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Ron Purser: Beyond McMindfulness

03/03/14 23:35

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March 3, 2014

Beyond McMindfulness
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Get Religion Newsletters: Enter email Subscribe 326 Email Suddenly mindfulness meditation has become mainstream, making its way into schools, corporations, prisons, and government 98 Comment agencies including the U.S. military. Millions of people are receiving tangible benefits from their mindfulness practice: less stress, better concentration, perhaps a little more empathy. Needless to say, this is an important development to be welcomed - but it has a shadow. The mindfulness revolution appears to offer a universal panacea for resolving almost every area of daily concern. Recent books on the topic include: Mindful Parenting, Mindful Eating, Mindful Teaching, Mindful Politics, Mindful Therapy, Mindful Leadership, A Mindful Nation, Mindful Recovery, The Power of Mindful Learning, The Mindful Brain, The Mindful Way through Depression, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion. Almost daily, the media cite scientific studies that report the numerous health benefits of mindfulness meditation and how such a simple practice can effect neurological changes in the brain. The booming popularity of the mindfulness movement has also turned it into a lucrative cottage industry. Business savvy consultants pushing mindfulness training promise that it will improve work efficiency, reduce absenteeism, and enhance the "soft skills" that are crucial to career success. Some even assert that mindfulness training can act as a "disruptive technology," reforming even the most dysfunctional companies into kinder, more compassionate and sustainable organizations. So far, however, no empirical studies have been published that support these claims. In their branding efforts, proponents of mindfulness training usually preface their programs as being "Buddhist-inspired." There is a certain cachet and hipness in telling neophytes that mindfulness is a legacy of Buddhism -- a tradition famous for its ancient and time-tested meditation methods. But, sometimes in the same breath, consultants often assure their corporate sponsors that their particular brand of mindfulness has relinquished all ties and affiliations to its Buddhist origins. Uncoupling mindfulness from its ethical and religious Buddhist context is understandable as an expedient move to make such training a viable product on the open market. But the rush to secularize and commodify mindfulness into a marketable technique may be leading to an unfortunate denaturing of this ancient practice, which was intended for far more than relieving a headache, reducing blood pressure, or helping executives become better focused and more productive. While a stripped-down, secularized technique -- what some critics are now calling "McMindfulness" -- may make it more palatable to the corporate world, decontextualizing mindfulness from its original liberative and transformative purpose, as well as its foundation in social ethics, amounts to a Faustian bargain. 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. Most scientific and popular accounts circulating in the media have portrayed mindfulness in terms of stress reduction and attention-enhancement. These human performance benefits are heralded as the sine qua non of mindfulness and its major attraction for modern corporations. But mindfulness, as understood and practiced within the Buddhist tradition, is not merely an ethically-neutral technique for reducing stress and improving concentration. Rather, mindfulness is a distinct quality of attention that is dependent upon and influenced by many other factors: the nature of our thoughts, speech and actions; our way of making a living; and our efforts to avoid unwholesome and unskillful behaviors, while developing those that are conducive to wise action, social harmony, and compassion. This is why Buddhists differentiate between Right Mindfulness (samma sati) and Wrong Mindfulness (miccha sati). The distinction is not moralistic: the issue is whether the quality of awareness is characterized by wholesome intentions and positive mental qualities that lead to human flourishing and optimal well-being for others as well as oneself. According to the Pali Canon (the earliest recorded teachings of the Buddha), even a person committing a premeditated and heinous crime can be exercising mindfulness, albeit wrong mindfulness. Clearly, the mindful attention and single-minded concentration of a terrorist, sniper assassin, or white-collar criminal is not the same quality of mindfulness that the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist adepts have developed. Right Mindfulness is guided by intentions and motivations based on self-restraint,

