Mindfulness & Its Critiques

Mindfulness is defined as being aware or conscious of something. These three articles explores mindfulness in different ways. In the article “The Mindfulness Revolution” by Kate Pickert, Pickert speaks about taking an eight-week MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) course. Pickert chose this course in order to alleviate stressors in her life. For her, just like countless other people, it’s hard to disconnect or take breaks from technology. The MBSR course she was in helped her become more aware of her surroundings and pushed her to be on her phone less. Other students in her class also had good experiences with altering their normal routines in order to be fully present, and they picked up on things that they usually never noticed with the different practices of meditation they put into action.

“The Mindfulness Conspiracy” by Ronald Purser discusses how big the 4 billion-dollar industry of mindfulness is. Although it is a practice that aims to maximize your well-being and mental health, many people try to profit off of it whether it be through classes, books, apps, etc. Another problem Purser finds with mindfulness being a big industry is, “We are told that if we practice mindfulness, and get our individual lives in order, we can be happy and secure. It is therefore implied that stable employment, home ownership, social mobility, career success and equality will naturally follow. We are also promised that we can gain self-mastery, controlling our minds and emotions so we can thrive and flourish amid the vagaries of capitalism.” This is known as cruel optimism.

“The Problem of Mindfulness” by Sahanika Ratnayake is about why mindfulness is such a popular practice. Ratnayake states, “… Jon Kabat-Zinn, a founding father of the contemporary mindfulness movement, claims that mindfulness ‘will not conflict with any beliefs … – religious or for that matter scientific – nor is it trying to sell you anything, especially not a belief system or ideology’. As well as relieving stress, Kabat-Zinn and his followers claim that mindfulness practices can help with alleviating physical pain, treat mental illness, boost productivity and creativity, and help us understand our ‘true’ selves. Mindfulness has become something of a one-size-fits-all response for a host of modern ills – something ideologically innocent that fits easily into anyone’s life, regardless of background, beliefs or values.” Ratnayake then goes on to explain how one needs to be more accountable of themselves– it is not enough to just identify your feelings. For her, mindfulness actually made her feel estranged from her thoughts, and she now limits herself to only meditating when she truly feels she needs it.

When reading these three articles I found it interesting how each author approached the topic of mindfulness. I also saw how similar they were like each talking about Jon Kabat-Zinn, and specifically Pickert and Ratnayake briefly spoke about the raisin exercise. I can agree with each author because I do see the negatives and the positives coming from this growing industry. Overall, I thought they were each good reads.

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