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Feather Light & Paper Thin, with Shinzen Young

Shinzen Young

Meditation teacher Shinzen Young and host Michael W. Taft talk about the relationship between mindfulness practice (as it is usually defined) and nondual-type practices (or non-practices, if you like), the way that focusing on the details of experience relates to focusing on awareness itself, micro-sessions & nano-nirvanas, the thinness and lightness of the screen of awareness and much more.

Learn more about Shinzen Young at

Show Notes

0:25 – Intro
4:12 – How does Advaita/Nonduality relate to Mindfulness?
7:45 – Shinzen defines modern mindfulness and the component parts of contemplative practice (concentration, clarity and equanimity)
9:51 – Michael’s simplified working definitions of mindfulness and advaita
10:37 – Shinzen asserts that mindfulness and advaita converge towards the same thing, under his own understanding of mindfulness
16:08 – How to investigate one’s own awareness through mindfulness; Shinzen’s quadrants of practice 20:50 – Appreciation practice (“note everything”) or “regular mindfulness”
22:54 – The arrow of attention
26:31 – Classical mindfulness in the Burmese tradition: penetrative awareness and working with the arrow of attention
31:48 – Outside time and space: what the arrow of attention reveals
34:06 – Shinzen defines primordial awareness in materialist, reductivist terms: the sound that’s not sound 39:15 – Are nondual experiences externally real, or do they reflect only subjective experience?
45:05 – Shinzen’s conjecture: connectivity vs thingness; cones of association
51:38 – By what criterion is connectivity assumed to be fundamental to reality, not only subjectively experienced?
56:55 – How appreciation and self-inquiry practices converge
1:01:01 – Reconciling the fruits of mindfulness and nonduality: differences in perception and language vs. differences in experience
1:06:25 – Deconstructing the arrow of attention in a nondual setting
1:07:50 – Micro-cessations vs lights-out cessations; the lightness and thinness of the ordinary
1:11:55 – Shinzen’s many-layered experience of cessations; the sphere of experience and the void
1:18:08 – Bigger cessations
1:19:38 – Disambiguations: what does it mean to be feather light and paper thin, and what are the characteristics of micro-cessations?
1:23:56 – The lightness of immediate experience
1:29:30 – Outro

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9 thoughts on “Feather Light & Paper Thin, with Shinzen Young”

  1. I just got done with the interview “Feather Light and Paper Thin” and it was great. The distinction between mindfulness and nonduel practices was cool to hear. The analogy of the arrow was helpful. I resonated with most of the interview. Couldn’t get the cone analogy.

  2. You almost lost me once, but not quite!
    I loved this talk. It was very useful to me unlike so many other dharma talks by others.
    I would say that I feel Shin did not make his case (unifying nindfulness and nonduel) as strongly as he could have. There comes a point in Mindfulness practice that it all becomes very ordinary. So they both end in the same ‘space’.
    But for me if one skips the intermediate steps,
    he/she misses out on some very deep insights.
    An anology of skipping chapters to teach the end might be apt.
    Either way, I do know that Shinzen is correct.

  3. Can I just say how awesome that was hearing the conversation about sensory portals & the description of how deep concentration may lead to the awareness of pre processesing raw streams, I love concepts just beyond my mental event horizon, Mind blowing! Thank you both.

  4. That’s 50 years of successful practice and experience concentrated in a 90 minute overview….Excellent work and questions as well, Micheal. One can feel that you are asking from a good place. Thank’s a bunch for this. Very best wishes all the way from the Prague, the one across the ocean : )

  5. An interesting thought that came to mind: the two practices converge in the limit that the size of arrow tends to zero! There is no direction when an arrow becomes a point- the moment of consciousness!

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