Reading Prompts

Before we let out for the extended break, I mentioned that for the remainder of the semester, our readings will focus on CAM healing modalities that originate in the East. As we continue, I want you to keep an eye to a few different dynamics: 

  1. What is involved in the practice? What happens in the healing session? Who is the healer, and who is healed? What religious background and philosophical understandings inform the healing modality?
  2. How does the originating community understand, view, and practice the healing modality (ex: Chinese-American practicing TCM)? 
  3. How do outside communities relate to the healing (white New Agers, etc) 
  4. How has biomedicine reacted to the healing system (Ignored? Supported? appropriated?)
  5. What power structures are at play in the consumption of the CAM modality, especially in relation to race, ethnicity, and other forms of minority identity? 

March 30 – April 5 // “Protestant” Buddhism and Mindfulness Meditation

In addition to touching on the above themes, this week’s readings focus specifically on the history of Buddhist meditation and mindfulness movements, as well as folk Buddhist healing traditions in the United States. 

The first reading, “When Mindfulness is Therapy: Ethical Qualms, Historical Perspectives” discusses the historical contexts and cultural movements that influenced the development of mindfulness practices in the United States, including Eastern religious figures (DT Suzuki, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Thich Nhat Hanh), the role of psychoanalysis and eventual medicalization of the practices (Relaxation Response and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), and the critiques that arise when religious practices become decontextualized, oversimplified, and reappropriated for a secular marketplace. 

It is critical reading for understanding how a religious practice typically associated with non-dualist Buddhist traditions (Japanese Zen, Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen, and Theravada Vipassana), transitioned to a therapeutic medicalized practice, and finally to a pop-culture practice that touts benefits ranging from calmer, more engaged students, more efficiency in the corporate work setting, and even better sex. 

The second reading, “Complementary and Alternative Medicine in America’s New Buddhisms”, echoes points similar to those raised in the readings on TCM. In once again highlighting the disparate Buddhist communities in America (ethnic / culture Buddhists and convert Buddhists), Numrich discusses how each community approaches Buddhist CAM practices and folk medicine, including herbalism, spiritual / ancestral healing practices, and meditation. In highlighting each communities’ approach and understanding of each Buddhist healing practice, Numrich illustrates the divergent trajectories of their use of CAM, as well points where they overlap – and why. 

“When Mindfulness is Therapy: Ethical Qualms, Historical Perspectives”, Anne Harrington and John D. Dunne, American Psychologist (iCollege)

  • What is mindfulness?
  • Who is DT Suzuki, and what was his role in bringing Buddhist meditation to the US?
  • What was Suzuki’s view on the medicalization of Zen meditation? 
  • How did Suzuki’s experience within the United States effect the language in which he presented Zen?
  • Who is Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and what was his role in the development of how meditation is practiced in the 1960s? 
  • What is Transcendental Meditation? What benefits did it tout? 
  • What is the Relaxation Response? How was it discovered?
  • Who is Jon Kabat-Zinn? What was his background and why was it important in his approach to meditation in a clinical setting? 
  • What is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, and what Buddhist practices does it pull from? 
  • To whom did Kabat-Zinn want to tailor his clinical practices to? Why? 
  • What was the effect of Thich Nat Hanh’s endorsement of Kabat-Zinn’s book?
  • What are some of the criticisms of MBSR, reformist Zen and other non-dualist approaches to meditation?


“Complementary and Alternative Medicine in America’s New Buddhisms” (342-358), Paul David Numrich, Religion and Healing in America, (iCollege)

  • What types of American Buddhists does Numrich identify? How did the various communities within this overarching framework develop historically?
  • What are some of the CAM modalities discussed in relation to American Buddhism?
  • What are some of the distinguishing characteristics of each? How does each community relate to CAM modalities?
  • How do generational dynamics and acculturation affect the use of Buddhist folk healing? 
  • How do the types of American Buddhists relate to each other? 
  • What are the communities’ trajectories overall? In relation to folk medicine / herbalism? To meditation?


  • Mindfulness
  • Zen Buddhism 
  • Transcendental Meditation
  • Relaxation Response
  • MBSR
  • Non-dual Buddhism
  • Vipassana meditation
  • Mahamudra
  • Dzogchen
  • Engaged Buddhism
  • Therapeutic mindfulness
  • Culture Buddhist
  • Convert Buddhist

April 6 – April 12 // Transplant Ayurveda 

This week’s first reading explores Transplant Ayurveda.*  In contrast to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Buddhist folk healing, and other Asian ethnomedicine modalities we’ve discussed, Ayurveda’s spread in the United States is related to its specific marketing to and consumption by white Americans, rather than originating in cultural enclaves of Asian-American immigrants and then permeating out (Reddy, 99).

