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The mindfulness conspiracy

Mindfulness is not a magic panacea

The inventor of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction proclaims that mindfulness may "be the only promise the species and the planet have for making it through the next couple of hundred years”.

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without passing judgment. Although it might help people cope by reducing stress and chronic anxiety, it does not offer any solutions to our unjust society.

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The mindfulness conspiracy

The mindfulness conspiracy

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jun/14/the-mindfulness-conspiracy-capitalist-spirituality

theguardian.com

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Key Ideas

Mindfulness is not a magic panacea

The inventor of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction proclaims that mindfulness may "be the only promise the species and the planet have for making it through the next couple of hundred years”.

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without passing judgment. Although it might help people cope by reducing stress and chronic anxiety, it does not offer any solutions to our unjust society.

Mindfulness has been repackaged

Although mindfulness originated from Buddhism, it has been stripped from most of its teachings. 

What remains is nothing more than a self-help tool to help one get used to the very conditions that caused the problems. While is it a noble aim to reduce stress and anxiety, it is more important to acknowledge and address the underlying cause of the suffering.

The message of the mindfulness

The message of the mindfulness movement is that the underlying cause is in our mind - a "thinking disease" or a kind of attention deficit disorder. 

Rather than discussing how attention is monetized and manipulated by corporations, mindfulness advocates to view the crisis as an internal battle. The result is that we meekly retreat into the private sphere without critically engaging with the causes of suffering in the structures of power and economic systems of capitalist society.

Mindfulness as a commodity

Kabat-Zim initially adapted the Buddhist teachings and practices to help patients deal with pain and anxiety, but soon saw an opportunity to market mindfulness to the stressed-out masses as secular spirituality.

Market forces are already exploiting the momentum of the mindfulness movement, to reorientate its goals to serve the market’s needs.

Auto-exploit

Proponents of mindfulness believe that the practice is apolitical. The practitioners of mindfulness are taught to become attentive and resilient, to de-stress while improving productivity. They quietly surrender so they may keep functioning within the system that exploits them.

The branding of mindfulness reinforces the idea that it is an individual's private concern. In turn, mindfulness becomes easy to co-opt for social, economic and political control.

Mindfulness is a $4bn industry

The presentation of mindfulness is packaged in a friendly way that is warmly received in popular culture. It has then also become a useful tool for those who favor neoliberalism.

Neoliberal ideology holds that all decisions about how society is run should be left to the workings of the marketplace. When mindfulness is mastered in a neoliberal society, it helps you to survive in capitalism, by keeping your attention focussed on the present without judging it.

Disconnected from external forces

The rhetoric of “self-mastery”, “resilience” and “happiness” assumes wellbeing is simply a matter of developing a skill - that we can train our brains to be happy by using mindfulness.

Therefore, personal troubles are never attributed to political or socioeconomic conditions, but as phycological. This has become enticing to government policymakers: What better way to reframe societal problems of racism, poverty, addiction and inequality than in terms of individual psychology, where vulnerable subjects can provide therapeutic help to themselves?

A neoliberal trance

We are repeatedly told that to change the world, we have to work on ourselves - by changing our minds to be more accepting of circumstances. We are told to look inward and to manage ourselves at the expense of critical thinking.

Mindfulness promises a good life, enticing us to accept things as they are. We are perhaps sold a cruel optimism.  

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

What mindfulness is
What mindfulness is

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

What meditation is

Meditation is exploring. When we meditate we venture into the workings of our minds: sensations, emotions and thoughts.

Mindfulness meditation asks us to suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness, to ourselves and others.

Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. And then I sometimes add, in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.”

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Contemporary mindfulness

Research findings conclude that regular mindfulness meditation reduces stress and builds resilience. 

Yet, those who practice contemporary mindfulness find, instead of engaging in ca...

Mindfulness critics
  • Mindfulness does not demonstrate the truth of key Buddhist doctrines. The nonjudgmental aspects are at odds with Buddhist meditation, where people are supposed to actively evaluate and engage with their experiences.
  • The goals of mindfulness attempt to reduce suffering, but Buddhism aims to escape the miserable cycle of rebirth altogether.
  • Mindfulness has moved from therapy to commodification, and a corrupted version results from it.
Mindfulness is unsuited for self-understanding

Mindfulness is grounded in the Buddhist doctrine. It is a metaphysical denial of the self - there is no soul, spirit or any ongoing individual basis for identity. There is no 'self' or 'me', and consequently, no thoughts that are 'mine'.se

Western metaphysics holds that there is some entity to whom all these experiences are happening. We refer to this entity as 'I' or 'me'.

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Use of mindfulness
Mindfulness can be used as a preventative treatment for depression.

The idea is that you actively pay attention to the moment, without judging. It helps the mind to revisit thoughts about...

Mindfulness as an effective treatment

There is clinical evidence for mindfulness-based cognitive therapy as a way to prevent depression and anxiety.

Mindfulness may be good for other psychiatric conditions including bipolar disorder.

There is also growing evidence that mindfulness is effective for chronic long-term health conditions.

Mindfulness can be overstated

Mindfulness is not a cure all. With all the hype around mindfulness it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether the information is quality-controlled and reliable. We need  to be careful not to overstate it's usefulness.

Mindfulness

... is a collection of practices aimed at helping us to cultivate moment-to-moment awareness of ourselves and our environment.

Meditation sharpens your attention

Meditation helps to counter our tendency to stop paying attention to new information in our environment. Other studies have found that mindfulness meditation can reduce mind-wandering and improve attention.

Larger randomized controlled trials are still needed to understand how meditation might work with other treatments to help people manage attention-deficit disorders.

Consistent meditation

Long-term, consistent meditation mindfulness changes our ability to handle stress in a better, more sustainable way.

  • Practicing meditation reduces the inflammatory response in people exposed to psychological stressors.
  • Mindfulness practices help us to be less reactive to stressors and to recover better from stress when we experience it. 

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A shift in measuring well-being
A shift in measuring well-being

People in societies such as ancient Greece, imperial China, Medieval Europe, and colonial America did not measure people's well-being in terms of monetary earnings or economic output.

Measuring well-being: people vs money

The turn toward financial statistics means that instead of considering how economic developments could meet our needs, it instead is to determine whether individuals are meeting the demand of the economy.

Until the 1850s, social measurement in 19th-century America was a collection of social indicators known as "moral statistics," which focused on the physical, social, spiritual, and mental conditions of the people. Human beings were at the center, not dollars and cents.

Measuring progress and prosperity

What led to the pricing of progress in the mid-19th century was capitalism.

Capitalism is not just the existence of markets. It is also capitalised investment, where elements of society and life - including natural resources, technological discoveries, works of art, urban spaces, educational institutions, and people - are changed or "capitalised" into income-generating assets that are valued by their ability to make money and yield future returns.

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