professionals: “Direct their attention in a certain way, that is, deliberately, at the desired moment, without value judgment” (Kabat-Zinn, 2013: xxvii ). In the same year, he founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the same university, which developed his program in around 200 hospitals in the United States and 80 other countries. . Since 2017, this research and training center has its headquarters at the prestigious Brown University, under the name of Mindfulness Center at Brown,4 with collaborations in Latin America (in particular in Mexico) and in Europe.

    In 1995, a second protocol for the prevention of depressive relapses known as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (mbct or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) expanded the field of meditation mindfulness to the field of psychiatry, by integrating it into the so-called “third wave” cognitive behavioral therapies; It is subdivided into multiple aspects (addictions, post-traumatic stress state, eating disorders, mood disorders, etc.). Implemented by University of Toronto psychologist Zindel Segal together with two Cambridge colleagues, M. Williams and J. Teasdale, the first training courses mbct were held in Canada, the United States5 and Europe. In the case of this continent, it was in Belgium and later in Switzerland where the first generation of Francophone professionals was trained with Zindel Segal,6 under the aegis of the Catholic University of Leuven and the Swiss Association for Cognitive Psychotherapy, in the city of Cret Bérard.

    The set of therapeutic protocols “based on the mindfulness”(Mbi) derived from the first two currently include practices called formal (sitting meditation, body scan, meditative walking, lying and standing yoga) and informal, by integrating meditation into everyday life (washing dishes, showering), with or without object (meditation on breathing, sounds, bodily sensations, thoughts, meditation on the lake, on the mountain, on compassion, open attention to everything that manifests), very short or long (three to forty-five minutes). These practices are combined with cognitive therapy exercises to identify “individual behavior patterns” and “negative thoughts” (Kabat-Zinn, 2013). 

    Mindful eating, mindful parenting, mindful work, mindful athlete, mindful sex, mindful death… (Attentive food, attentive parenting, attentive work, attentive athlete, attentive sex, attentive death): the intrusion of this practice in the most different spaces of social life gives rise to harsh criticism from the media. The American satirical newspaper The onion converted, for example, the "father" of meditation mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, the target of much criticism, caricaturing him with the features of a Chinese monk of the century vii: "Oral histories ... tell of a monk who annoyed everyone he met, until they reluctantly agreed to attend his shitty introductory mindfulness course" (2017). 

    But the most virulent condemnations emanate from the world of the mindfulness: They come from actors determined to make their dissenting voices heard in the face of a commercial drift that is considered harmful. In the opposite sense of the idea of the arrival of a "revolution", of a "nation" or of a "kingdom" of the mindfulness, in recent years the press sounded the sirens of a "backlash". The meditation industry mindfulness is now whipped as a decoy of neoliberalism, henchman of big capital: the label of McMindfulnessit has inaugurated a wave of criticism about the “opium of the middle class” (Drougge, 2016).7 Complaints abound in specialized works, articles and academic colloquia, both by actors from the Buddhist authorities and from the academic world, including doctors, psychologists, neuroscientists and specialists in the social sciences.

    Determined to fight what they perceive to be a perversion, the producers of knowledge about meditation mindfulness They go to great lengths to dictate standards, propose evaluation methods, and establish ethical frameworks to distinguish it from its vicissitudes. The meditation mindfulness it now has professional associations and registries, international congresses, an academic journal, and university degrees.8

    The eclectic practices encompassed in the field of New age or contemporary spiritualities, in which the mindfulnesshave often been analyzed in French and American sociological literature as emblematic of neoliberal society and exacerbated individualism, an aspiration for individual satisfaction that would replace a concern for social progress, a "therapeutic culture" that it would depend on a reading of social issues solely through the prism of emotions. From that point of view, meditation mindfulness it is considered as the exemplary manifestation of a normativity of the “individualistic culture” (Garnoussi, 2011, 2013). However, this regulation is situated within a social dynamic and collective practices (Altglas and Wood, 2019) whose restitution is essential to understand its force of adherence and its worldwide circulation. This individualistic reading finds its limits insofar as it precisely echoes the arguments of many producers of knowledge about the mindfulness, who in turn constantly denounce its neoliberal instrumentalization. On the other hand, the analysis in terms of “psycho-spiritual retouching”, while highlighting the bridges and recompositions of meaning (Champion, 2013), agrees with the claims of numerous American and British teachers of meditation mindfulness for whom the complementarity between Buddhism and psychology is cultivated as a line of force,9 in a historical heritage characteristic of the New age (Kripal, 2008).

    From the Latin American field, where the practices New age are often anchored in religiosities typical of "regimes of difference" inserted in peculiar national and regional contexts (De la Torre et al., 2016), other authors have taken on the task of clarifying this polarity. Thus, Nicolás Viotti underlines the fact that this type of analysis, parasitized by moral judgments, "does not allow us to explain the growing capacity for interpellation" that the new religiosities and the therapeutic practices linked to them have in a significant portion of the population (2011 : 10). Inscribed in a critique of universalism and proposing an approach in terms of “multiple modernities” (Eisenstadt, 2000), several studies pointed to the need to “unravel the formats in which religion is presented in public space, its modes of legitimation and its logics of action, that is, how the actors dynamize the relationship between religion, the public sphere and the State in Latin America ”(Esquivel and Toniol, 2018: 479). In the hospital context, in particular, the works that explore the collective elaboration of narratives that construct a reasonableness to justify the choice of alternative therapies by the users are relevant (Bordes, 2015), or that bring to light the process of negotiation around the sacred between doctors and patients (Bordes and Sáizar, 2018).

    The Latin American studies, based on long-term ethnographic surveys, are also extremely inspiring in terms of the methodology used. Indeed, a corpus of written sources, although indispensable, it is not enough to analyze the mechanisms of deployment of meditation mindfulness in the field of health (in its broadest sense), the heteroclite world that it constitutes and the multiple positioning of its leaders. To expose your modus operandi, an extensive and multi-sited ethnographic approach is indispensable. In this article, I would like to take advantage of the ethnography that I started since 2015 in France and in the United States (San Francisco Bay and Massachusetts).10 Instead of limiting myself to the controversies that animate the world of mindfulness and saturate the media space, I propose a different perspective: to understand "from within", contrasting the speeches with the observed practice, in what way the meditation mindfulness, even being subject to fierce struggles, it is constituted as a field in itself (Bourdieu, 2007: 91) and achieves faire corps (to consolidate collectively). Instead of considering meditation mindfulness as a way of "questioning the monopoly of medical science on health" (Durisch et al., 2007: 7), the challenge therefore lies in accounting for the framework of scientific and religious rationales, bringing to light the legitimacy challenges that sometimes make them compete with each other, while on others they place them in a alliance game.

