Ideas

Mindfulness Meets Maria, A Modern Blend Of Buddhism And Christianity

Like many in Argentina, psychiatrist Martín Reynoso was raised Catholic. But as time went on, his approach to the modern world began to involve meditation and mindfulness.

Martin Reynoso (center) meditating
Martín Reynoso

-Essay-

BUENOS AIRES — I am a Buddho-Christian — thoroughly, and literally. I've kept my family's basic Christian casing, but found I needed more than that in this contemporary world. Thus, like so many people today, I embraced certain Buddhist principles. And I must say, I find them enormously helpful and enriching. This is why I say I have a Buddho-Christian mind. It has a powerful Christian base, but with certain secular principles of Buddhism that I embraced, little by little, in an effort to simply feel better.

My basic Christian framework is fairly robust. My father was a seminarian who nearly became a priest (and luckily did not), had three nun sisters and a very devout dad who practiced the Catholic rites. Though both my father and mother, who was also very Catholic, I assimilated the Roman Apostolic religion in all its purity but without the rigidity or severity I noticed in some families in our neighborhood.

The progression toward the Catholic sacraments and rituals were a leitmotiv of my childhood and youth, though I was fortunate not to be trapped in a hermetic or self-sufficient system that distanced me from friends and neighbors. Our neighborhood was a space where strict or dogmatic beliefs regularly lost ground to drinking, free speech and youthful irreverence in all its manifestations. Life gushed forth in so many forms and colors beyond anything the scriptures would stipulate as right or commendable. At times I even found this a little disturbing.

Reynoso with French writer and Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard — Photo: Facebook page

I learned a lot from my friends, neighbors and immediate environment as I wound my way through the streets without strict hours or parental discipline. All this constituted the first blow to the structure of my Christian foundations. I had to negotiate between ethical values and the malleable rules of adaptation; between spotless good deeds for others and fierce competition between the generations; and between repressing the sexual impulse and seducing even more brazenly on the street. I understood that I must, slowly, soften my hard religious nucleus to be happy.

I began saying as a young man what I had criticized in others as a teenager, namely that, "I believe in God but do not practice regularly." Mass on Sunday and habitual celebrations began to fade as I became a more rational, scientific man. That was the second step.

Science and secularization

Gradually science came to permeate all my life. As I took my distance from the Catholic religion (in the general context of secularization), I moved closer — and with some fervor — to the principles of the scientific vision of the world. Objectivity, and the need to explain and duly contrast everything, became a central component of my thinking.

I grew more skeptical, not to mention more rigid. People can adopt certain airs of superiority when they begin expressing the scientific vision as nothing short of reality, without realizing that it is just one way of seeing and explaining. Causality was the main rule of my life at the time, and everything had to be explained on the basis of the most direct and rational vision of phenomena.

It helped me begin a fuller life.

At our psychology department, the dilemma was between physics, the scientific model, and psychological science. We spent much time trying to establish a more flexible conceptual framework with new methods and approximations in studying the complex "human creature." But then, a health problem led me to the next phase.

Mindfulness and its principles

I came to know mindfulness when I fell ill. While their use in science is detached from their ideological and religious origins, the principles of Buddhism shine through like a background that clarifies the vision we gradually build.

Practicing meditation helped me start connecting with my body and fully live through it, cleanse it of tensions, and recognize those rigid thoughts of mine (some of Christian origin) and the dualist morality that generated guilt and sometimes pain in me. It helped me begin a fuller life.

"Christ and Buddha" by Paul Ranson — Source: Wikimedia Commons

Concepts like impermanence, the illusions of the mind (which work like filters we do not perceive), the source of suffering and the compassionate way to work with that, and especially reeducating our mind with a simple but impeccable system, came to profoundly affect me, and I continue to try and integrate these with my original conception of the world and its events.

I feel happy with this choice, though I still feel I have a long way to go before I adjust my life to these principles. Which is why I say I have a Buddho-Christian mind, like so many other people seeking their own wellbeing today. I do not so much see this as hybridization as an overriding integration of principles to attain the main objective of any human being: to be happy.

