Where do you live?
Bourbon country. Lexington, KY
Besides writing, what do you do for a living?
I’m a bartender at a local farm-to-table restaurant. I’m also a mindfulness coach who works with individuals and groups in person and online.
Do you have a blog?
No, but I have a website: brentpurpleoliver.com
What places/publications have you written for?
Do you have kids? Describe your family.
My wife and I have been married almost 13 years. No children by choice.
How did you become involved with TTB?
I’d been contributing to Tricycle for a while when I stumbled across The Tattooed Buddha website. It was a fresh and exciting voice; a dialogue dedicated to exploration and evolution. I was intrigued. I’m not a very traditional guy and this approach was something I wanted to be a part of.
What are some goals you have in life?
My main goal in life is to abandon bartending and teach mindfulness full time. I’m a champion of the modern mindfulness revolution and feel that it provides an accessible, secular route to happiness and a full life for anyone. While it’s certainly not the panacea that’s being overblown across all media, there’s no doubt it produces positive results. I’d also like to finish my first book, write several more, and make my wife as happy as possible.
Are you Buddhist? Spiritual? Do you subscribe to a specific religion? Why or why not?
I’m a Buddhist, although a pretty post-traditional, secular sort. I feel like many of the ideas and standards of India 2600 years ago aren’t necessarily the best for 21st century America. However, Buddhist thought and theory provide a fairly reliable worldview and psychology, which is the hardware. The software I run is called Unified Mindfulness. It’s a system developed by Shinzen Young over the course of his nearly 50 years of study and practice. We know a lot about our universe and our brains these days. For me, the path that works best is one that integrates contemplation and transformation with modern scientific research. That’s what UM provides. It’s my primary form of practice and it’s also what I teach. I’m not religious, and I don’t love the word “spiritual,” but what I do is certainly more than just apply cold, hard logic. I don’t know what the term would be. Mystical, maybe, although that’s a loaded, somewhat misunderstood term. Merriam-Webster’s second definition is “involving or having the nature of an individual’s direct subjective communion with God or ultimate reality.” That seems pretty accurate.
What factors have influenced your spirituality?
My own enormous suffering, which drove me to the brink of suicide and eventually brought me to the Buddha’s teachings. That’s a big one. My love of logic and practicality pulled me away from the more traditional, faith-based side into a secular approach that evolves in concert with modern science. My creative, artistic side allows me to embrace the slightly more spiritual or mystical elements of the mindfulness path.
Do you meditate? How often? How long?
I meditate once almost every day. I try not to miss any but sometimes it happens. I usually sit somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes. Sometimes I meditate twice a day. I also practice a lot off the cushion while walking, driving, and performing simple tasks like doing the dishes or the laundry. I try to stop numerous times during the day to do micro hits: one to five minutes of intensely applied techniques in the midst of whatever I’m doing.
What are your favorite TV shows? Movies? Books?
Man, that’s a long list. For TV, I love Parks and Recreation, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 30 Rock, The Office, Hap and Leonard, King of the Hill, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Sons of Anarchy; The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m a big movie fan. It’s hard to narrow it down to a few faves. Rear Window; Smokey and the Bandit; Dead Alive; Near Dark; Halloween; Casablanca; Big Trouble in Little China; Jaws; Psycho; The Silence of the Lambs; To Kill a Mockingbird. Books, I don’t even know where to start. Books are something I’m very passionate about. Several of my most loved are ‘Salem’s Lot, Mongrels, Ender’s Game, Eleanor and Park, Bad Chili, Lost Echoes, Geek Love, I Am Legend, The Great and Secret Show, After the People Lights Have Gone Off, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Horns, Get Shorty, The Terror, John Dies at the End.
Do you have a funny story? Interesting thing about you?
Everything about me is funny, although little of it is particularly interesting.
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