    This article is part of the line of reflection by Judith Fadlon (2017) on the process of domestication of so-called alternative or complementary therapies within biomedicine, a process that reflects both the legitimation of these practices and, in a movement of taking and daca, a shift in the medical paradigm in which the field of mindfulness it aims to play a relevant role, as we will see later. It also gives continuity to the reflection initiated by D. McMahan (2017) and Braun (2017), which highlights the porosity of the borders between “religious” and “secular” and contemplates the “movement mindfulness”As a manifestation of the existing ties between secularism and modern Buddhism and of the multiple configurations of secularism (Esquivel and Toniol, 2018).

    Beyond the rivalries between Buddhist and scientific authorities, the implicated ethnography, based on observation in situ of Buddhist health professionals, researchers, academics, and teachers whose statutes often intersect, reveals internal divergences and a pragmatic approach that illustrates the polymorphous registers between which actors of life move. mindfulness, between science, medical care, concern for the general well-being of the patient and spirituality. To understand the fault lines that divide the producers of knowledge about meditation mindfulness, “Controversy analysis” resulting from the history of science, which explores dissent as “the destiny of all knowledge fabrication”, is used to consider the heterogeneity of legitimation regimes and the means of normalization that lead to consensus (Pestre, 2007). How are the boundaries of the emerging field of mindfulness? What is the basis for the circulation and reappropriation of your abilities? In what way do the cross-cutting operational logics of the mindfulness alter the competition between scientific and religious rationalities?

    Rival rationales?

    September 2017, 4:00 p.m., adult psychiatry service of a Parisian hospital, field notes.

    In a small room with only a whiteboard accessory, a dozen patients find themselves for the first time in a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy program called mbct (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy). An eight-week commitment, at the rate of one two-hour session per week. Seated around tables arranged in a square, eyes converge on Dr. F., a psychiatrist, who has received them all before.11 Smiling, he takes the floor slowly. “I would like to propose a trip to you. During that journey, which may be difficult, practice will be paramount. I invite you to put aside all your expectations. It is about your experience, be kind to yourself and to others ”.
    He then proposes the grape exercise, the first introductory experience to the protocol. Your assistant distributes a raisin to each of the participants. Dr. F. guides even her smallest gestures: she invites you to observe her, as if they had never seen anything like it before, to touch her, to examine her texture, her reliefs, to smell her, to write down the thoughts that come to mind, to finally bring it slowly to your mouth, chew it and finally swallow it, paying attention to each of your bodily sensations. They are then invited to introduce themselves to their neighbor, specifying the reason for bringing them, and then to make the same presentation to the rest of the group: insomnia, depression, trauma after the 2015 attacks, panic crisis, anxiety at work, symptoms associated with bipolar diagnosis, borderline personality disorder, the profiles are eclectic.
    Then he proposes another 30-minute exercise, the body scan, one of the so-called formal practices of the mindfulness. It consists of fixing the attention on each part of the body, making sure to bring it back to the sensations each time the thoughts arise. It should start with the toes and end at the top of the skull. The doctor explains how to practice at home during the week. In addition to sitting meditation or scanning, “meditation is done around the clock, in any circumstance, you don't need a ritual or a specific place. It is here and now. The more it is inserted in the habits, the more it becomes something automatic ”. Among the slogans, a meal must be made in full consciousness. With a mischievous look, he says: "Watch out, it's not about spending forty-five minutes eating a salad leaf, because if you don't you are going to land in a mental hospital!"
    The next time, after discussing the practice for the week, propose a sitting meditation. Three strokes of a telescopic rod echo the crystalline sound of a bell. Dr. F. then guides those present for thirty minutes. Then invite those who wish to give testimony of their experience.
    - I had the impression that my hands were separating from my body, someone says.
    - For me it was very painful in the back.
    - How do you usually react to pain? asks the doctor.
    Several voices agree:
    - We try to find an analgesic position.
    She nods.
    - Here, we welcome with kindness.
    To a woman who replies that the pain was intensifying, he explains:
    - The objective is not to make the pain disappear, but to see that it can change. Therefore a minimum duration of meditation is needed.
    Then he continues with an allegory of change by telling a story, something that will mark each session, this time it is an Indian tale. During another session, it will be "The Guest House", a text by the Sufi poet Rumi of the century xiii, used in the protocol to help differentiate the welcoming posture from resignation in the face of negative thoughts and painful experiences.

    Semantic elasticity

    The protocols “based on mindfulnessAre therefore classified as meditation mindfulness secular, mainstream or contemporary aimed at a specific purpose, that of health care and better living, in contrast to the mindfulness called Buddhist, religious or traditional. This dividing line is linked to competing rationalities emphasized by health professionals on the one hand, and religious leaders on the other. The scientific authority identified with health professionals bases its legitimacy on its reliability through the medical examination and test regime, while the Buddhist authority claims the paternity of meditation and its ethical framework.12

    Although it is systematically associated with the Kabat-Zinn protocol in the French context, the polysemy of meditation mindfulness It is much higher in the United States and varies by region: in San Francisco Bay, its use is across Buddhist meditation centers, all traditions combined, even though Vipassana centers mobilize it more than Zen centers. The reference to medical protocols is not as significant there as on the east coast, where they arose, and where the regime of scientificity is most emphasized.

