Mindfulness and the critiques

First off, I would like to start by saying that I believe anyone practicing mindfulness should read the critiques of it. I feel like the critiques are a very important component to properly using mindfulness. In the first article “The Mindful Revolution” author Katie Pickert discusses the benefits of Mindfulness from a scientific and evidentiary place. The author discusses her experience of practicing mindfulness in her MSBR class, she explains in the end, after doing the class she did not practice meditation much, but she did learn great lessons out of it that she applied to everyday life. I believe that is an important point of meditation and mindfulness, not to stress yourself out worrying about doing the practice, rather than appreciating the lessons you learn when you do it. She said through her MSBR class she learned to take in the moment more, instead of picking up her phone every time she had the slightest bit of free time. She also spoke about how different mindfulness programs, that show evidence in helping pain patients, Marines, and busy CEOs. Using Steve Jobs as an example the article states “(Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said his meditation practice was directly responsible for his ability to concentrate and ignore distractions.)”. The majority of people know who Steve Jobs was, and using his name I find was somewhat in a name-dropping way.

Honestly, the critique articles were my favorite because they match exactly how I been feeling as I do the class meditation assignment. In the first critique article “The mindfulness conspiracy”, Robert Purser discusses what I believe to be the main critique of new age meditation and mindfulness. Yes, there is evidence that mindfulness can decrease stress levels which leads to a more focused mind. But the problem is not that we are stressed, the problem is why we are stressed. The articles speak on how capitalism creates the problem of stress and answers this issue with the capitalism of mindfulness. There are tons of books, articles, programs, apps, retreats, etc, that focus on mindfulness, most gain a profit from their teaching. Purser states ” 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”.  In the article, Purser agrees mindfulness does help, but blaming ourselves as the individual for the reasoning behind high-stress levels, deflects from the truth of the matter. A quote I feel really sums up his point is “However, mindfulness programs do not ask executives to examine how their managerial decisions and corporate policies have institutionalized greed, ill will, and delusion. Instead, the practice is being sold to executives as a way to de-stress, improve productivity and focus, and bounce back from working 80-hour weeks. They may well be “meditating”, but it works like taking an aspirin for a headache. Once the pain goes away, it is business as usual. Even if individuals become nicer people, the corporate agenda of maximizing profits does not change.” Through our meditation assignment for the class I realize yes I feel calmer in the act of deep breathing and soft music, but realities of work and assignments set in as soon as I finish, so is it pointless?

The last article presents a critique that I haven’t really heard of, but am also experiencing with meditating. “The problem of mindfulness” by Sahanika Ratnayake discuss the point of how mindfulness, promotes not thinking at all and learning to just let your thoughts pass by without thinking too deep into them. But the problem with that is you never get to the root of the issue, why are you feeling that way, why is that thought constantly popping up? I would compare it similar to when you have a virus on your laptop and ads keep popping up. Yes, you can continue time and time again to click x so the ads temporarily go away, but your screen will never be fully clear until you get to the root of the issue and rid your computer of the virus. Ratnayake says the reason why new age mindfulness has this issue is due to its lack of morality behind it. Mindfulness and meditation stem from Buddhism practices but removes the religious aspect so the practice can be used by everyone. But the problem is there is no basis for helping you identify the issue. It only creates more questions, which leaves you feeling more lost, which leads to more stress. I definitely agree with this point also because meditating more lately, has me questioning my own emotions, which kind of just makes me feel crazier rather than relaxed.

Meditation

I’m looking forward to starting this assignment so I can get back into meditating more often. Maybe a few years ago, I made it a habit to meditate as much as possible, some weeks I achieved every day, other weeks I only did it a few times a week. But the good thing was I was doing it and keeping up with it. Eventually, I lost touch with that habit, so I’m hoping this assignment brings me back into it.

The first app I looked at was the calm app because that’s the app we’ve been using in class https://www.calm.com. Before when I was looking for different apps to use, I came across the calm app before. As I took a look at it again I realize why I was not a fan. To really get the benefits of any meditation they have, you have to be subscribed. I do realize that most meditation apps have some sort of subscription involved with them, but calm just did not provide enough for non-subscribers.

The next app I took a look at was Headspace https://www.headspace.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIrs_Ki-Tu7wIVGI_ICh26igBqEAAYASAAEgI8EvD_BwE. Headspace is the app I started with in the first place when it came to meditation, so I was somewhat familiar with what the app had to offer. But since I hadn’t been on in a while I figure I should take another look. I’m glad I did because I realize that they were pretty much similar to calm if not worst, to use the majority of the courses you have to pay for a subscription. I do not remember it being so few options for non-subscribers so I’m assuming they changed the app around.

