news angles & story ideas

Mindfulness always has a news hook. Every day, I receive ±5 articles and news releases: new scientific research, new applications in daily life, a celebrity mentioning mindfulness, etc. 

On the other hand, mindfulness can also be invoked every day thru news hooks reflecting mindlessness, absence of moral values, and ignorance as to the nature of reality. (Alas.) Unfortunately, bad news is now a mainstream trend. (“If it bleeds, it leads.”) For journalists, channeling negativity can be stressful. As antidote, mindfulness is an opportunity to publish the good news.

Alongside the 14 Q&A in  Conversation with Gary Gach — plus a survey of 60 additional Talking Points —  here’s a bunch of further considerationof topics and themes for possible news angles and story ideas.  Especially useful for interviews, there’s also an annotated Table of Contents, broken down to the level of subheads.

Mindfulness holds essential survival skills in these uncertain times. So accentuate the pause-ative … breathe … and smile.

1  Why Mindfulness & Why Now?
Mindfulness is the fastest-growing self-help trend since yoga. Both these phenomena occur within terrain marked by the Open Secret in religion/spirituality of the past two decades: people leaving worship by rote and 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: a new Axial Age, a lively, pivotal, Great Turning. Within that context, mindfulness can be seen as an emergent global spirituality, keeping us sane in difficult, uncertain times. 

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 thus far, takes into consideration consequential backlash against various aspects (such as noted in the seminal polemic McMindfulness [2013], now expanded in a book [2019]) and returns us to the roots of mindfulness, reframing its vital story in a wider, deeper narrative. There’s an equivalent here to yoga, now a billion-dollar industry yet secularized and denatured such that many practitioners think of it only as body poses, without grounding in deep Hindu philosophy, or its fundamental ethical principles (yamas and niyamas).   

3  A Three-fer
You’ve heard of a two-fer? (“Two for the price of one.”) Pause Breathe Smile is a three-fer. The unique charm here is that each of the three parts can be read in any order. Alongside a columnar table of contents, another table is a Venn diagram of these three parts. They’re like interlocking spheres. (Each part refers to the other two.) This demonstrates the book’s theory of the interconnectedness of all things (“interbeing”). Life isn’t always linear. Gary can also speak to the writing of the book – how the structure changed over 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 His Holiness 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, around the world, there are centers practicing in his tradition (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, Meena Srinavasan,  and  Jerry Braza who has said of Pause Breathe Smile, “If you’re looking to find 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 vital and  often profound benefits. Yet materialist Western science is dualist, while the roots of mindfulness embrace the nondual view. 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
Can we be at peace when society’s moral values deteriorating? What’s the good of enjoying less stress and greater concentration if we don’t have a clear conscience? 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. As a bonus, Pause Breathe Smile introduces 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 to let breath be however it wants to be and simply observe, letting go of 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, these are essential skills for being human.

8  Applications in Society
35 years ago, Jon Kabat-Zinn created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) which began “a revolution” now being felt in all walks of life. Gary is well-equipped to speak about five areas where mindfulness is currently being adopted: health-care, education, the workplace, economics, and social equity. Gary can also speak on 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 steps 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 was the particular creative process behind the composition of this book? (Books aren’t delivered on authors’ desks the way babies arrive in a sheet via a stork.)  What are some of the backstage stories behind the story?
What’s next for him, after this?

10 A Great Turning
We are living in unprecedented times. Some call this the Anthropocene, seeing human influence replacing nature’s role in affecting the course of the planet’s evolution. We might even be living a time of a sixth extinction. To better understand our challenges and their potential positive outcomes, we explore the parallels of all this with an ancient Axial Age (“great turning”) similar to today. While the ecosystem is facing possibly unalterable perils, world economies have set out in uncharted waters. Wealth inequality, and debt, are rising into the clouds like Jack and the beanstalk. The dollar may no longer remain 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. 
As we witness a next phase in evolution, we can also take part in it ourselves. It’s the greatest game in town.

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