    These multiple interpretations go beyond nominalist debates. Beyond the highly structured plot of the manuals (Kabat-Zinn, 2013; Segal et al., 2016), teachers - including health professionals - deal with the guidelines, either to make them more flexible, more complex, or combine them with other therapeutic techniques, thus helping to broaden their field of action. While in France meditation mindfulness For a long time it was reserved for the field of psychiatry (Le Menestrel, unpublished), today its use is integrated into a trans-diagnostic approach that explores the common mechanisms of pain (attentional dysfunction, avoidance strategies). The generic category of “therapy based on mindfulness”Appears there as a care rehabilitation program based on the acceptance of both organic and psychic pain, as proposed by the clinical psychologist S. Orain-Pelissolo in her manual Étreindre votre douleur, éteindre votre souffrance: la thérapie basée sur la pleine conscience (2018). In the United States there are rehabilitation programs dedicated to addictions (a new Buddhist interpretation of the program 12 steps Alcoholics Anonymous), programs for the rehabilitation of detainees and violence management (Prison Mindfulness Institute) and national and international organizations that work in the school (Mindful Schools, ibme).

    Contrary to the dizzying variations echoed in the media, practitioners resist any kind of monolithic classification: meditation. mindfulness it is not limited to a technique, relaxation, therapy, or spiritual or wellness practice. In both the Buddhist and secular contexts, it is superimposed on the notions of presence, awareness, open attention and knowledge, competence, attentional or mental training, emotional intelligence, benevolence or compassion. This polysemy leads to pigeonhole practice in an attention to the present moment (as in the expression "being mindful”Or“ be attentive ”) and to bodily sensations.

    "We are not Tibetan monks"

    In the French framework of my surveys, health professionals have often insisted on the clear delimitation of the boundaries between the care approach and the spiritual dimension. The fact that a researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research (cnrs, for its acronym in French) is interested in the use of meditation mindfulness in the therapeutic field, it has probably helped to mobilize this distinction, at least initially. Many doctors advocate, in fact, restricting the exercise of meditation in the field of mental health to health professionals, since knowledge in psychopathology is considered essential. When I have a meeting with Sylvie, a psychiatrist in a Parisian hospital where she teaches cycles mbct and trains instructors, she insists, for example, on taking a pragmatic approach, as a doctor and researcher at a university hospital service: "The objective is to provide medical care that works for patients who suffer." At the references to Buddhism and "Tibetan meditation" by some of her colleagues, at the loyalty of J. Kabat-Zinn and Z. Segal who pose with the Dalai Lama, Sylvie cannot contain her irritation.

    Taking the opposite side of this position, the doctor highlights the complexity of what she presents as a neuropsychiatric program, by working on the clinical research on the subject herself. Following this perspective, it forms different groups (bipolar, anxiety disorders, depressive, bulimic, alcoholic) that allow the use of international evaluation scales and reliable results in the eyes of the medical community. At the time of our interview, in 2015, he did not speak of meditation to his patients: "We tell them that it is an experimental therapy, that by doing it you discover what it is about." In this way he firmly suppresses the spirituality of any therapeutic approach. "That has nothing to do with Buddhism," he explains to the inmates that it forms. However, it specifies:

    There is nothing spiritual here for the patients. It is necessary to distinguish well between a spiritual path, a spirituality, secular, religious, mbct, which is a heavy, extremely complex program ... There are very complicated tools inside, which are absolutely magical, but it is complicated, very neuropsychological (interview, April 30, 2015).

    At first removed, the religious dimension is once again insinuated in rhetoric ("magic tools") and in practice. Like her colleague mentioned in the ethnographic section, Sylvie, she does not hesitate to read "The guest house" to the inmates.13 by Rumi. This ambivalence is also perceived in those who have established the criteria of "good practice", all on a long journey as practitioners of meditation in various Buddhist traditions, while defending a hierarchy of protocols: the "first generation" (limited to mbsr and mbct) is defined as “empirically proven” and stripped of any “religious, esoteric and mystical” dimension, in contrast to the second generation (Crane, 2017; Crane et al., 2016).

    In France, this demand for a practice "outside of any religious belief" is part of an institutional guideline of respect for the scientific regime and the principle of secularism necessary to avoid raising suspicions of "illegal practice of medicine", a legal regime French that criminalizes all forms of alternative therapy whose effects have not been scientifically proven, thus strictly separating the category of health professionals from that of "charlatans."14 Many point out the multiple obstacles they have had to overcome to anchor the protocols in their hospitals, between discredit, contempt and accusations of irrationality. Therapists involved in meditation-based therapy training mindfulness they are particularly concerned with complying with the standards dictated by the labor inspection - whether they validate it or distance themselves from it - at the risk of being denied the status of trainers. In addition, the specter of sectarian drift and irrationality is agitated by the miviludes (Interministerial Mission for Vigilance and Fight Against Sectarian Drifts, for its acronym in French) and taken up by unions, even for widely extended and validated therapies by the sector doctor, like Eyes Movement Desensibilation and Reprocessing (reprocessing and desensitization by eye movement, emdr for its acronym in English) (Luca et al., 2019).15

    Although the enthusiasm for mindfulness in the clinical field continues to grow, the creation of degrees in medical schools has been full of obstacles. The concealment strategies deployed well illustrate the fear of “going out in the open” with the risk of being publicly humiliated by colleagues (what did you smoke?). University guarantees in terms of hierarchy (support from the dean) and status (member of a service of a university hospital) have been essential to achieve this after years of progressive awareness (presentation in the service, cycles for healthcare personnel, optional modules for medical students). Except for the most recognized cognitive science researchers in the field of meditation, others from the same institutions (inserm, cnrs) it is not allowed to exhibit it as an object of study, replacing it with “the attentional process”, “stress” –correlated with neurosciences and epigenetics–, semantic changes described by some as “Trojan horses” necessary to overcome mistrust. This dynamic recalls the conflict that opposed magnetism and institutional medicine in the early century xix in Europe, and then the challenge that the "psychic sciences" were for the dominant psychology theorists at the beginning of the century xx (Mancini, 2006).

    "Science as religion"

    Scientists are far from the only ones to "alert." The work published in 2016 What's Wrong with Mindfulness reflects the concerns of Zen specialists in the United States, for whom the "movement mindfulness”Has exacerbated a triple process of secularization –which has since become synonymous–, of instrumentalization and uprooting of Buddhism (Rosenbaum and Magid, 2016). Some authors condemn the perversion of the very foundation of meditation: "Preserving the centrality of non-profit is how Zen can potentially maintain its integrity in the midst of a market-based society." Others go to great lengths to deconstruct the myths of mindfulness drawing on the work of scientists who criticize distortions of the 'science of mindfulness”(Rosenbaum, 2016: 60). Thus, a convergence of religious and scientific criticisms of the practice is observed.

