Shinzen Young

Shinzen Young joins us to speak about meditation, pain relief, and science.

We encounter this practice in so many ways. Often through suffering. Sometimes through disciplines like the martial arts, or from an interest in fixing some issues we’re having with concentration. And sometimes, we come to it through a fascination with a culture that holds more interest to us than the one into which we’ve been born.

However we get here, it’s what we do with this teaching that allows it to truly come to fruition. That path may be particularly religious, or not. It may even be a fairly secular approach, but taking new expression within the context of a traditional framework. Things are not always as they seem; we should continue to question, and we should consider that our first impressions may not always prove to be quite as constrained as our minds may be.

Shinzen Young became fascinated with Asian culture while a teenager in Los Angeles. Later he enrolled in a Ph.D. program in Buddhist Studies at the University of Wisconsin. Eventually, he went to Asia and did extensive training in each of the three major Buddhist traditions: Vajrayana, Zen and Vipassana. Upon returning to the United States, his academic interests shifted to the burgeoning dialogue between Eastern meditation and Western science. Shinzen is known for his innovative “interactive, algorithmic approach” to mindfulness, a system specifically designed for use in pain management, recovery support, and as an adjunct to psychotherapy. He leads meditation retreats throughout North America and has helped establish numerous mindfulness centers and programs. He also consults widely on meditation-related research, in both the clinical and the basic science domains. Special thanks to Emily Barrett from the Home Practice Program for her help in coordinating today’s interview.

So, sit back, relax, and have a nice vanilla frappuccino.

:: Discuss this episode ::


“If you can’t be disciplined, be clever.” — Shinzen Young


Audio Books

Web Links

Music for This Episode


Chikuzen Shakuhachi Series

The music heard in the middle of the podcast is from the Chikuzen Shakuhachi Series, Volume 1, courtesy of Tai Hei Shakuhachi. The tracks used in this episode are:

  • Track 6 :: Esashi Oiwake

No Comments

  1. Dana Nourie on May 28, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    “Equanimity is allowing experiences to come and go without pushing or pulling.” I like that! Also the Galileo/Hubble telescope was a nice analogy to where we are in the science of consciousness and meditation. This was a fascinating talk! Shinzen’s entry into Japanese culture was interesting with his move into Buddhism. We often hear about Westerners who go into Buddhism via Tibetan Buddhism or Theravada via India, but not often through Japan. This was great to listen to. interesting too how he ties shared experiences under the concepts, regardless of where the concepts come from.
    Maximum Meditation Mileage. Hah! Great alliteration. And he included math:-)

  2. Doug on May 29, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Thanks for that, Ted. I found the discussion interesting, especially about pain modulation, though I’m skeptical about the claim that it can be reduced by 10,000 to 2, or very nearly 100%, through meditation practice. I don’t recall any support for such a strong view in the literature, either. (For example, Fadel Zeidan and John McHaffie’s work showed a significantly more limited effect).

    Also I was wondering if you could elaborate on your claim late in the program that mindfulness meditation could reduce subjective pain reports more than morphine. That would be a highly important result if true, but again, I don’t recall seeing any such report, at least not well-documented enough to be credible to skeptics. Maybe I missed something?

  3. Ted Meissner on May 30, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Hi, Doug. I’ll reach out to our friend Fadel about that, it was a comment he made at the scientific conference a couple of months ago during his presentation.

  4. Dana Nourie on May 30, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Last night I had the opportunity to watch and listen to Shinzen’s talks on Concentration and Minfulness. I really liked the way he explained both, the variations of each, and why it’s beneficial to develop them. I am eager to watch the rest of his videos. I’ve also downloaded his pdf and hope to read that soon. I want to try his techniques. So far all VERY secular. In fact, I don’t recall him even mentioning Buddha once, let alone anything specific to a tradition or belief system. So far I’m impressed with his manner and mode of teaching.

    • mriramos on May 31, 2012 at 4:44 pm

      Shinzen’s ‘Science of Enlightment’ is an excellent series – highly recommended. Make no mistake, Shinzen has very deep training in multiple Buddhist traditions, even though he uses a ‘secular’ framework. Went to one his retreats. Quite an experience. Way more than I expected from a ‘secular’ teacher.

  5. Meditation, Pain, & Science | Wild Path on June 3, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    […] to a very interesting episode (119) of the Secular Buddhist Podcast, with Shinzen Young: “Meditation, Pain, and Science.” I have been trying a few […]

  6. Candol on June 7, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Really great talk. I’m definitely interested in following this up. Otherwise, others have already commented on what i think.

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