At the center of this reading is the Ayurveda practitioners: do they present themselves as medical practitioners compatible with the biomedical system (and thus pursue licensure), or lean into the metaphysical healing qualities that attract New Age sensibilities including a resistance to the medical mainstream, a preoccupation with things deemed “natural”, and a desire for “holistic” approach?

*It’s always tricky when running a syllabus for the first time. I meant to include a reading that focuses on the use of Ayurveda and religious healing within South Asian Indian-American communities, but I included the wrong details and didn’t catch the mistake until now. I apologize for this gap, specifically because results in the lack of representation, voices and perspectives of people of color. 

If you’re interested, you can find the reading posted in iCollege >  Course Readings > Week 12: “Health, Faith Traditions, and South Asian Indians in North America”, Prakash N. Desai, Religion and Healing in America.  

“Asian Medicine in America: The Ayurvedic Case”. Reddy, S (pg 97-120) – iCollege

  • How does Ayurveda’s development differ from other Asian healing transplants in America? 
  • What are the main influencers on the development of transplant Ayurveda in the US? 
  • What is the main professional dilemma facing Ayurveda practitioners? Describe this dynamic. 
  • What has the West typically focused on in their interest in Asian medicine? What are the critiques of these approaches? 
  • How does classic Ayurveda different from transnational Ayurveda? 
  • Where is transnational Ayurveda usually accessed (located)? Why? 
  • What elements of the holistic health movement influence the development of transplant Ayurveda? What connections do you see to our past readings? 
  • How do legal issues related to the “unlawful practice of medicine” effect how transplant Ayurveda is practiced? How it presents itself?
  • How have different Ayurveda practitioners circumvented medical licensing issues? 
  • Describe the four subtraditions, which aspect of Ayurveda they focus on (meditation, massage, religious healing, etc), and its effect on how they approach licensure. 
  • How does the theme of resistance emerge in the practice and representation of transplant Ayurveda?



  • Transplant / Transnational Ayurveda
  • Classic Ayurveda
  • Materia medica
  • Humoral diagnostics
  • Tripartite system


April 13 – April 19 // Yoga and the Healing Marketplace

This week, our readings focus on the development of yoga in the United States from its early modern period as divergent, countercultural practices, to a part of popular culture within the global consumer culture. 

What similarities do you see between the postural yoga systems that became so successful, and other CAM modalities we’ve explored this semester. What are they resisting (Culturally? Religiously? Medically?) How do the relate to biomedicine and science? Why are they so appealing (or specifically marketed to) New Agers, and eventually the public at large?

While I’m not formally assigning this reading, if you have a few minutes, I highly recommend you read #Namaslay, or How Black Women Are Using Trap Yoga As a Mode of Spiritual Resistance. In it, you’ll see parallels to other conversations we’ve had about representation within CAM spaces, the spiritual bypassing that happens in these spaces, and how Black women are creatively reinventing wellness practices to meet the needs of their specific community. 


“From Counterculture to Counterculture”, Andrea R. Jain, Selling Yoga (20 – 41) 

  • What was early modern yoga resisting? 
  • What social changes in the middle of the 19th century were important to the context and development of yoga in the US? 
  • Who was Ida C. Craddock? Describe her socio-religious and sexual reform agenda. 
  • How does Craddock’s life reflect the development of early modern yoga? 
  • Who was Pierre Bernard? What aspects of early modern yoga does his interpretation of yoga reveal? 
  • How did the religious landscape of the 19th century in the US affect the response to yoga? 
  • Who was Vivekananda? What was his role in the spread of transnational yoga? How did he present Hindu religious and cultural tradition?  
  • What does Jain mean by “yoga from the neck up” and “ascetic, Protestant yoga”? 
  • What is the relationship between global physical culture and the development of modern yoga? 
  • What is the relationship between science and modernity on the development of modern yoga? 
  • What themes / historical patterns define the development of early modern yoga? (late-19th to mid-20th century) 


“Continuity with Consumer Culture”, Andrea R. Jain, Selling Yoga, (42 – 72)

  • What are the three developments that enabled the global popularization of postural yoga? 
  • What does it mean that “consumer choice is a self-conscious process”? How does the consumer-oriented approach to religion effect the development of yoga? 
  • What differentiated preksha dhyana from other forms of Jain asceticism in the 1970’s? 
  • Why were postural yoga systems so successful, while many devotional yoga systems did not? What similar themes do you see between this development and the desires of New Agers and spiritual “seekers”? 
  • How does postural yoga system integrate biomedical language into their practice and marketing? 
  • What was the influence of B.K.S. Iyengar on postural yoga as a body-enhancing system?
  • What does the development of yoga tell us about the history of religion in general? 



