news angles & story ideas

Mindfulness always has a news hook – given the regularity of instances of mindlessness, senseless violence, ecocide, economic uncertainty, and similar causes of stress, anxiety, and ill-being which (alas) pervade current events.  As antidote, mindfulness is an opportunity to print the good news: accentuate the pause-ative, breathe, and smile. Here’s a bunch of topics and themes for possible news angles and story ideas. 

1  Why Mindfulness & Why Now?
Mindfulness is the fastest-growing self-help trend since yoga. Both these phenomena occur within a space that’s been the Open Secret in religion of the past two decades: people making the spiritual active, immediate, personal, and real for themselves in daily life. This unnamed “Contemplative Practices Movement” can be seen within an even larger context: the concept of an Axial Age, a lively, pivotal, great turning. Within that context, mindfulness can be seen as an emergent global spirituality. 

2  The Next Step
The success of mindfulness isn’t predetermined. We make the road and the road makes us. Pause Breathe Smile consolidates the advances made, takes into consideration consequential backlash against various aspects (such as noted in the seminal polemic McMindfulness [2013], and returns to the roots of mindfulness, reframing its vital story in a larger narrative. There’s an equivalent here to yoga, which has become a billion-dollar industry yet secularizes the practice such that many practitioners think of it only as body poses, without grounding in deep Hindu philosophy, or the ethical principles (yamas and niyamas).   

3  A Three-fer
You’ve heard of a two-fer? Pause Breathe Smile is a three-fer. The charm here is that each of the three parts can be read in any order.The book was written in such a way that each part refers to the other two. Alongside a columnar table of contents, a diagram of these three parts as interlocking spheres. This is in keeping with the book’s exploration of the interconnectedness of all things (“interbeing”). Gary can also speak to the writing of the book – how it took him five years, and what he learned in the process.

4   Thich Nhat Hanh
94-year-old Vietnamese pacifist and Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh (say, Tik N’yat Hawn) is the second most famous living Buddhist in the world, next to HH The Dalai Lama. His living legacy includes engaged spirituality, interfaith, emphasis on practice in everyday life, and marrying Zen and mindfulness. 40 years ago, he wrote Miracle of Mindfulness, which launched the word into common vocabulary. Today, there are dozens of centers around the world practicing in his lineage (The Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism). Gary is ordained in the core community, the Order of Interbeing, and is part of a second generation of disciples and followers (other such authors include Brother Phap Hai, Sister Dang Nghiem, Meen Srinavasan).  Author Jerry Braza has said of Pause Breathe Smile, “If you’re looking to find all of Thich Nhat Hanh’s practices in one book – here it is.” 

Timeless Wisdom for Uncertain Times
Secularization of mindfulness by Western science has provided many benefits. However, traditional Western science is still dualist, while the roots of mindfulness include the nondual wisdom of nonseparation, also known as “interbeing.” Quantum theory is catching up. Meanwhile, the timeless wisdom of mindfulness provide us liberation from needless suffering, our own and others’. This wisdom tradition can be comparable to Hebrew Kaballah, Islamic Sufism, Christian mysticism, and elements in indigenous spirituality.  The key themes here are impermanence, interbeing, and selflessness. 

6  Moral Values in Action
Are our society’s moral values deteriorating? What’s the good of enjoying less stress and greater concentration if we don’t have a clear conscience? We find outcome changes radically when we just shift our outlook by adding “and others” to our consideration of self. Re-invigorating mindfulness with timeless moral values, Pause Breathe Smile emphasizes a bottom-up viewpoint: using one’s own lived world as the testing ground. What we’ve heard before as concepts become viable as practice. Pause Breathe Smile introduces to the Western world a marvelous  Vietnamese Zen practice called Study Observe Practice.   

7  Breath as Meditation Teacher, 24/7
We breathe 21,000 times a day. But how many of these breaths are conscious? Of many meditations utilizing breath, Pause Breathe Smile offers an in-depth exploration of one of the two foundational texts of traditional mindfulness, Full Awareness of Breathing. This doesn’t require breathing fully or changing the breath in any way. Instead, we learn letting go, to let breathe be however it wants to be, and simply observe, without judgment or story-line. Being still  and connecting with breath, knowing we’re alive, we can access the wisdom of our body and mind and spirit as one.  Anytime. Anywhere.   

8  Applications in Society
35 years ago, Jon Kabat-Zinn inaugurated Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) which began a revolution being felt in all walks of life. Gary is equipped to speak about five areas where mindfulness is currently being adopted: health-care, education, business, economics, and social equity. Gary can also introduce engaged mindfulness, wherein bringing healing and transformation to one’s self and the world are not separate processes. 

Gary Gach
How did Gary Gach come to begin writing Pause Breathe Smile at the age of 65? What were the steps that led him to this? How did all this begin when he was 8?  During his lifetime, what changes in society did he witness – & take part in – that influenced him? (A whole chapter could be devoted to his ordination by Thich Nhat Hanh.) What’s next for him, after this?

10 A Great Turning
We are living in unprecedented times. Some call this the Anthropocene, given human influence replacing nature’s in affecting the course of the planet’s evolution. We might even be living a time of a sixth extinction. While the ecosystem is facing possibly unalterable perils, world economies have set out in uncharted waters. Wealth inequality, and debt, are rising. The dollar may no longer be the world’s single reserve currency. When IMF managing director Christine Legarde speaks of global reset, will that include new currency (cryptocurrency? SDRs?)? The disruptive potentials for AI may be upon us as soon as 2020. Meanwhile, the numbers of organizations working to bring healing and transformation have never been greater. And the sway of religious institutions are giving way to personal, direct access to spirituality – including mindfulness.

To better understand our challenges and their potential positive outcomes, we  explore the parallels of all this with the Axial Age (“great turning”). As we witness a next phase in evolution, we can also take part in it ourselves. It’s the greatest game in town.