    To those who maintain that Buddhist ethics is the guarantor of the integrity of the mindfulness (Monteiro et al., 2015), several theorists of Buddhism reply that their different traditions are impregnated with divergent and even irreconcilable conceptions of the mindfulness (Dreyfus, 2011; Dunne, 2015; Sharf, 2015). The suspension of judgment, which is integrated into the orthodoxy of meditation mindfulness through Kabat-Zinn, it is particularly the subject of debate between those who defend a specific ethical framework and those who preach its abandonment.

    Instead of questioning the therapeutic uses of meditation mindfulness, other theorists claim the role of Buddhism in the treatment of psychopathologies. Relying on the dual position of monk and psychologist, they aspire to a scientific legitimation of the mindfulness buddhist. Something that proves the acronym Buddhist-derived intervention (bdi or intervention derived from Buddhism) traced from medical terminology Mindfulness-Based Intervention (mbi or mindfulness-based intervention) (Van Gordon et al., 2015).

    Many leaders of modern Buddhism dissociate themselves from this logic of competition with the scientific field as well as from those whom they consider "fundamentalists", according to which the mindfulness secular would precipitate "the loss of dharma”. In this sense, Greg's career and the vision that he has forged are an example of the ongoing adaptation to a process of secularization of which he is both witness and personification. Teacher, Doctor of Buddhist Studies, Zen Monk, and Professor of dharma in tradition vipassana, carries out its activity in the major centers of diffusion of the mindfulness and it participates in the debates on the modalities of its secularization. After a oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast, Greg became interested in the environmental movement and undertook environmental studies in 1972. Fascinated by the effervescent climate of the counterculture, a detractor of the Vietnam War and fearing the risks of political activism, Buddhism appears to him as an answer to his search for meaning. At the age of twenty he goes to live in one of the largest communities of the time, The Farm, in Tennessee, where reading what he considers to be a "bible", the "best seller" Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind of S. Suzuki Roshi, leads him towards Zen, like many actors of the mindfulness of his generation. After spending a year in Norway, where he was born, his experience on a farm led him to resume his studies, pursuing a specialty in agronomy at the University of Davis. In 1978, with the title in his hands, he tried to support his meditation practice by becoming a member of the Soto Zen congregation of the San Francisco Zen Center (Centro Zen de San Francisco), founded by S. Roshi in 1962. After an experience of For nine months at Green Gulch, the Center's farm, where he combines farming and meditation, he resides for three years at Tassajara Monastery, the first Soto Zen training center on the west coast.

    During a stay in Japan, travel to Thailand to renew your visa and discover meditation vipassana. His practice is nourished by a back and forth between these two traditions and long retreats that lead him to follow the teachings of the most renowned monks of the time in Japan, Thailand and Burma, but also Western leaders of meditation. vipassana in the United States who founded the Insight Meditation Society (ims) in 1976. He began a career in Buddhist studies at Stanford. While completing your doctorate, you are offered the opportunity to teach meditation vipassana in a weekly San Francisco Bay group that is gaining in prominence. Over the years, that meditation center now established in Redwood City has become one of the most renowned in the region and then in the country.

    His trajectory leads him to a reflective reading of the secularization of meditation: “People like me who went to Asia… we take it as orthodox Buddhism. What we didn't know at the time was that when they were young, they were radical progressives. And there was a lot of controversy ”(interview, August 17, 2016). Greg draws a parallel to the approach of Jack Kornfield and Jo Goldstein when they found the ims:

    They made the clear decision to eliminate most of Buddhism. No ritual, no song, no Buddhist statue. So it's close to being secular Buddhism… they were very radical when they started teaching. And now they are orthodoxy!

    Greg thus highlights the determining role of the Western leaders of modern Buddhism in the development of secular meditation.

    Secular Buddhists, who approach this with various questions, concerns, issues, have a lot to do with trying to avoid the supernatural - rebirth, beings, gods, believing that Buddha is somehow a supernatural person, believing in Some of the psychic powers that we are supposed to believe in Buddhism is difficult for some people to accept… Some have chosen to be fundamentalists, they accept the whole thing as it is. If it comes from Asia it must be true. Some are much more thoughtful and analytical about what they accept.

    By highlighting the disparities in Buddhist traditions ("such as apples and oranges," Greg points out) that mitigate any conflict of loyalty, he defends the new Western interpretations, concerned about the compatibility that he considers essential for the adherence of practitioners. He also values the denomination "natural Buddhism", in contrast to the "supernatural" dimension it reserves for fundamentalists and Eastern mysticism, thus perpetuating a border with Western rationality. Greg's trajectory highlights the multiplicity of positions inherent in the unfolding of meditation mindfulness and sheds light on the pragmatic perspective of many Buddhist teachers who promote it. The extensive secularization of meditation mindfulness opens a “gateway to the dharma”From which benefits should be obtained.

    As a "teacher of dharma”British for twenty-five years, who teaches in the main international vipassana meditation centers, Youri continues the reflection of Greg, who in fact recommends his teachings to me. As a mirage to those who claim the scientific status of Buddhism in the medical field, he inverts the logic:

    My take on this is that basically science has become our religion. If they say we did it and science proved it, we all believe it. And of course science is not always reliable. In fact, science is in the business of constantly proving you wrong. That is its entire developmental path. Whatever we have thought today, we will find out tomorrow that it was not. So there is a language of trust and reassurance in that kind of program. If you want to demonstrate to your people that it works, that's fine, but I'm not really interested in demonstrating it in those terms. I am interested in people seeing for themselves doing it. But if a scientific study obtains funding from the government to provide training of mindfulness in schools, hell yeah! (interview, July 16, 2017).