Lastly, I took a look at the app Insight Timer https://insighttimer.com. Once again I’ve been through this process before of looking for meditation apps, so I have come across Insight Timer before. But once again, I wanted to take another look. And I’m glad I did. I think before I avoided Insight Timer because I felt that their app had too much talking during the meditation. Though I like guided meditation, I’m not a fan of constant dialogue because it does not allow me to relax. But the app has so many options, I knew I was bound to find a meditation that I like for each day. So Insight Timer is the app I’m choosing. My goal is to meditate in the evenings because that is typically when I feel the most stressed with so many thoughts running through my head from the day. So about 6:00 PM is my goal for every day, and I will be doing it in my room because that’s usually where I can get the most peace with no distractions. The specific meditation I’m choosing is the “Learn How to Meditate In Seven Days meditation under the “Learning to Meditate” category”. Once those seven days are up I will do a mix of meditations from different categories such as “Self-Love”, and the “Managing stress” categories. (Those are the two categories I’m looking at but if a different one seems more fitting on that day then I might try that out.)

 

 

 

 

Reading Response #6 (The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle)

The Power Of Now speaks on the issues that overthinking can cause you, and techniques on how to stop overthinking. The book starts off similar to most books in the self-help genre, by speaking about his testimony. Tolle describes battling anxiety and depression until one day he found himself loathing so much his mind basically shuts off. He explains that the journey and complete joy he felt just listening to the silence of his mind, is what The Power of Now is and how it was discovered. Tolle says the mind likes to separate people within one entity, so as humans we separate the bad qualities of ourselves as another person when really we are all one being. The author says this is due to ego and how ego only wants to keep the past alive. So the technique to start seeing yourself as one being would be to focus on the present moment that your in and listen to what the mind is thinking without judging it.

Tolle then goes on to describe the emotional pain body which is defined as accumulated pain that is a negative energy field that occupies your body and mind. So your pain-body is just a reflection of your ego. But if you accept what the present moment brings and don’t focus so much on what was and what will be, this creates an anxiety gap.

As the chapters continue Tolle continues to drill the message that only through focusing on the now and you will allow you to reach your ultimate being or your god-like state. He explains that through portals (gateways) such as surrendering and forgiving your unconscious mind or letting go of time perception can help you achieve this conscious mind. Using practices such as taking deep breaths or meditating also can help since you are taking time for yourself and to focus on yourself. Once your able to control your mind by listening to it and not worrying about anything other than the present, that is when you reach this ultimate state and also switch back and forth from using your unconscious mind, to experience pure joy and fulfillment in your conscious, silent mind.

Pandemic Processing

1 year ago is when the whole world stopped. I didn’t know it at the time, most people didn’t, but a year later, that is the best description of what happened. March 11, 2020, was the day CUNY schools were closed and Covid 19 was officially declared a pandemic. I remember so vividly speaking to my friend in the 6th-floor lounge area at City Tech, both of us so excited that classes were canceled. Honestly, it was a rough semester for me so I understand my reaction, but little did we know what was in store from there. I went to my last class for the day and ran home in excitement, finally some time to relax. The next day I woke up, what would I do with my new free time? Maybe I should get a gym membership? Maybe I should get a job? Wait I can’t do that, there’s a virus going around. I shrugged this will all be over in a month or two anyway, let me just relax. The cases just kept increasing, listening and reading about what Italy, in particular, was going through, it was devastating. It was all anyone could talk about. Any conversation that was had, was about the virus. This virus, that was supposed to be gone in a month or two. Everyone quickly realized that was not going to be the case. NYC cases drastically increased day by day week by week even though lockdown, NYC became a hotspot. It was surreal. I remember the heat from the spring brought issues. Everyone was filled with cabin fever.

