A neoliberal trance - Deepstash

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The mindfulness conspiracy

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.  

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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.”

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 careful thought about oneself, that they are encouraged to be nonjudgemental of your thoughts - to disregard the content or your own thoughts. Mindfulness oversimplifies the complexity of understanding oneself.

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'.

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 the past and to put the future into perspective. 

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.