    Although Youri says he is saddened by the strategy of medical conviction based on random control groups, his vision remains pragmatic: it constitutes a fundamental element of diffusion for the adherence of new faithful. Instead of opposing scientific and religious rationalities, Youri sees them as distinct religions. Thus, he differentiates the regime of scientific proof from a Buddhist teaching "that works according to its own logic", through practice. As science assumes the status of religion, it becomes empirical. It is not about fighting to monopolize authority and resources on meditation. mindfulness but rather to find the terms of a commitment, or even an alliance, between knowledge that we consider to be, both one and the other, based on experience.

    Commit as an instructor

    Although Youri and Greg teach at Buddhist retreat centers, many "teachers of dharma"Today they have a career traveling through varied contexts. The Insight Meditation Society constitutes a point of connection in the circuits16 of the mindfulness as a place of retreat and training and plays an increasingly important role in this network of fields. Formed in the ims and in the protocol mbct, Chris teaches at Buddhist retreats, practices psychotherapy privately at Oxford, teaches at the Mindfulness Center at the University of Oxford17 and coordinates the proposed courses at Westminster.

    The use of a wide range of registries is not limited to religious leaders, far from it. Formerly a psychiatrist in a Parisian hospital, installed as an independent psychotherapist and instructor mbct, Karine is actively involved in promoting meditation mindfulness in France. He considers that he has fought hard to "avoid the dissolution of the protocol mbct”Defending its specificity as“ a very subtle cognitive therapy tool on the mechanisms of rumination ”. In 2015, a neighbor of his Parisian practice who practices Vipassana meditation allowed him to have a quiet place free of charge, to offer free weekly “initiation to secular meditation” evenings open to all. The story about the origin of this space during a conversation is similar to that of other instructors (including Kabat Zinn) who evoke the “vision” from which their project was born after a meditation.

    Despite the fact that sessions are offered at various psychotherapeutic offices and hospital services to help maintain the practice, she chooses another space outside of the therapeutic setting. Many of the instructors who alternate there from one week to the next are health professionals, but they also include other profiles (teachers, lawyers ...) that show their training and status as protocol instructors as proof of legitimacy (mbsr, mbct) as their status as monks, in this case soto zen. The operation of this space is, therefore, similar to that offered by many meditation centers in the United States that claim to be of modern Buddhism (or Insight): they are based on dedication, openness to all, weekly frequency and a teaching body that moves between Buddhist meditation centers, psychotherapeutic offices and medical, educational and business institutions.

    In the fall of 2017, shortly after he published in his Blog The Dalai Lama's Manifesto on Compassion, Karine explains why she has decided to withdraw it:

    We go on tiptoe all the time. Indeed, mindfulness meditation, however secular and formalized it may be, is the result of Buddhist traditions ... We face all kinds of resistance, as [it] disrupts our relationship with the world, with others, with materiality . The pure Cartesian spirit is damaged and yet meditation and its effects are extremely rational, they have been shown to be beneficial (Liénard, 2017).

    At the same time that Karine questions scientific rationality, she reaffirms it by resorting to the trial regime and the "Cartesian spirit."

    At the same time, Karine launched a training course that proposes an “à la carte” curriculum open to all (health professionals or not), regardless of the intention (professionalization or not). "We are all in labor," she explains. Its team is made up of professionals from an eclectic range of backgrounds, all with university degrees (medicine, human and social sciences, graphic arts). Among them, there is a Zen monk of the Thich Nat Han tradition, who today teaches in the business environment after having introduced meditation courses for leaders of the agri-food company Casino.

    Thus, a gap is observed between the controversies that animate the field of mindfulness and the way in which the actors accommodate and reconcile their different fields of action and discourses. Teachers particularly highlight these polymorphous records through the different statuses they accumulate, which they highlight or set aside depending on the audience they need to convince. Their condition as instructors –conjugated with the place of their training as a guarantee of respectability– prevails above all others.

    Prove Your Value: Certification, Standards and Status

    It is precisely the criteria of respectability of instructors that have placed certification at the center of intense debate. Already acquired, the medical legitimacy of therapeutic protocols “based on mindfulness”Is not enough to guarantee that of your instructors. In recent years, the certification policy has been constantly changing its modalities. It is part of a process of boundary-work (“Border work”, Gieryn, 1983), framed in scientific professionalization strategies based on the delimitation between the criteria that would enter the field of science and those excluded from it, here relegated to the religious field, while the actors themselves - as we have seen - they are in fact far from abiding by those borders.

    The "good practice"

    Faced with the extreme diversification of protocols according to multiple formats (courses, conferences, weekends, retreats), but also due to the strong expansion of the demand for instructor training on an international scale, the pioneering centers in meditation-based training mindfulness since 2010 show a concern to guarantee the professionalism of the teachers they train in an increasingly competitive market. Through a process of selection and ranking, the established norms converge towards the same objective: separating the wheat from the chaff according to their own criteria.

    While several training institutes have been in good shape since the early 2000s, it is the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society (cfm, for its acronym in English) of the University of Massachusetts which preserves the paternity of the medical protocol for chronic pathologies, mbsr. In the years prior to his migration to Brown University, he set about making his training program more complex, sparking fierce debates that reveal the issues of parenthood that divide the world from life. mindfulness.

    The growing number of people claiming to use the Kabat-Zinn teachings to assert their legitimacy as a meditation instructor has triggered the establishment of symbolic parapets and a process of ranking. While until 2013 it was possible to begin group instruction after a practical work cycle, the cfm You have progressively added stages and prerequisites to your curriculum. The condition of "qualified" teacher (considered suitable to teach) constitutes a first level, the second is that of "certified" teacher that authorizes to become a trainer. The number of retreats to be carried out (from five to ten days of silence) increases, individual supervision is prolonged. In a few years, the certification process becomes more tedious and demanding.18 Most of those who are training in the cfm it takes three

    or four years to complete the studies, at a very expensive cost ($ 8,500 to be an instructor and $ 15,000 to be a trainer).

    Lynn Koerbel, responsible for training at the cfm, places the institution as a guarantor of the scientificity of the protocol. “As the curriculum has been taken up by the National Registry of Evidence-Based Practices19 And as more and more research is being done, there must be a certain rigor in terms of validity and fidelity in terms of what this program is ”(interview, April 30, 2015). National and international registries now allow the identification of “certified” teachers (uk Network for Mindfulness-Based Teacher Training Organizations20, world yearbook of therapists mbct).

