Mindfulness — a capitalist conspiracy?

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by Thomas, Jun 21, 2019.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    This from Patheos:
    'Review of McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality'

    I've long held the view that the spiritual practices of the great traditions have been repacked and resold to a consumer society as a kind of 'get (spiritually) rich quick' product.

    I've also noted articles in New Scientist which offer evidence that the practice of mindfulness, when imparted by unskilled guides, has led to depression and psychological disorders in some cases. Like any spiritual exercise, it should be undertaken under the tutorage of a guru/staretz/director ...

    But Ronald E. Purser's new book,
    McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality, goes deeper than that, talking about the 'limitations, fake claims, and sleight of hand in the contemporary secular mindfulness product.'

    Purser details how this form of secularised spirituality lends itself to the ideology of neoliberalism and its attendants: materialism, classism, racism and genderism.

    (Texts in colour are author quotes)


    "Rather than applying mindfulness as a means to awaken individuals and organizations from the unwholesome roots of greed, ill will and delusion, it is usually being refashioned into a banal, therapeutic, self-help technique that can actually reinforce those roots."

    "By individualizing social problems, the practice of mindfulness disadvantages those who suffer the most under the status quo... Dana Becker has coined the term ‘stressism’ to describe the current belief that the tensions of contemporary life are primarily individual lifestyle problems to be solved through managing stress, as opposed to the belief that these tensions are linked to social forces and need to be resolved primarily through social and political means."


    Here we can see the effect of the 'American Dream' ideology that produced New Thought and Prosperity Theology — the idea that our problems are of our own making, and that through 'Right Thinking' and 'Right Mind' we can heal ourselves and make them go away.

    "The conspicuous absence of a path for ethical development in the secularized mindfulness movement creates a moral vacuum. A belabored form of self-surveillance—being in the present moment—displaces ethical reflection, severing the chain from past to future. Forethought and care, vigilant awareness of the consequentiality of one’s actions, and striving to eradicate unwholesome mental qualities (all basic Buddhist aims) take a back seat to just 'being mindful', 'being present,' and other platitudinous edicts like 'radical acceptance.'

    "Despite the apparent sincerity of his intentions, Jon Kabat-Zinn does something similar [to Trump]. Having secularized mindfulness to help patients face chronic pain, he sells it as a global panacea. We are simply told to focus on the present, ignoring the long-term effects of our behavior. Abstaining from being ‘judgmental,’ we are invited to abandon ethical discernment. Just like Trump, the mindfulness movement promotes moral ambiguity to help us feel better. Both reflect the triumph of narcissism in modern American culture."


    Conclusion
    Liberate mindfulness by fully entering a buddhadharma path.
     
    StevePame and Cino like this.
  2. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    I endorse the conclusion, in the sense that the noble eightfold path is composed of 1. morality/ethics, 2. concentration skills, and 3. mindfulness. Other traditions similarly have balanced training regimes.

    There are a *lot* of narcissistic acharyas, gurus, teachers, facilitators, shaykhs, directors ... out there, however, so I would not unconditionally recommend them as an antidote to lopsided solo practice.

    Finally, depressive moods are a well-documented part of spiritual development. St. John of the Cross famously wrote about it, as did Teresa of Avila. Buddhist exegesis has very detailed accounts. Spiritual practice is not an all-around feel-good package, never was, unlikely to ever be.
     
  3. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    You had me at neo liberal capitalist racists..
     
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Quite. Purser seems of the opinion that one should embrace the whole tradition. He doesn't dismiss the practice entirely, but rather suggests it should be balanced.

    Absolutely. The idea of a do-it-yourself practice is deeply flawed and promoted largely by those offering to sell you a book/product/service to enable you to do it. The easiest person to delude is ourselves. It's a given that the necessity of practice is to break through the walls of our a priori illusions, so how one is supposed to achieve that without guidance escapes me.

    Apparently Thomas Merton was told by Gregory Zilboorg, a convert himself and a skilled psychoanalyst, that there was something almost schizophrenic in his character: "You want a hermitage in Times Square with a large sign over it saying Hermit."
     
  5. CobblersApprentice

    CobblersApprentice Active Member

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    Practice as "practice" always seems to be flawed in a certain sense. Seeking to become what we now are not. To me, Thomas Merton was a man of faith, of trust, and his "practice" was his life - of writing, Journals, books, meditation, teaching, meeting with others and mixing in the odd beer and a touch of jazz. Well, of course he was flawed. But then there is mercy.

    Mindfulness grows beyond our calculations.
     

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