It was wonderful to read “What We Eat and Animal Rights” by Annabelle Zinser [#71, Winter/Spring 2016]. I am a long-time advocate for the protection of greyhounds exploited and frequently abused and killed by the dog racing industries in the UK, Ireland, the US, Australia, and elsewhere. The topic of animal rights is very close to my heart. In 2014, I wrote an article entitled “Mindfulness and the Art of Being an Animal Rights Activist,” exploring my own struggles in managing with mindfulness the anger and despair that inevitably arise when involved in peaceful activism aimed at protecting the rights of animals. Although I know that respect for all forms of life is implicit in Buddhism, as all are part of the web of interbeing, it is rare to read articles specifically focusing on raising awareness of animals’ suffering in the context of our practice. I am deeply grateful to you for publishing Annabelle’s beautiful article.
A deep bow,
Isobel Deeley, Gentle Expression of the Heart
In “Healing Cancer with Mindfulness” [#70, Autumn 2015], Chan Phap Dang did not opt for mindfulness to remove the tumor, which seems wise. For reasons that are unclear, he credits his mindfulness with curing cancer and validating the decision not to have chemotherapy after surgery. This decision seems neither wise nor unwise but personal preference. The Mindfulness Bell is not a medical journal and did not provide sufficient detail to enable anyone to make medical sense of what Chan Phap Dang was saying, but the general approach to the situation he outlined is that chemotherapy would have been offered to increase his survival chances in the face of an uncertain outcome—not offered as a definitive cure. It would not have been said to him that if he does not have chemotherapy he would die.
Meditation and mindfulness practices have been demonstrated to improve the quality of life of people suffering from cancer and terminal illness. They have not been shown to improve survival rates or longevity; the effect in this regard is neutral. The article is at risk of causing people under duress to mistakenly conflate treatment decisions with judgments about the quality of their mindfulness practice. For the Mindfulness Bell, the concern should be that the publication of this encourages the spread of delusion to others in difficult circumstances—nature and illness will unfold as they do. Sometimes lives are shortened by this type of folly.
With best wishes,
As I was looking for a Sangha directory last week, I came across the new Mindfulness Bell website. In all my years of perusing websites, that is the most beautiful site I have ever visited. The design is unusual. I love the way it pushes artistic boundaries (the selection and cropping of photos is intriguing!) while retaining an aesthetic that seems to belong to a long, deep-rooted tradition. It combines the spaciousness and quietness of mindfulness with the “just so” perfection of Asian watercolor paintings, but the quietness is presented in a vibrant, alive way. It is really lovely. Please thank the designers.