Keep reading for FREE
The founders of the mindfulness movement have grown evangelical, predicting that the discipline has the potential to ignite a universal or global renaissance. Mindfulness enthusiasts believe that paying closer attention to the present moment without passing judgement has the power to transform the world.
Yet, anything that offers success without trying to change is not revolutionary; it just helps people cope. It could also make things worse.
Mindfulness does help reduce stress, chronic anxiety and other disorders. Becoming aware of automatic reactions can make people calmer and potentially kinder. Yet, the problem is how mindfulness has been packaged.
Mindfulness is essentially concentration training. It is stripped of the Buddhism teachings on ethics that accompanied it, as well as the liberating aim of detaching from a false sense of self while having compassion for all other things.
What remains is a tool of self-discipline disguised as self-help.
Instead of setting people free, mindfulness help practitioners adjust to the conditions that caused their problems and reinforce its destructive logic.
People are expected to adapt. Stress has been pathologised and privatised, and the burden of managing it is outsourced to individuals, causing the proponents of mindfulness to step in to save the day.
But mindfulness can only be effective if they accept that personal stress also has societal causes. Failing to address collective suffering and creating change to remove it reduces mindfulness to something that keeps people focused on themselves.
Instead of discussing how attention is monetised and manipulated by large corporations such as Google and Facebook, we are told to find the crisis in our minds, saying it is our failure to be mindful and resilient in an unsure economy.
If we are sad about being unemployed and losing our health insurance, the mindfulness revolution meekly accepts the circumstances, ruling out a way to critically engage with causes of suffering.
This submissive position is framed as freedom without the genuine freedom found within a cooperative and just society.
Proponents of mindfulness believe that the practice is apolitical and that moral inquiry should be avoided.
It is assumed that ethical behaviour will happen naturally from practice, through the teacher's example of soft-spoken niceness, or through the chance of self-discovery. But it is flawed. The emphasis on “non-judgmental awareness” can prevent one's moral intelligence.
This reduction in stress and increase in personal happiness and wellbeing are much easier to sell than questioning injustices.
All that mindfulness promise is "cruel optimism", as cultural theorist Lauren Berlant shows. We are told that if we practise mindfulness and get our individual lives in order, we can be happy and secure. We are promised that stable employment and success will naturally follow. It is implied that we can gain self-mastery and thrive. Yet it is cruel to be promised to have it all if we can sit in silence, watch our breath, and wait.
Because we neglect shared vulnerabilities and interdependence, we fail to imagine collective ways we might protect ourselves.
reading habits, gather your
remember what you readand stay ahead of the crowd!
Save time with daily digests
No ads, all content is free
Save ideas & add your own
Get access to the mobile app
4.7 App Rating
MORE LIKE THIS