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A tribute to the 30,000 Iranian political prisoners murdered in Iran in 1988

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Laba diena!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Afghanistan's Taliban demand to speak at the United Nations, China takes a bold ecological stand and we find out why monkeys kept their tails and humans didn't. Business magazine America Economia also looks at how Latin American countries are looking to attract a new generation of freelancers known as "digital nomads" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[*Lithuanian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Taliban ask to speak at UN: With global leaders gathered in New York for the 76th meeting of the UN General Assembly, Afghanistan's new rulers say their country's previously accredited United Nations ambassador no longer represents the country, and have demanded a new Taliban envoy speak instead. Afghanistan is scheduled to give the final intervention next Monday to the General Assembly, and a UN committee must now rule who can speak.

• Four corpses found on Belarus border with Poland: The discovery of bodies of four people on Belarus-Poland border who appear to have died from hypothermia are raising new accusations that Belarus is pushing migrants to the eastern border of the European Union, possibly in retaliation over Western sanctions following the contested reelection of the country's strongman Alexander Lukashenko. The discovery comes amid a surge of largely Afghani and Iraqi migrants attempting to enter Poland in recent weeks.

• China to stop building coal-burning power plants abroad: Under pressure to limit emissions to meet Paris climate agreement goals, China announces an end to funding future projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries through its Belt and Road initiative.

• Turkey ratifies Paris climate agreement: Following a year of wildfires and flash floods, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced at the UN that Turkey will become the last G-20 country to ratify the emissions-limiting accords. Turkey already signed the agreement in 2016, but has yet to hold a vote in parliament.

• Mass evacuations following Canary Islands volcano: More than 6,000 people have fled the Spanish archipelago as heavy flows of lava have buried hundreds of homes. Four earthquakes have also hit the Canaries since the Sunday eruption, which could also cause other explosions and the release of toxic gas.

• Rare earthquake hits Melbourne: The 5.9 magnitude quake struck near Melbourne in southern Australia, with aftershocks going as far Adelaide, Canberra and Launceston. Videos shared on social media show at least one damaged building, with power lines disrupted in Australia's second largest city. No injuries have been reported.

• The evolutionary tale of tails: Charles Darwin first discovered that humans evolved to lose this biological trait. But only now are New York scientists showing that it was a single genetic tweak that could have caused this shift, while our monkey relatives kept their backside appendages.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"The roof of Barcelona" — El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world. Work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882 as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. The Barcelona-based daily reports that a press conference Tuesday confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years. Although it is currently the second tallest spire of the complex, it will become the highest point of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated "great cross."

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Latin America, the next mecca for digital nomads

Latin American countries want to cash in on the post-pandemic changes to the fundamental ways we work and live, in particular by capitalizing on a growing demand from the new wave of remote workers and "youngish" professional freelancers with money to spend, reports Natalia Vera Ramírez in business magazine America Economia.

💻🏖️ Niels Olson, Ecuador's tourism minister, is working hard to bring "digital nomads" to his country. He believes that attracting this new generation of freelancers who can work from anywhere for extended visits is a unique opportunity for all. Living in a town like Puerto López, he wrote on Twitter, the expat freelancer could "work by the sea, live with a mostly vaccinated population, in the same time zone, (enjoy) an excellent climate, and eat fresh seafood." For Ecuador, the new influx of visitors with money to spend would help boost the country's economy.

🧳 While online-based freelancers already hopped from country to country before COVID-19, the pandemic has boosted their current numbers to around 100 million worldwide. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates there could be a billion roaming, digital workers by 2050. Some European countries already issue visas for digital nomads. They include Germany, Portugal, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic, but in the Americas, only four countries make the list, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Panama and Costa Rica.

💰 In August 2021, Costa Rica approved a law for remote workers and international service providers, intended to attract digital nomads and make its travel sector more competitive. The law provides legal guarantees and specific tax exemptions for remote workers choosing to make the country their place of work. It allows foreign nationals earning more than $3,000 a month to stay for up to a year in the country, with the ability to renew their visa for an additional year. If applicants are a family, the income requisite rises to $5,000.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$2.1 billion

Google announced yesterday it will spend $2.1 billion to buy a sprawling Manhattan office building, in one of the largest sales of a building in U.S. history. The tech giant plans on growing its New York workforce to more than 14,000 people.

📣 VERBATIM

It is sickening and shameful to see this kind of president give such a lie-filled speech on the international stage.

— Opposition Brazilian congresswoman Vivi Reis in response to President Jair Bolsonaro's inflammatory 12-minute speech at the UN General Assembly. The unvaccinated head of state touted untested COVID-19 cures, criticized public health measures and boasted that the South American country's environmental protections were the best in the world.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank & Bertrand Hauger

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