    However, behind this concern for scientific guarantees lie strong economic issues along with statutory struggles that have generated heated debates. When in 2016, in France, the Association for the development of mindfulness21 (adm) raised the possibility of limiting its membership to teachers qualified by the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts, thus excluding other training courses, triggered numerous outraged reactions. In addition to being subject to a price, access to visibility through its yearbook is conditional on the training taken. Therefore, by issuing standards, the French association goes beyond its official mission to promote mindfulness. Next to cfm, it stands as an instance of control.

    It is not surprising then that European instructors find the doors of the adm closed, which refuses to ratify their skills training courses or some of their activities. This position of exclusivity disqualifies her from a growing number of Francophone trainers who have chosen to free themselves from any alliance, or from candidates who prefer other training courses.

    The concern for developing a teaching standard is also shown in the academic community. In Britain, where the institutionalization of meditation mindfulness is more advanced, a group of leaders who participate in the three Bangor master's programs,22 Oxford23 and Exeter produced a manual in 2012 outlining the eligibility criteria for a “good practice”, the Minfulness-Based Intervention Teaching Assessment Criteria24 (Evaluation Criteria for the Teaching of Mindfulness-Based Intervention). The status of the authors (university students from prestigious institutions, PhD holders, often psychotherapy graduates) greatly contributed to making it an international reference. Such guarantees of respectability are systematically invoked in the world of mindfulness, in which many leaders come from prestigious universities. In France, it is primarily affiliations with hospital institutions and research laboratories whose reputation mirrors that of teachers.

    Statutory struggles

    In France, the protocol mbct served as a gateway for those wishing to teach meditation mindfulness. A few years later, receiving this training became the prerogative of health professionals. The two French training courses opened in 2015 responded to the initiative of health professionals trained by Z. Segal and Christophe André,25 two determining guarantees of respectability. Thereafter, a statutory distinction was introduced between the teachers of the protocol mbsr by Kabat Zinn. Although many of them were health professionals (general practitioners and specialists, psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists), others had very eclectic profiles: yoga teachers, sophrologists, trainers, consultants, business leaders, even writers or people in professional retraining.

    There is, of course, a mutual distrust between health professionals and those who do not belong to the medical world strictly speaking: the former perceive the disparity in the profiles of the latter as a lack of professionalism, or even as an open door to sectarianism. In the face of this, longtime meditators fear the appropriation of secular meditation as a therapy over which health professionals would have authority.

    The very different training paths between protocols mbsr and mbct they only deepen this polarization. The stages multiplied to reach the first one suppose a considerable investment in time and money; the formation mbct It is developed according to a much shorter study plan (five days in residential and a co-facilitation), with the possibility of financial support through a French public program of “continuous professional improvement”. In France these different levels of demand have led to accusations of granting privileges, made by candidates experienced in meditation who were denied training. mbct. In his efforts to intensify his training curriculum, the cfm has lobbied for additional stages to be added in training mbct.26 While until then the professional training of health specialists was invoked as a substitute for the retirement experience, now it is necessary.

    In reality, not all health professionals who teach the protocol meet these criteria. Before entering the field of psychiatry, teaching depended on co-option. Many teachers co-led groups for several years before training themselves. Your eligibility could be aided by intensive experience in bodily practice, especially meditation retreats from any tradition or yoga teaching. To this day, the status of health professional, and even more so that of a psychiatrist, nevertheless continues to be an important guarantee of respectability in the eyes of patients.

    Health professionals can also avail themselves of the university degrees dedicated to meditation that have emerged in recent years in four French medical schools,27 that join the fifteen universities in the world that today offer training aimed mainly at them and medical students in the context of improving the therapeutic relationship between the health professional and the patient as well as the prevention of burn-out in the doctors themselves, psychiatrists, and so on.

    Image 1

    Despite all this series of actions, although most of the training courses on therapeutic protocols based on meditation mindfulness They are aimed primarily at that professional category, more and more opportunities are offered to candidates from social action, education, or even without any restrictions. This is one of the perverse effects of establishing an orthodox certification policy: as the standards of "good practice" become more rigid, training courses and practices multiply. Although the status of health professional is a guarantee of the respectability of the proposed therapy, in practice the same teacher can assume various statuses throughout his career, accumulate them or collaborate with individuals from different horizons: this is the case of Chris, who is both a psychotherapist, trainer in a secular context and dharma teacher; This is the case of Karine, founder of a secular meditation center, teacher in the business sector and psychiatrist. The porosity of the borders between health professionals and other categories is therefore much greater than what the statutory struggles that considerably permeate the discourses suggest.

    The echo of the controversies that have torn apart the field of psychotherapy is immediately perceptible. The controversy that followed the 2003 Accoyer amendment,28 which reserved the exercise of psychotherapy to physicians and psychologists, exposed similar questions of legitimacy regarding its definition, method and evaluation polarized around the opposition between psychoanalysis and cognitive-behavioral therapy (tcc) (Champion, 2008). In the field of mindfulnessIt is the distinction between Buddhist meditation and therapeutic meditation that supersedes it. Let us remember here that interventions based on meditation mindfulness are part of the tcc, which prolongs and complicates the debates in the psychotherapeutic field by introducing into them a spiritual dimension, linked to the Buddhist heritage to which they claim to belong.

    But while the French state now regulates the exercise of psychotherapy, the established rules for meditation mindfulness they remain today in the hands of educational centers. Although one of the challenges of an international certification policy is to control the qualification criteria and establish itself as a privileged interlocutor of the public powers, it can be bet that legislation on meditation mindfulness It would spark equally heated debates.

    The training courses of Buddhist meditation centers

    Efforts to develop a certification are far from limited to the secular context. The historical centers of diffusion of meditation mindfulness in the United States, the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts (1976) and the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in San Francisco Bay (1985) also took on this task. Determined to position themselves in a burgeoning market, the leaders of modern Buddhism do not intend to leave the monopoly of training to academia and scientific institutions. The certification study plans they offer respond to the varied profiles of the individuals (care sector, social action, business sector, etc.) who pass through their centers in order to make the required withdrawals there.