 

 

 I specifically remember the first warm day of the spring seeing this picture on my timeline. How could people be so selfish? NYC was struggling terribly, thousands dying, and here people are congregating because of “cabin fever”. What really left a mark on me was the stories of medical workers. The horror they experienced, the exhaustion, I really couldn’t fathom this is what the world turned into. I remember hearing about a story of NYC funeral home that ran out of space and started stashing deceased bodies in a unrefrigerated U-Haul truck. I find it unbelievable how the pandemic lead to people doing unspeakable things. And to believe there was naysayers. I remember seeing on my social media comments such as “why is everyone taking this so serious” “ masks are so annoying and unnecessary” “this whole pandemic is fake”. As if the million of deaths meant nothing, and it was just a tale. So not only was the stresses and heartbreak of the pandemic impacting me, so was the stresses and heart break. Before the start of the Pandemic the killing of Ahmaud Arbery had already taken place, another black man who lost his life simply for his skin color. But the case of George Floyd added more fuel to the fire of injustice, enough was enough. Tons of protest, social media flooded with #BlackLivesMatter, it was all overwhelming, but necessary. In the midst of a pandemic, when the world couldn’t be more divided, Black people, and other allies, came together and said no more (while still wearing their masks). As I reflect a year later, I realize that’s exactly what this past year was. A reflection of the poor disease control standards that our country had, beyond that, the poor standards for multiple countries. This past year reflected both an impressive amount of compassion but also a disgusting amount of the lack of. The support and communities I seen come together on social media was beautiful, it reminded me that there was still hope in the world. But the hate that was spewed, the racism, the prejudiced, reminded me of how far us as a society had to go. This past year showed me a reflection of myself. What actually matter to me, once the life I always knew was taken away. I learned that I had a lot to learn. I knew nothing and the pandemic has taught me so much on so many topics. I like to think I came out of this pandemic a better person, but I won’t know until we’re out of it. I tried to reflect the best I could in this post but honestly even with all the hope from the vaccine, I’m really over talking about the pandemic. I’m burnt out from reflecting, from talking, I want to just do, I want to live life. But we’re not there yet and I understand that. Hopefully with so many having access to get the vaccine this is the beginning of the end.

Class Notes (3/16)

Announcements

  • Pandemic Processing blog post due Thursday (3/18)
  • Read the entire book “The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle” (Be sure to have the physical copy of the book). Blog post + Annotations will be due Next Tuesday (3/23)

Definitions

The practice of writing = Journaling

Embodied- To sit/ feel within your body

Transmission of affect (emotional contagion)- A belief that we can “catch” each other’s emotions

We worked on a free writing loop with two prompts, these prompts were…

  1. How are you feeling right now?
  2. Intentionally call to mind something that gives you a “negative” feeling. Visualize the situation, allow yourself to feel the emotions, then write about it.

We then discussed some responses to these prompts and some of the responses were…

  • Fear of presenting for a class assignment
  • To have a positive day try making it a choice to think positively instead of focusing on the negatives
  • The stress that comes with balancing a heavy workload for school, and working at the same time.

We ended class by practicing a daily meditation through the Calm app

* Share your reflection on the experience of meditating in the comments under this post. https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/belli-sp2021-eng3402/2021/03/16/class-discussion-meditation-reflection/

Self Care

What is self-care? Well self-care to me is doing anything that will put me in a relaxed, happy state. As a kid, I saw my mother taking care of herself by doing vanity things such as doing her nails done or giving herself facials. So I saw that as self-care. But a past experience I had a few years ago taught me that self-care was so much more than vanity practices. It goes so much deeper and definitely starts with taking care of your mind. Doing things that make you happy from within, things that don’t feel forced. So though I may pamper myself by putting on a mask, or painting my nails here and there, when I’m feeling in need of some extra care that is not where I start. So over the weekend, some self-care-related things I did were put on my current favorite show (Law and Order SVU), make a hot cup of tea, and simply sat there and enjoyed binging some episodes. Another thing I did was restart one of my favorite book series from when I was in middle school, it takes me back to a simpler time and helps ease any stress I’m feeling so I been enjoying doing that.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Right from the beginning of the book I notice it starts with many testimonies, and a few of the people that stood out to me were Michael Phelps the Olympic swimmer, and a COO from Microsoft. This establishes credibility instantly because as a reader I recognize these are successful people and if the book helped them, maybe it can help me. I believe The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey has aspects of both of our previous books The Secret and Self Help. I say this because though it has some aspects that is similar to The Secret such as if you really want something you have to believe in it in order to obtain it But Covey does not promote just thinking of something and eventually it will come true. This is where the book draws its similarity too Samuel Smiles Self- Help. Covey preaches that in life you must live by these natural laws and put in the work from the “inside out”. He focuses on the point of changing your mindset or your paradigm before you change your outwardly appearance. He wants those that read his book to work hard to first change their perspective and eventually lead them to the goal of becoming proactive people who aren’t wavered by whatever life throws at you. So he does mention believing in what you want and watching the negative language you use when speaking about things. But he doesn’t promote those things being changed by just thought. Only through hard work can your perception change and eventually yourself.

