Karuna Cayton

Karuna Cayton speaks with us about his new book, The Misleading Mind: How We Create Our Own Problems and How Buddhist Psychology Can Help Us Solve Them.

East meets West. In our global society, that interaction is happening more and more, and the lines between the two are no longer so straight and defined as they once were. There are many reasons for this, of course including the benefits of the digital age in its ability to share information with a geographically dispersed audience. But more than that, it is the people who do the practice and integrate traditional teaching with modern life, that carry the banner of this merging of seemingly different approaches.

For over twenty years, Karuna Cayton has worked as a psychotherapist, business psychologist, and coach to help people achieve a more balanced life. He is the founder of the Karuna Group, a practice in Soquel, California, dedicated to applying Buddhist psychology’s universal principles to transform mental well-being and improve organizational cultures. Karuna spent thirteen years in a Buddhist monastery in Nepal, and is now an active participant in the global Buddhist community.

So, sit back, relax, and have a nice Bigelow English Teatime.

:: Discuss this episode ::


“Because we constantly and immediately superimpose our interpretation upon experience, we never really experience things as they are. We experience things as we are.” — Karun Cayton, The Misleading Mind. Or maybe Anais Nin 🙂

“Similarly, when a terrible accident occurs, we are sometimes asked to see it as “God’s will” or “punishment for our sins” or the workings of “karma.” Not only does this fail to explain events, but it overlooks the real problem: how we should deal with our feelings of grief, rage, and disbelief.” — Karun Cayton, The Misleading Mind

“The rather unconventional, “in your face” Buddhist approach of mind training is to courageously confront all of our dirty little secrets and difficult emotions whenever they come up until we’ve changed the nature of our relationship with them. Then, instead of being bossed around by our worst tendencies and disturbed emotions, we become the boss of our own mind.” — Karun Cayton, The Misleading Mind

“… mind training is not necessarily a religious or spiritual practice. It does not rest on accepting certain religious beliefs or adopting particular terminology. It can be used successfully as an entirely secular practice, or it can be incorporated as a deliverate spiritual practice within any religion.” — Karun Cayton, The Misleading Mind

“There is no religious dogma to follow, and no need, or desire, for the reader to become Buddhist in order to apply these ideas and achieve a highly purposeful and rich life.” — Karun Cayton, The Misleading Mind

“… training our mind and healing ourselves are, I would argue, the only way to bring lasting change to the world around us. We can only do this when we drop blame and simply become accountable for subduing and training our minds and mental attitudes.” — Karun Cayton, The Misleading Mind


Web Links


Music for This Episode

Shakuhachi Meditations

Shakuhachi Meditations

The music heard in the middle of the podcast is from Rodrigo Rodriguez’s CD, Shakuhachi Meditations. The tracks used in this episode are:

  • Eleven Waterfalls

No Comments

  1. stoky on April 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Regarding your discussion about guilt and self-responsibility: there is a line in one of the songs of the German punk band “die Ärzte”:

    It’s not your fault that the world is like it is, but it was your fault if she stayed that way.

    Maybe we should listen so punk/rock music at our meditation/mindfulness sessions 😀

  2. Ted Meissner on April 6, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    *chuckle* I say Yes!

  3. Mark Knickelbine on April 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    I hate to be Johnny One-Note here but an exchange on the podcast caught my attention. As Karuna is explaining Step Four, he says, “I want to make a pointed distinction between the mindfulness movement and what is being promoted here . . . being aware is good, but that’s just the beginning.” And then Ted goes on to amplify the comment: ““You put it in the full context of the practice . . .This is something that I share with my more traditional brethren in the path, is a concern about mindfulness as a commodity. . . There’s a greater context than that. The greater awareness that mindfulness brings . . . is a tool to be used in a wider contrast than just base awareness . . .”

    There may be such a “mindfulness movement” somewhere in the world, but it is not the one associated with MBSR and other mindfulness-based therapies, which are all explicitly about developing mindfulness in order to free oneself from reactivity and ultimately change your behavior in daily life. Even for Thich Nhat Hanh, the purpose of mindfulness to break reactive patterns of thought and behavior and cultivate wholesome mind states that enable us to respond to each other with compassion. The concept of “bare awareness only” — what Glenn Wallis calls the “lobotomy” of mindfulness — may exist somewhere, although I have never encountered it. The mindfulness movement I have encountered is centered on making better choices in our everyday life. I’m afraid exchanges like the one in the podcast help to contribute to this reification of “mindfulness” as a commodity for the relief of stress and bad feelings, and that it emphatically is NOT.

  4. Ted Meissner on April 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    I would agree, Mark, except that other components of what tradition refers to as the eightfold path, like right speech for example, were utterly absent in any discussion at the conference run by the very organization that is the holder of the teaching creditialing process for MBSR. Nor was there any talk of other parts to the path, even in the most oblique of terms.

    Totally in support of MBSR, but my experience there and in conversations with teachers of it is that it doesn’t seem the same as the full practice of the eightfold path. Still a really good and secular pursuit, and more broad than just stress relief, but that is part of the very title and may also be part of the perception.

  5. Mark Knickelbine on April 11, 2012 at 7:15 am

    I agree that MBSR is unfortunately named. And it is true that one will seldom hear Buddhist doctrinal terms used in mindfulness settings. This may have been amplified by the focus of the conference being on research protocols and results. Having said that, though, while the teaching rhetoric of the Eightfold Path isn’t used, what that teaching aims at — right concentration and right mindfulness used to clarify right view into skillful speech and action — is what mindfulness is all about. In fact, I’d venture to say the Four Noble Truths are a good, compact summary of the techniques taught in mindfulness therapy. And this shouldn’t surprise us, because Kabat-Zinn, Kornfield and others developed these techniques using Vipassana as their model. There is a useful discussion to be had about what explicitly Buddhist doctrine brings to the practice of mindfulness, for both good and ill. I would just ask, with admiration and respect, that you be cautious about contributing to a misrepresentation of mindfulness that is casually made by some (like in the podcast) and is being actively promoted by others.

  6. Ted Meissner on April 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Totally with you, Mark, very well said! It’s always challenging when we speak from a position lacking depth, and have only either the public view or knowledge within a particular context.

    Now, if MBSR training was as free as meditation is at the local zen center, we could socialize what it *really* covers better!

  7. Mark Knickelbine on April 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Point well taken. That’s why I hope that the model of the mindfulness support group I attend will be taken up elsewhere — no charge other than a free will dana box next to the door. But you are right, without health coverage or a few hundred disposable bucks, the support of a mindfulness group is hard to come by. Recently my first mindfulness teacher did a free eight-week program at Monona Terrace at lunch time on Monday mornings. I hope as the number of mindfulness practitioners grows, similar kinds of support groups will form.

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