Alan Watts on Meditation

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Alan Watts Introduces America to Meditation & Eastern Philosophy (1960)

Alan Watts moved from his native London to New York in 1938, then eventually headed west, to San Francisco in the early 1950s. On the left coast, he started teaching at the Academy of Asian Studies, wrote his bestseller Way of Zen, and began delivering a long-running series of talks about eastern philosophy on KPFA radio in Berkeley. During these years, Watts became one of the foremost popularizers of Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoisim, which made him something of a celebrity, especially when the 60s counterculture movement kicked into gear.

Now, 40 years and change after his death, you can find no shortage of vintage Watts’ media online (including this archive of streaming lectures). And today we’re featuring an episode from a TV series called Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, which aired in San Francisco circa 1960. “The Silent Mind” runs 28 minutes, and it offered American viewers an introduction to the philosophy and practice of meditation, something still considered exotic at the time. History in the making. You’re watching it happen right here. Find more meditation and Alan Watts resources below.

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demandside's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm


I can confirm that Watts is a really worthwhile speaker.

I hear him when NY radio occasionally rebroadcasts him. Watts was a broadcaster on www.KPFA,org, the WBAI sister station in San Francisco, both part of Pacifica Radio Network, the original non commercial network, created by WW2 pacifists,

Watts is so good a speaker he is listenable even for those uninterested in the topics of his expertise.

Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Alan Watts
Here and Now

What is the use of planning to be able to eat next week unless I can really enjoy the meals when they come ? If I am so busy planning how to eat next week that I cannot fully enjoy what I am eating now, I will be in the same predicament when next week's meals become "now."

If my happiness at this moment consists largely in reviewing happy memories and expectations, I am but dimly aware of this present. I shall still be dimly aware of the present when the good things that I have been expecting come to pass. For I shall have formed a habit of looking behind and ahead, making it difficult for me to attend to the here and now. If, then, my awareness of the past and future makes me less aware of the present, I must begin to wonder whether I am actually living in the real world.
-- Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom Of Insecurity

Thank God for Hippies

DdC's picture
Mar. 22, 2012 12:39 am

Most religions deny pleasure of the moment or present and focus only on the threat/reward in afterlife, or spiritual ponzi schemes.

Evangelicals have warned of meditation and yoga because it involves clearing your mind and then "When your mind does not think of jesus, the devil steps in, never quit thinking of your lord", I'm not making this shit up, that's what alan west or some other nutter said.

douglaslee's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Alan Watts's The Wisdom of Insecurity called out to me in a bookstore decades ago, and I devoured it. It's been one of the foundations of my spirit & soul ever since.

I also consider myself a Christian, and I have a regular practice in the Episcopal Church.

Your criticism of Christianity, and many Evangelicals, is warranted, and fair. That said, the world of Christianity is rich and diverse, and you might be surprised at how many people who consider themselves Christian also incorporate meditation, yoga, consciousness work, and many other practices that bring us closer to God.

Jesus was a master of living in the present, and being connected to God/the Tao/??. Unfortunately, most of the writings & teachings in the Christian faith come from a view of disconnected mind, body, and spirit, and many sects of Christianity are still stuck there.

“The discovery of this reality is hindered rather than helped by belief, whether one believes in God or believes in atheism. We must here make a clear distinction between belief and faith, because, in general practice, belief has come to mean a state of mind which is almost the opposite of faith. Belief, as I use the word here, is the insistence that the truth is what one would “lief” or wish it to be. The believer will open his mind to the truth on condition that it fits in with his preconceived ideas and wishes. Faith, on the other hand, is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith lets go. In this sense of the word, faith is the essential virtue of science, and likewise of any religion that is not self-deception.”
Alan W. Watts, Wisdom Of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety

dblick's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Impeachment: The Difference Between Nixon & Trump

Thom plus logo There is a very simple reason why some Republicans participated in the impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, but none have so far broken ranks against Trump. That reason is the US Supreme Court.
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