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and as an instrumental tool for keeping attention focused on institutional goals. Buddhism doesn't own contemplation. Another common misconception is that mindfulness meditation is a private.com/ron-purser/beyond-mcmindfulness_b_3519289. in their book Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion. or as an unnecessary politicizing of one's personal journey of self-transformation. even if other religious traditions have tended to lose contact with their contemplative practices in favor of an emphasis on literalism and legalism. There is a dissociation between one's own personal transformation and the kind of social and organizational transformation that takes into account the causes and conditions of suffering in the broader environment. Cloaked in an aura of care and humanity. Such a colonization of mindfulness also has an instrumentalizing effect. such as "active listening. and delusion -. ill will." Unfortunately. it must reclaim an ethical framework and aspire to more lofty purposes that take into account the wellbeing of all living beings.a technique for coping with and adapting to the stresses and strains of corporate life. promoting a tacit acceptance of the status quo. as a way to let off steam -. To become a genuine force for positive personal and social transformation. the interconnectedness of personal motives is lost. which is easily coopted and confined to what Jeremy Carrette and Richard King. These methods came to be referred to as "cow psychology.greed. corporate mindfulness training -. and ethical behaviors -.has a close family resemblance to now-discredited "human relations" and sensitivity-training movements that were popular in the 1950s and 1960s. I think these fears actually nudge the Buddhists into demonstrating that they aren't immune from the same impulses. In many respects. and eventual disillusionment. The result is an atomized and highly privatized version of mindfulness practice. less stressed employees will be more productive -. 60 people are discussing this article with 98 comments Comments are closed on this entry.goals that include but supersede stress reduction and improvements in concentration. mindfulness is refashioned into a safety valve. So what about the dukkha caused by the ways institutions operate? Many corporate advocates argue that transformational change starts with oneself: if one's mind can become more focused and peaceful. corporations have jumped on the mindfulness bandwagon because it conveniently shifts the burden onto the individual employee: stress is framed as a personal problem. Bhikkhu Bodhi. I think there is room for a lot of challenging clarification about how to support people staying awake to their humanity and feeling at home in their lives regardless of their belief systems. Up to now. Mindfulness is often marketed as a method for personal self-fulfillment.Ron Purser: Beyond McMindfulness 03/03/14 23:35 wholesome mental states. describe as an "accommodationist" orientation. Instead." because contented and docile cows give more milk." deployed as a means for pacifying employees by making them feel that their concerns were heard while existing conditions in the workplace remained unchanged.are no longer confined to individual minds.with its promise that calmer. Highlighted Most Recent Oldest Most Faved My Conversations DARON_LARSON 1 Fan 3 Publishing trends aside. Mindfulness training has wide appeal because it has become a trendy method for subduing employee unrest.unbridled enthusiasm. internal affair. but is essentially impotent for mitigating the causes of collective and organizational distress.hu!ngtonpost. or social dukkha. The Buddha emphasized that his teaching was about understanding and ending dukkha ("suffering" in the broadest sense).html Página 2 de 6 . the mindfulness movement has avoided any serious consideration of why stress is so pervasive in modern business institutions. becoming a reinforcement of consumer capitalism. and mindfulness is offered as just the right medicine to help employees work more efficiently and calmly within toxic environments. One hopes that the mindfulness movement will not follow the usual trajectory of most corporate fads -. Buddhist practices could easily be used to justify and stabilize the status quo. uncritical acceptance of the status quo. has warned: "absent a sharp social critique. a more ethical and socially responsible view of mindfulness is now seen by many practitioners as a tangential concern. rather than to a critical reflection on the causes of our collective suffering. The problem with this formulation is that today the three unwholesome motivations that Buddhism highlights -. Such an individualistic and consumer orientation to the practice of mindfulness may be effective for self-preservation and self-advancement. but have become institutionalized into forces beyond personal control. an outspoken western Buddhist monk. reorienting the practice to the needs of the market. These training programs were criticized for their manipulative use of counseling techniques. When mindfulness practice is compartmentalized in this way. a reprieve from the trials and tribulations of cutthroat corporate life. http://www. then social and organizational transformation will naturally follow.