    Picture 2
    Picture 3
    Picture 4

    Spirit Rock29 proposes different levels of qualification: that of a meditation group co-facilitator, that of a full-fledged facilitator called community dharma leader ("Community leader dharma”, Two years), and that of retreat / dharma teacher ("Retreat teacher dharma”, From four to six years) that allows teaching in retreats. This free training - in contrast to the others - is given in exchange for a commitment to teaching in retreats lasting ten years, following the model of the religious seminary. It is then about following a vocation. It should be noted that in this case too, the process of professionalization of the "teachers of dharma”Occurs after a period (before the 2000s) in which cooptation predominated.

    To this diversification of the offer are added qualifications conceived for an audience that intends to work in a secular context. The Bodhi College,30 British institute recently founded by pioneers of the spread of modern Buddhism in Great Britain and the United States in the 1970s, thus offering retreats to all those who intend to teach meditation mindfulness in a secular context. It combines the study of the "original" teachings of the Buddha with a "secular Buddhism" (which is said to be pragmatic and without submission to a Buddhist tradition), a notion developed by S. Batchelor, British Buddhist teacher and co-founder of the institute.

    Emblematic figure of the spread of modern Buddhism in the United States (co-founder of Spirit Rock and of ims) and doctor of clinical psychology, J. Kornfield also enjoys great legitimacy, on which he relies to offer a two-year certification31 much appreciated by those who can invest in it $ 6,700, with a degree accredited by the Greater Good Science Center32 of the University of Berkeley, dedicated to the “science of mindfulness”. Legitimizing itself in both fields, the religious and the scientific, its training captures the wealthiest candidates, without the need for binding commitments such as withdrawals.

    The "science of mindfulnessMined from the inside

    Repolitize mindfulness

    Critical reflexivity on the “ethical” requirement characterizes the group of producers of knowledge about the mindfulness. Since the mid-2010s, critical studies proliferated in the academic world. The Handbook for Mindfulness (Purser et al., 2016), co-edited by Ron Purser, the author of MacMindfulness, is an example of this movement that brings together actors from various disciplines: health professionals, Buddhism theorists, teachers from school institutions and researchers in religious studies, anthropology, history of science, media and science sciences. management. These authors join their efforts to denounce the “mindfulness neoliberal ”relying on Foucauldian notions of biopower, surveillance and self-optimization. That critique of individual responsibility for well-being that contributes to social suffering (Purser et al., 2016: viii) has a certain echo, along with that of resilience, a notion that also spread during the 2000s in the field of risk management, calling on individuals to become actors of their own security (Quenault , 2015). Although far from being unanimous,33 the social critique of the mindfulness it is based, therefore, on a discourse that is supported by the social sciences. Far from limiting themselves to denunciation, the authors aspire to reverse the trend, by explicitly positioning themselves as practitioners. They specify: “each of the collaborators of this volume cares deeply for the dissemination and practice of mindfulness in society". Faced with the proliferation of the vicissitudes of meditation mindfulness, its defenders oppose a reflection on its ethical foundations (Stanley et al., 2018).

    The paradigm of the contemplative sciences

    Criticisms of meditation mindfulness they are increasingly apparent in the cognitive sciences. The scientific naturalism and neuro-centered rhetoric that pervades the abundant research on such practice are now widely questioned by the field of "contemplative sciences."

    Scientists regularly rise to the rostrum and stand against the inadequacy of randomized trials and the semantic ambiguity of meditation. mindfulness. In contrast to the frenzy of interpretations, scientists underline the stammering character of the "science of mindfulness”.34 Two collective articles by scholars from American and French research institutes (inserm and cnrs) serve as a reference. Jointly signed by fifteen authors, Mind the Hype synthesizes well that impetus in the fight against the inaccuracies of the science of mindfulness and the demand for an epistemological renewal (Dahl et al., 2015; Van Dam et al., 2018).35

    The flagship institution of the contemplative sciences, the Mind and Life Institute,36 was created in 1987 thanks to the impulse of the Dalai Lama, A. Engle, lawyer and businessman, and the neuroscientist F. Varela (cnrs). The series of annual dialogues they launched in Dharamsala, India, advocated extending the frontiers of scientific investigation of the mind to meditative experience and Buddhism. Varela contributed to the development of "neurophenomenology" as an alternative to the paradigm of the cerebral subject - the ideology of brainhood (Vidal, 2009) - which favored the proclamation of the “decade of the brain” by GW Bush in 1990. Researchers in the contemplative sciences claim Varela's legacy37 –Of whom several were students or colleagues, considered a visionary– and from the Dharamsala dialogues.

    Some criticisms refer to the side effects of the practice (panic attacks, depression, hallucinations) in studies sponsored by the National Institute of Health, after government reports highlighting the blind areas of clinical trials ( cited in Van Dam: 11). Meditation-based interventions mindfulness they can effectively exacerbate pre-existing symptoms in the context of assiduous practice such as retreats, or even attempt to bring them up as part of a preventive rather than curative approach. What is at stake then is not the existence of side effects, but rather their management. We may even wonder how they are specific to meditation and how they can be directly attributable to it. The accumulation of health scandals caused by the marketing of drugs responsible for serious pathologies also contributes to reducing the risk that is run. The concern of the knowledge producers themselves to point them out, might it not be related to a larger project that goes beyond its clinical applications?

    Philosopher E. Thompson, for his part, distances himself from a neurocognitive perspective to emphasize the role of the body and the social and cultural environment in what he defines as an embodied cognitive science.38 By admitting his own responsibility for the expansion of a neurocentred vision, at the International Congress of Contemplative Sciences he denounces the hackneyed topic of brain plasticity: “We have to stop repeating the nonsensical mantra that mindfulness changes the brain. Anything you do changes your brain! " (Thompson, 2017: 49). By advocating an approach to meditation mindfulness as situated action, it appeals to the social sciences. A perspective that leads to questioning its specificity with respect to other types of meditation, or other bodily practices (relaxation, yoga, sports and artistic practices; Rosenkranz, 2015). The focus on the neuroscientific measurement of mindfulness creates a series of blind spots (the role of their frequency, the relationship with the instructor, the practice framework, and interindividual variations) that leads to prescribing alternative tools before and after the protocol, in logbooks, and through family testimonials . The quantifiable measurement of the effects of meditation thus joins a phenomenological approach that defends the need for “first-person” descriptions to apprehend the subjective experience of practitioners (Petitmengin
    et al., 2017).