Reading Response #2 Self Help by Samuel Smiles

Self Help by Samuel Smiles, while confusing I think told a pretty clear message. I believe similar to The Secret by Rhonda Byrne the book quickly becomes extremely repetitive, but it does not promote harmful views like The Secret. I found the introduction interesting, because I love a good origin story (and this book gave me more than enough origin stories). The story of the men that came together solely for the purpose of becoming better educated and a better person in general is inspiring. Throughout the book the author tells many stories of how these great names that are established in history became so great. And majority of these great people did not come from a special family name, or wealth. Nor did these historical figures consider their selves exceptional. But one thing the all had in common was how hard they worked for the things they wanted to achieve. And that is the main point that the author is trying to get across. Through slow diligence, and perseverance you can achieve the highest accomplishments. Smiles also writes about how valuable life lessons and true changes to mankind can only be done through hard work. For my extra chapter I read chapter 7 which is called Industry and Peerage. I really loved the story about John Scott (Lord Eldon). Working his way up from being a poor newly eloped man to working on the parliament, it is clear his hard work paid off. In conclusion I think this book could be interesting to read once in a while, just to hear the inspiring stories of great historical figures. But the language is difficult and lengthy and I feel like the main point is understood from the first few pages.

 

The Secret

After reading sections of The Secret I have some questions? The book starts with the main author Rhonda Byrne, explaining her testimony. She explained how a death of a loved one eventually lead her to find this “Secret”. Then further in, the  book starts to list off these big names in history such as Beethoven and Einstein, claiming that they were successful because they had the secret. I believe the author unfairly uses these names for credibility, and since most people know that Einstein was an extremely successful scientist, it is used as a first step in getting people to take interest into what this almighty secret is. The “secret” ends us just being Law of Attraction and is explained as any thought in your head that you believe in, and feel the emotions connected to that thought the universe will bring you. It’s basically the old saying of karma and that whatever you put into the universe comes back to you. I loved the concept of the book and that is the focus on the Law of Attraction. I think the Law of Attraction could be a very beneficial tool to use to make the world kinder. But with that being said I think this book simplify serious issues that happens within life, and they blame it on the thoughts that the person had put into the universe. The chapter I read was The secret to the World, and the point that was made was that all the issues that the world face such as crime, political issues etc, is “simply” because that’s what the world promotes and is talking about. One person gives their testimony on how they no longer read/ watch the news because of all the bad news that is talked about. They explain that The Secret to the World is to only focus and to put energy into the good. Though none of these statements are inherently bad or even wrong I just feel it is way too simple for the complications of life. Does Law of Attraction play a part, possibly, but is it all you need to be the most successful person, I’m filled with doubt for that one.

Class Notes (2/4/2021)

2/9/2021- Crystal Pichardo

2/11/2021- David Vizcaino

2/16/2021- Courtney Lagrange 

2/18/2021- Robby Deleon

2/23/2021- Maria Gavino

2/25/2021- Reem Saleh

Crowd Sourcing-  the practice of obtaining information or input into a task or project by enlisting the services of a large number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the internet. (Definition is from google)

“Self help is a genre of books that has gotten a bad rep in the literature community because they see it as a quack”. 

Quack-  A sham

Low Brow-  Derogatory/ pejorative (insulting) not high cultured, no class.

The goal for the semester is too decipher between whether these books are a sham or helpful. We will read books, watch videos, movies, and use apps to learn about the genre, we also will be practicing some of the habits.

Polarizing-  to cause something, especially something that contains different people or opinions, to divide into two completely opposing groups. (Definition from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/polarizing.

*Self help is very polarizing because either people love it and feed into it or hate it and  believe that there is bigger issues to focus on.

*Self help is an extremely profitable industry, and is embedded and capitalism.

Capitalism-  an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.

Commodity –  Something that can exchange for equal value.

*Self help is a commodity. What is sold is if you use these self help techniques you in return became a “better person” who does “good things” that further benefits society. 

*Self help can cause a lot of skepticism because a lot of people are in it for the money and they can diminish the intensity of an intense issue. (Ex. Simplifying chronic health issues down to just meditating )

Elide- To leave something out or to gloss over it.

Rhetoric- How something presented.

Homework due Next Week (2/9/2021)

Read the beginning of The Secret up to the chapter powerful processes and read at least one extra chapter. (Be sure to annotate as you read.) Then respond with a blog post on open lab, this will be due at the start of next class.