Ethan is joined by Dr. Miles Neale for a conversation about the intersection of Eastern and Western psychology and the challenge of effectively teaching contemplative practices in a way that is accessible to secular audiences.
Dr. Miles Neale is among the leading voices of the current generation of Buddhist teachers and a forerunner in the emerging field of contemplative psychotherapy. He is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice, international speaker, and faculty member of Tibet House US and Weill Cornell Medical College. Miles is the author of Gradual Awakening: The Tibetan Buddhist Path of Becoming Fully Human along with its audio companion of guided meditations The Gradual Path (Sounds True, 2018), which support the Kopan Nunnery in Nepal. Learn more at milesneale.com.
Resources from this episode: Lamrim: Stages of the Path to Awakening
A Gradual Awakening
Dr. Neale shares his path to contemplative practice and the twenty-year journey of integrating the study of Western psychology with Tibetan Buddhism. He discusses his inspiration in writing the book Gradual Awakening, an exploration of how these philosophies of the East and West inform one another and provide a path for better understanding our true selves. Ethan and Miles talk about mainstream mindfulness and the challenges of secularizing contemplative traditions.
“Maybe now the time is ripe for the majority of people who have had exposure to secular practice and had a taste. Maybe they will start to be interested in what the other dimensions are, what are the deeper psychological implications, what are some of the Indian sciences and the original context out of which this practice that had benefited so many arose in – what might that be.” – Dr. Miles Neale
Krishna Das discusses the slow ripening of our awakening process in Ep. 64 of the Pilgrim Heart Podcast
A Map Forward (15:55)
In Gradual Awakening, Miles succeeds in his attempt to honor the spiritual background of core Buddhist practices while making them accessible to readers with a secular background. He and Ethan talk about the Lamrim practices in the book that are intended form the structure for lifelong practice.
“In my estimation, one of the greatest gifts of the Tibetan culture is this map of Lamrim. As Westerners, many of us who have attended university, we are familiar with a linear and sequential integration of knowledge. That has been part of our culture’s way of learning. For anyone who has dipped their toe in the Tibetan world, as opposed to Zen or Vipassana, it is quite intricate, multidimensional and vast. To have a road map of the stages that will prevent you from getting confused and will get you from point A to point Z in a linear way is a very constructive and very approachable way of learning the material.” – Dr. Miles Neale
Power of Ceremony (30:40)
Secular mindfulness offers a simple way into practice, but there is a lot more to unpack once you get past the surface. One of these deeper aspects of Tibetan Buddhist practice that Dr. Neale emphasizes in his work is the role of ceremony. He and Ethan discuss the shortcomings of a strictly materialistic and reductive mindset that comes with the current scientific paradigm and reflects on the rewards of a more inclusive approach.
Student and Teacher (40:35)
We close with a conversation about the relationship between student and teacher. Miles reflects on the important differences between the various forms of the student-teacher relationship and explores the many questions of ethics within that relationship.