Interesting comment about love, NL. My preferred understanding of love is that it is a recognition of identity, of the same fundamental consciousness in another as in oneself with all the emotional and other symptoms arising out of biological and psychological reactions to that recognition. Sometimes, it manifests is unsuspected ways; for example, I’ve been told that in confrontations between hockey players a fight erupts only if preceded by direct eye contact. Of course, we know what direct eye contact can do between a woman and a man. But there are more subtle levels as well. And meditation, clearing the mind, can get some of the barriers that block recognition out of the way.
Agree on the first point, not sure what you mean by the latter (It seems to me that heated passion - whether aggressive or romantic - has something of a dualistic element to it - I mean it’s not something one tends to feel when making eye contact with oneself in the mirror, after all.) Regarding the first point, having the occasional experience of feeling sure that I know someone, while knowing rationally that I don’t, is certainly something I associate with meditation. Not in a passionate or emotional way at all, just in a very familiar way, like “They feel like my next door neighbor who grew up across the street from me!”, even though again, my rational mind knows that’s not the case. I like to think of that as a recognition of shared humanity with most of the usual ‘filters’ removed - seeing people as fellow humans first and not being self-conscious of the usual things.
Trump feels it when he looks at himself in the mirror…
Returning to the OP - it seems like there have been a few questions here on the possible pitfalls of the mindfulness movement recently, a topic that I find interesting. In some ways criticizing secular Buddhist practices, and related practices, in the US is unfalsifiable, because the way they’re conducted here are as individualized mental training programs, essentially (as opposed to monasteries in Asian countries, where I think they’re more uniform). It would be like talking about the benefits and pitfalls of ‘exercise’ - on the one hand, you could say that exercise has many possible pitfalls, on the other, you can semantically categorize all of those things as ‘mistakes’ in exercising. Which we usually do - if you have a heart condition or a bad back or exercise one set of muscles in a way that is totally out of balance to ill effect, we don’t generally point the finger at the field of exercise in general, we say individuals or society as a whole should understand more about the proper way to do it. Similarly, if you can point to an effect of exercise that isn’t in line with your personal preferences for whatever reason - developing huge muscles when you want to be lean and thin; or becoming super lean and thin when you want to develop huge muscles - there’s nothing inherent in exercise that says you have to devote your time to bicep curls or yoga - we would just say “Well, if you want to be a different way, then exercise a different way.”
It seems to me that it doesn’t make sense to direct most criticism at various practices directly - what people are really pointing at are the possible outcomes of being extremely democratic in mind training, wondering where people and society will end up ‘going’ with that. I think that’s a very interesting topic, but different from the topic of mind training itself.
That said, as with exercise, I don’t think it’s as if the parameters are endlessly wide. There are outlier situations but for the most part there’s a certain toolbox and certain expected effects and certain common problems. I think the hard part is that, unlike exercise, where personal trainers and advice abounds, it’s a practice where you have to be willing to navigate more for yourself. For example, when I first started practicing, I found the idea of ‘impermanence’ very freeing - suddenly all the roles and labels that seem so real and concrete got much more ethereal. I went with that for a time, maybe a few years. Then suddenly I found myself resistant and almost hostile to all the writings about ‘impermanence’ one finds in dharma books and talks. For awhile I wasn’t sure why. It finally occurred to me that it’s because a ‘near enemy’ of impermanence is carelessness and chaos, and I was at a point in my life - maybe due to character development from ‘practice’, maybe other things, who knows - where being more responsible, reliable and consistent was (and is) really important to me. I still can’t show up on time to save my life, but in most other areas of life, I saw this significant, rapid arc of being more organized, better at things like budgeting, more motivated to work on long term projects, and so on. So I realized I needed to work more on ‘right effort’ before I’ll have a more well-balanced view of what ‘impermanence’ really is (i.e., not something nihilistic) - but until I do that, I’m just going to go right back to the ‘near enemy’ concept whenever I think of it. So I did eventually figure that out - but it is tricky in that there is no one recipe to reliably follow in ‘practice’ - you really do have to be responsible for a lot of the course charting yourself.