com/daron 1 JUL 2013 10:49 PM FAVE SHARE MORE Chuck Brotton (CMB1969) SUPER USER · 117 Fans · raging moderate 3 I know that about a year and half ago.attentional-fitness. so we all need to share the responsibility of promoting the benefits of giving something more nutritionally substantial a try -. 1 http://www. Absent spiritual friends (kalyanamitta). and compassion. virtue and spiritual cultivation.com/ron-purser/beyond-mcmindfulness_b_3519289." yet which for me at least evoke the question of the relationship between book/tape/seminars/retreat sales. I had to sit through a sta! meeting in which one of the least serene. Freelance Contemplative Attentional Fitness Training http://www. mindfulness practice can be like a rudderless boat -. It extends beyond the realm of religion to also include psychology. 2 JUL 2013 8:04 PM FAVE SHARE MORE bodhibabe 1.it will surely sail. a grounding in the precepts.html Página 3 de 6 .036 Fans · *living art* empath-healer. and literature. Daron Larson. tagged as a "troublemaker" or B. I'm afraid however that the same reservations apply often to a more complex and subtle area-.that of "traditionally-trained" western author-teachers whose every new book title or blurb may not contain the buzz words "mindfulness. meditator. It's an exploration of beneficial WAYS of navigating thoughts and feelings instead promoting THE WAY.Ron Purser: Beyond McMindfulness 03/03/14 23:35 Is physical fitness in danger of being exploited by the greedy who make huge profits selling the promise of quick fixes? Obviously. contemplation.especially when what's at stake will never have a robust marketing budget: reflection. but to what end? 2 JUL 2013 12:12 AM FAVE SHARE MORE David_Hykes 376 Fans 2 A very important article which sums up what many of us traditionally-oriented practitioners and teachers have been feeling for a while now. most un-mindful executives I have ever met was lecturing us about meditation and spiritual fulfillment. art. counselor. and practice based on generosity. wisdom. assigned to be a facilitator. Fast-food sells in our culture. Are contemplative practices from every religious tradition at risk for being stripped of their cultural associations? Absolutely." "compassion" or "lovingkindness. sociology. I kept a blank expression on my face through the rest of the meeting--didn't want to show any actual knowledge about spirituality and get either: A.hu!ngtonpost. and authentic Dharma practice and dissemination. Will more people consider giving mindfulness strategies a chance to work if they are not associated with a religion? I really think so. 2 JUL 2013 2:30 AM FAVE SHARE MORE jesssicasss 0 Fans 3 This is lovely investigation into what can happen when the Buddha's teachings are divorced from the practice of meditation. This is really a conversation about human maturity and the cultivation of wisdom regardless of a specific doctrine. philosophy.

from which all subsequent mindfulness-based approaches arose. ever since I heard Zizek's criticism of Western Buddhism on the basis that it was collaborating with capitalism. and the recognition of wholesome and unwholesome actions. mythic & establishmentarian baloney -.com/ron-purser/beyond-mcmindfulness_b_3519289.. was certainly not a method of subduing the workforce and manipulating people into corporate obedience. hear! 3 JUL 2013 2:14 AM FAVE SHARE MORE Mirek (Miro_Cansky) 0 Fans 2 Thanks to the authors for this article which will certainly generate a lot of discussion.much in contravention or superposition of the core Tipitaka.hu!ngtonpost. Riven with Buddhalotry. Well here's news: The Buddhist Big Tent is far from pure to begin with. and the same happened with yoga and some forms of psychotherapy. Where does this assumption come from? The Buddha didn't preach revolution or even very much in the way of social reform. pro!ers of future where mindfulness is increasingly part of the popular vernacular. is an inevitable fact reflecting the state of our society. It all depends on the motivation and intention of each individual trainer. The principles of any mindfulness training stemming from the tradition of Jon Kabat-Zinn are firmly rooted in wakefulness.Ron Purser: Beyond McMindfulness 03/03/14 23:35 hear. He harmonised his movement within the monarchistic. bravery to face di"culties. And those societies where Buddhism has traditionally thrived have tended to be monarchies. shamanism. It all depends on the person delivering the training and on their ethical principles. caste-based society in which he lived. The mindfulness-based stress reduction programme developed back in the 80s. 3 JUL 2013 5:59 AM FAVE SHARE MORE 4 PEOPLE IN THE CONVERSATION Read Conversation ! ThisIsFalse 0 Fans 2 continued. compassion. more su!ering for the ordinary person than modern Western 'capitalist' http://www. 3 JUL 2013 12:14 AM FAVE SHARE MORE Bert_Lee 15 Fans You caught it.a peremptory bias is against whatever is less than pure.. Even some modicum of mindfulness in corporate America.. Oh. surely involving. as have others . God. My.. We cannot throw all 'corporate mindfulness' into the same bag. communist dictatorships or inegalitarian theocracies. a slippery slope sure to yield the Barbarians at the Gateless Gate. But *this*. I've been puzzled by the assumption that Buddhism was or ought to be anti-capitalist. of Rinzai for the Samurai .. The fact that some trainers or organisations attempt to turn mindfulness into a commodity.html Página 4 de 6 . with heaping helpings of metaphysics. kindness. this is the dawning of the dharmacalypse . Also. if anything. half-heartedly given lip service..