  • Heterogenous 
  • Modern yoga
  • Ida C. Craddock
  • Tantric yoga
  • Pierre Bernard
  • Raja yoga
  • Hatha yoga
  • Theosophy
  • Vivekananda
  • Postural yoga
  • Metanarrative
  • Heretical Imperative
  • Bricolage
  • Sheilah-ism
  • Soteriology
  • Modern Soteriological yoga / modern denominational yoga
  • Godmen / godwomen
  • Siddha yoga
  • Preksha dhyana
  • B. K. S. Iyengar



April 20 – April 26 // Indigenous Healing and Neoshamanism

This week, our readings parallel those of our last few weeks: first a reading that documents the ethnic and cultural community out of which an alternative healing method arises, and a second reading that discusses the same (or similar) healing modality within the context of the Holistic Health and New Age movements — almost always practiced by middle-class white Americans. 

“Native American Medicine” provides important historical context, that of colonization of the western hemisphere and systematic genocide and forced assilimation of Indigenous communities by European-Americans, and how this Intergeneration Trauma effects the health outcomes of current Indigenous Americans. It also discusses the important relationship between Retraditionalization and individual and communal healing for these communities. 

“The New Age Sweat Lodge” discusses just that: the history, typical ritual pattern, and the “healing logic” that informs the use of the ceremonial sweats when practiced within the New Age movement, as well as many of the criticisms aimed at the appropriation of this healing ritual. 


“Native American Medicine: The Implications of History and the Embodiment of Culture”, Wendy M. K. Peters, Julli M. Green, and Pilar E. Gauthier (pg 172-195) – iCollege

  • What do Indigenous cosmologies (creation stories) reveal about their culture, rituals, and worldview? To their understanding and approach to healing and wellness? 
  • How has colonization of the western hemisphere affected the health outcomes of Indigenous communities? 
  • What is “Soul Wound”?
  • What are some of the symptoms of Intergenerational Trauma? 
  • Why is historical context so important for understanding how Intergenerational Trauma impacts Indigenous peoples? 
  • Why was Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart’s research on Intergenerational Trauma so groundbreaking? How did it transform care within Indigenous communities? 
  • How do the course themes of resistance appear in this article? 
  • What is the relationship between Retraditionalization and healing? How is healing defined in this context?
  • Why is cultural competency within the  biomedical healthcare system so important in relation to the care of Indigenous peoples? 
  • What are some examples of culture-based interventions? 
  • What is the relationship between healing and religion in Indigenous communities? Why might they be hesitant to share insight and information about their cultural practices?  


“The New Age Sweat Lodge”, William M. Clements, (pg 143-162) – iCollege

  • What are some of the features of New Age sweat lodges? Why do some of the New Age communities feel the need to keep their “sweat” locations secret?
  • What is a standard pattern for a New Age sweat lodge? (What is the typical “formula” of the ritual?)
  • What critiques have been leveled at the New Age appropriation of sweat lodges? 
  • What function do Sweat Lodges play within Indigenous communities? 
  • In what ways is the New Age appropriation of the Sweat Lodge ritual ceremony harmful to Indigenous communities? 
  • Why aspects of the Lakota Sweat Lodge ceremony lend it to particularly “easy” reinterpretation by New Age communities, as opposed to other forms of Indigenous healing? 
  • What themes in the Sweat Lodge ceremony parallel the spiritual sensitibilies of New Age movement? 
  • In the New Age sweat lodge context, how is “healing” defined? What is healed? How is it healed? 
  • What socio-historical contexts inform the “healing logic” of the New Age sweat lodge?



    • Monism
    • Cosmology
    • Historical Trauma / Intergenerational Trauma
    • Soul Wound
    • Manifest Destiny
    • Epigenetics / Memetic transmission
    • Retraditionalization
    • Culture-based Intervention
    • Medicine people / Shaman
    • Biopsychosocial
    • Sweat Lodge
    • Plastic Medicine Man
    • “Playing Indian”
    • Noble Savage
    • Humoralism
    • Rite of Passage
    • Communitas
    • Mother Earth Ceremonies / Earth People philosophy
    • Healing Logic



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