InwardVipassana Meditation and the Embodiment of the Self

InwardVipassana Meditation and the Embodiment of the Self

Michal Pagis

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780226639383

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Western society has never been more interested in interiority. Indeed, it seems more and more people are deliberately looking inward—toward the mind, the body, or both. Inward focuses on one increasingly popular channel for the introverted gaze: vipassana meditation, a Buddhist meditation of mindfulness that was revitalized and adapted for a secular audience. Based on a rich ethnographic account, Inward unravels the social dynamics that lie at the heart of meditation practice while simultaneously supplying a sociological framework for the study of the place of the human body in the enduring process of self-awareness. The book tracks the westward diffusion of meditation, enters the silent meditation retreats where people experience solitude in the presence of others, and follows practitioners’ interactions at work and home, as well as their relations with their significant others. It uncovers the multiple ways practitioners use the meditative focus on the inner-lining of embodied experience as a way to transcend the shocks and splits to the self that occur as they move between social relations and identities. At the close of this ethnographic journey, the reader will see how through communities, routines, and rituals, individuals turn their attention inward without stepping out of society, experience solitude without being isolated, and negotiate the tensions engendered by contemporary social life.