We were part of the process of abstraction and translation of Buddhism to a new culture which has now led to the 'new' mindfulness. unmindful practice of mindfulness that is devoid of a deeper wisdom and a universal moral basis. and to see it as inseparable from challenging institutional greed. Thank you. starting decades ago.com/ron-purser/beyond-mcmindfulness_b_3519289. ill-will. 3 JUL 2013 3:59 PM FAVE SHARE MORE 3 PEOPLE IN THE CONVERSATION Read Conversation ! brooklynamerican49 1 Fan 2 This is a terrific. Some other recommended readings: "Can Mindfulness Change a Corporation?" (David Loy). "Occupy Mindfulness" (David Forbes). which were included in Buddhism apparently back to the beginning.mx/2013/01/mindfulness-without-morality. and delusion fostered by corporate and self-serving elements. The individual and the group are both aspects of human life. Yes. In any case. etc. McMindfulness appeals particularly to people put o! by Tibetan liturgies or Zen enigmas or belief in reincarnation or the rigidity of religious hierarchy . 3 JUL 2013 2:49 PM FAVE SHARE MORE CBella 372 Fans 1 I won't bother writing what I wanted to say. is very di!erent from what is being hawked in the marketplace. timely and much needed piece. I will just agree with you.Ron Purser: Beyond McMindfulness 03/03/14 23:35 democracies. meaning preceded by right view/wise intention and a committment to ethics and non-harming. thank you both. but views as to what this reform will be is going to vary with attitude.. no? We didn't accept traditional Buddhist norms of gender inequality or sexual prohibitions against gay relationships.many of whom would otherwise not approach meditation in the first place and opens the door to a deeper exploration of Buddhism for those inclined. It is uncomfortable to watch corporate consultants selling an a diminished version of http://www. but in my view the key points are these: (1) mindfulness as part of the Eightfold Path. Nor does anything I learned about Buddhism imply that it is anti-individualistic and pro-collectivist. "Frozen Yoga and McMindfulness" (Miles Neale). we need to question the faddish.thank you! There's much more to say.hu!ngtonpost..html Página 5 de 6 .blogspot. I've commented on this at some length in this blog post: http://ca!einatedcalm. 1 JUL 2013 7:35 PM FAVE SHARE MORE kmknox 1 Fan 2 A timely and much-needed article . and (2) the most popular purveyors of "mindfulness" have no idea what it actually means.html 1 JUL 2013 11:38 PM FAVE SHARE MORE hu!tree 0 Fans 2 Initially indignant about the mining of Buddhism for technology to be packaged and sold but have relaxed about it. What wonderful replacement for capitalism is being proposed? And where in Das Kapital did the Buddha define it? People might be moved to engage with society by reforming it. many of us took what interested us and left what didn't appeal.

then it's more positive than negative. I have to say that greed and egotism was something I encountered in the Buddhist world and not just in the 'evil' corporate world. to avoid degeneration of the mindfulness approaches.Ron Purser: Beyond McMindfulness 03/03/14 23:35 what our teachers gave for free and in more depth. 3 JUL 2013 12:06 AM FAVE SHARE MORE Mirek (Miro_Cansky) 0 Fans 2 As both a Buddhist and a mindfulness trainer I have been aware that some Buddhist practitioners feel insulted and threatened. I think that we need to continually ask ourselves the questions this article raises and scrutinise our values and principles. As a Buddhist.html Página 6 de 6 . But ultimately. 3 JUL 2013 10:17 PM FAVE SHARE MORE ThisIsFalse 0 Fans Well said.com/ron-purser/beyond-mcmindfulness_b_3519289.for some . but if it's alleviating su!ering and initiating .hu!ngtonpost. but it beats the higher costs of antidepressants and anxiolytics for those ground down in the capitalist machinery. McMindfulness is a dilution of something much more profound. Perhaps they feel that it's not fair and that one must 'deserve' the privilege of teaching others. mindfulness does not belong to Buddhism any more than to any other domain of humanity. and possibly envious when they see so many non-Buddhists teaching meditation. 4 JUL 2013 11:32 AM FAVE SHARE MORE Load 10 more conversations 1-10 of 72 http://www.a deeper engagement with Buddhism.