    In more general terms, the call for the epistemological renewal of the "science of mindfulness”Is part of the divisions within the cognitive sciences and in the power relations with the social sciences (Chamak, 2004) that reveal a“ politics of knowledge ”(Cabane and Revet, 2015). The integrative approaches discussed above confront the naturalistic reductionism that makes the brain the key to understanding mental illness and social behavior.39

    Picture 5

    Finally, the contemplative sciences approach defends the synergistic alliance of experimental sciences and contemplative practices as tools of scientific inquiry. In this, they seem to fall within the efforts made since the end of the century. xix to elaborate “a Buddhist science” by proposing “an unequivocally benevolent alternative science”, in a characteristic legacy of the new religious movements (McMahan, 2011: 138; Zeller, 2011). The notions of compassion, altruism and empathy are an integral part of that reflection. Visions of compassion (Davidson and Harrington, 2002) collects the exchanges organized under the aegis of the Mind & Life Institute between the Dalai Lama, Western university students and Tibetan monks on the effects of these notions on social behavior. Following in the footsteps of Varela, the philosopher of the mind M. Bitbol (cnrs) considers compassion as “an ethical goal and a means of knowledge” that meditative practices open (Bitbol, 2014: 172).

    By questioning the neutrality of so-called Western scientific knowledge and advocating a dialogue with Buddhism, contemplative sciences are immersed in an anthropological reflection on the porous borders between belief and knowledge, adopting a symmetrical look at these fields of action (Bazin, 2008 : 402). But while these rely largely on the critical perspective of the religious studies constitutive of that field, the historical, cultural and social contextualization that they claim does not translate into similar recourse to anthropology and sociology. It is difficult for the latter to make their way through funding or research groups, even though the anthropology of science, which emerged at the same time as the contemplative sciences, itself interrogates "Western science" and "the immutable realm of scientific causality. ”(Tresch, 2004: 53). The concept of "epistemology of the south", proposed by B. de Sousa Santos, thus proposes expanding the frontiers of knowledge. It is based on an ecology of knowledge based on the exploration of alternative scientific practices, the interdependence of scientific and non-scientific knowledge and the epistemological debate between all kinds of knowledge, advocating a counter-hegemonic use of modern science (Santos, 2011).

    It should be noted that the most active researchers in this field come from the counterculture generation of the 1960s that were associated with pioneers in the dissemination of modern Buddhism and meditation. mindfulness in the 1970s and studied alongside him. Witnesses and actors of a spiritual search as young adults and after a dialogue between science and Buddhism in which they have worked throughout their entire careers, they make their best efforts to extract into meditation what they perceive as an abyss.

    Thus, the contemplative sciences seem to be inseparable from personal practice. Varela's triple stance as a researcher, philosopher and meditator is exemplary in this sense. For some, this implication combines ambivalent positions: a career dedicated to the neurocognitive mechanisms of attentional training and the potential of meditation with the great support of well-funded scientific projects;40 a concern with altering the certainties of the science of mindfulness which leads to relativize or even disqualify quantifiable data. In specific situations (interviews with journalists, discussions with the public at university symposia), the interlocutors most eager for evidence are thus referred to the importance of other factors (such as the withdrawal device). Only taking into account the variety of interaction contexts is it possible not to pigeonhole the actors in the condition of ally or detractor, by allowing us to appreciate the challenges of this multiplicity of positions.


    I think of an ecosystem, which is diverse and resilient. When the disease reaches the ecosystem, if it is homogeneous, everything is eliminated.

    Interview, Matthew, Boston, July 26, 2017

    Faced with what they consider to be the derivatives of the commodification of meditation mindfulness, all producers of knowledge about this practice work on the construction of a ethos scientist who thrives on a polysemic ethic with the aim of "becoming one" as a scientific field in its own right. Beyond a rivalry between scientific and religious rationalities, the world of mindfulness it is made up of heterogeneous actors whose statuses, far from opposing, rather overlap. Many are at the crossroads between these two fields of practice and knowledge, mobilized alternatively or simultaneously. The commitment in an ethnography of the different circuits and meeting points that make up this world is essential to show the interstices that emerge between these rationalities. In framing the boundaries of this field, certification policy is a central issue. Submit the definition, method and exercise of meditation mindfulness to a set of norms that are all the more debatable since the condition of teacher seals the commitment with the practice.

    Dissent on the conditions of exercise and the transmission of meditation mindfulness, its evaluation, its scientific foundations and its applications reflect the reflexive dynamics involved. Through the metaphor of the ecosystem that he brings to the world of mindfulness and to the controversies that animate him, Matthew, who participated in a training course for the teaching of meditation at the Insight Meditation Society to become a “teacher of dharma”, Underlines a universalist perspective widely claimed by many knowledge producers about this practice. He considers controversies as one of the conditions for the viability of this world.

    By advocating for an epistemological renewal of research on the mindfulness, the contemplative sciences defend the fruitfulness of the dialogue between the experimental sciences and the contemplative practices as tools of scientific investigation. They work for a discourse on the universal that is nourished by a moral thought modeled by a “Buddhist ethic”. The frames of expression of this reflexive dynamic - crucial in the field of secular or religious rituals (Gobin and Vanhoenacker, 2016) - are an indispensable preamble to understand the ritual efficacy of the formations and retreats mentioned in the ethnographic section at the beginning of the Article. The controversies that stand out thus appear inherent in the multiple positioning of the actors and the emergence of a specific field.


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    Sara le menestrel is a cultural anthropologist and researcher at the cnrs. Within the field of music anthropology, his research interests include the construction and negotiation of difference in Louisiana. In 2015 he published Negotiating Difference: Categories, Stereotypes and Identiations in French Louisiana Music (University of Mississippi). Between 2007 and 2012, he coordinated the nationally funded project "Musiques, danses et mondialisation: circulations, mutations, pouvoir", which resulted in a team-written book, Des vies en musique. Parcours d'artistes, mobilités, transformations, to be published in 2020 in English by Routledge.

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