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Enlightenment’s Evil Twin – with Shinzen Young

Shinzen Young

Meditation teacher and neuroscience consultant Shinzen Young and host Michael W. Taft talk about what mindfulness teachers are getting wrong, Shinzen’s Periodic Table of Happiness Elements, informed consent for awakening, effective strategies for dealing with the Dark Night of the Soul, and the phenomenon that Shinzen calls “Enlightenment’s Evil Twin.”

Learn more about Shinzen Young at

Also here is a pdf of Shinzen’s Periodic Table of Happiness Elements.

Show Notes

0:25 – Introduction and overview
2:38 – Defining mindfulness, and what mindfulness teachers can improve on
15:20 – Fulfilling the ethical duty to inform students about the possibilities and challenges of deeper meditation work
20:05 – The Dark Night and DP/DR, and the amount of guidance students need to integrate emptiness
25:24 – Addressing student concerns about becoming derailed or idle if they make spiritual progress
28:24 – Clarifying what the Dark Night is, what it might look like, and how to address it prophylactically and remedially
51:31 – More about what mindfulness teachers can improve on
1:19:28 – Frosting Shinzen’s buns by shutting down a meditator’s no-self experience
1:26:06 – Being careful not to set up barriers that keep people away from practice

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9 thoughts on “Enlightenment’s Evil Twin – with Shinzen Young”

  1. The Periodic Table is an excellent framework. In the horizontal direction it traverses the spectrum of Healing the Self to Healing the World. In the vertical direction it points to the relationship of authenticity (depth) vis-a-vis legitimacy (span).
    Of course it is a linear representation of what entails non-linear feedback loops and fractal movements between and across the 5×4=20 blocks of the Table.
    Great talk – thank you.

  2. Great interview, but it does take Shinzen a long time to answer Michael’s question at 3:15 “What you see other teachers out there, to put it bluntly, getting wrong? What do you see as the deficiencies of mindfulness as it is currently being taught here in the West?” If people are tempted to quit before listening to the whole interview, I would really recommend that people jump to the heart of Shinzen’s answer about at 1:19 — that’s where Shinzen talks about what really “frosts his buns” about some modern teachers. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Jamie. Yes, anybody is welcome if they choose to skip over 80 solid minutes of Shinzen talking about some of the most interesting facets of awakening. 😉

  3. Great interview, Michael. I really like Shinzen’s comments about including all in mindfulness no matter what their religious, moral, political orientation. Truly wise and necessary when we look at the really big picture….all of creation. Love to hear about skillful actions and character skills. Nice work. So proud of you!

  4. What a great talk by one of the great teachers of our times. The sound quality of the 30 Minutes really is a very minor issue. Thanks so much for posting this and in general for your great work! I hope we’ll hear Shinzen again on your blog.

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