Around here we view mindfulness with the same attention and approval that we do Hare Krishna – not a lot but chacun a son gout. If it is necessary for you to pay £1500 to some git to tell you to slow down occasionally and think then so be it. The rest of us adults will just carry on with healthy and balanced lives all the same.
There are other critiques of the movement available of course:
The mindfulness conspiracy It is sold as a force that can help us cope with the ravages of capitalism, but with its inward focus, mindful meditation may be the enemy of activism. By Ronald Purser
We can see how the rest of this will go, can’t we? It’s a form of uber- (no, not Uber) Leninism. We should not work for, nor even allow, anything that will alleviate the suffering of the proletariat for that would delay the Revolution. Comrades.
But anything that offers success in our unjust society without trying to change it is not revolutionary – it just helps people cope. In fact, it could also be making things worse. Instead of encouraging radical action, mindfulness says the causes of suffering are disproportionately inside us, not in the political and economic frameworks that shape how we live.
Well, yes, that was a difficult prediction, wasn’t it?
A truly revolutionary movement would seek to overturn this dysfunctional system, but mindfulness only serves to reinforce its destructive logic. The neoliberal order has imposed itself by stealth in the past few decades, widening inequality in pursuit of corporate wealth. People are expected to adapt to what this model demands of them. Stress has been pathologised and privatised, and the burden of managing it outsourced to individuals. Hence the pedlars of mindfulness step in to save the day.
Yep, don’t adapt to nor modify in order to enjoy this only world you’re ever going to see. Instead Suffer For The Cause. Comrades!
But none of this means that mindfulness ought to be banned, or that anyone who finds it useful is deluded. Reducing suffering is a noble aim and it should be encouraged. But to do this effectively, teachers of mindfulness need to acknowledge that personal stress also has societal causes. By failing to address collective suffering, and systemic change that might remove it, they rob mindfulness of its real revolutionary potential, reducing it to something banal that keeps people focused on themselves.
Well, maybe it’s OK if it teaches of the necessity of Revolutionary Consciousness. Comrades!
Ronald Purser is a professor of management at San Francisco State University, and the author of McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality (Watkins, 2019)
The Cal State system is an outgrowth of the teacher training college system. Not, at all, to be confused with UC, the University of California. Akin to Islington Technical College but without the intellectual rigour.