People’s Choice #7: Mindfulness and Its Critiques

For this week’s People’s Choice, you’ll be reading class blogs on Mindfulness & Its Critiques and choosing your favorite post.

Comment here to register your vote, & don’t forget to include the name of your classmate, the link to their post, and your rationale for choosing it. Due Thursday, 4/15 by 9am. Happy reading/voting

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 Self-Help Critiques

When someone says mindfulness most of us automatically think of organizing endless thoughts we have throughout the day. In the three articles assigned they have similar yet different views on what mindfulness entails. Ranging from being in the now, a means for survival, and simplicity.  The question is can mindfulness keep the promise mainstream would like us to believe without loosing our self-understanding.

“The Mindfulness Conspiracy” by Ronald Purser goes on to talk about the promise mindfulness offers through a profit of about four billion. She goes on to explain the mainstream purchasing books, magazines, and other types of forms to just just dismiss our civil responsibility. How do we balance ourselves. “We are repeatedly sold the same message: that individual action is the only real way to solve social problems, so we should take responsibility.”(Purser) In this article she goes over a lot of valid points we can possibly neglect by buying into what society considers mindfulness.

 “The problem of mindfulness,” by Sahanika Ratnayake perspective is rooted through Buddhism which I found very interesting as I am a believer of a lot of their teachings. The comparison of western views compared to her own beliefs show how the common person can loose self care in mindfulness.  “With its promises of assisting everyone with anything and everything, the mistake of the mindfulness movement is to present its impersonal mode of awareness as a superior or universally useful one.”(Ratnayake) As I started meditation with the class and doing the assignments I can relate to her views on one size or spectrum does not fit all and could be used at your discretion. In this we are able to be aware of what is right for us as an individual in an industry that says one size fits all. 

“The Mindful Revolution” by Kate Pickert  take a simplicity approach to mindfulness as making our bodies and mind the key elements. It is our well being that is the main focal point that has to be in order. MBSR ( mindfulness based stress reduction) was the tool she used from being in a course and was able to get good results as have some of her classmates.  “I’m eating a raisin. But for the first time in my life, I’m doing it differently.”(Pichert) With the techniques learned about being in the moment something as simple as eating was a renewed experience and actually intrigues me to try the experiment she went through with the raisin. 

Over all the articles were very insightful. I would lean more towards Ratnayake because some of our views are similar without forgetting about ourselves. Mindfulness for me can not replace all modern medicine as suggested in some articles and has to be taken into consideration with people who do have sever to moderate conditions.      

 

 

3 authors on Mindfulness

Humans have so many thoughts inundating their minds and apparently if thoughts are not canalized correctly. They can cause suffering. Because those thought are usually keeping us either in the past or in the future but rarely in the present.

It is impressive how humans even if being in the present their thoughts can take them to other places, like when we are “listening to” the person in front of us, but our minds are somewhere else.

According to Pickert, resisting to keep in touch with the external world is not easy because after all our devices allow us to do many things, be in different places and multitask.

Purser says that the mindfulness programs, that are being sold out there, are nothing more than basic concentration training. They are missing the teachings on ethics and the ability to enact compassion for all other beings.  I think Purser means that the meditation products being sold nowadays are just a tool of self-discipline. Moreover, I fully agree with him on the fact that “Reducing stress is a noble aim but teachers of mindfulness need to acknowledge that personal stress also has societal causes, by failing to address collectively suffering they are reducing  meditation to a banal technique that keeps people focused only on themselves.

It is interesting how “reductions in stress and increases in personal happiness and wellbeing is much easier to sell than serious questions about injustice, inequity and environmental devastation, etc.” (Purser 2019).

Perhaps mindful is overrated as mentioned by author Purser, after all anything that has in the title the word “mindful” seems to sell faster automatically.

Author Ratnayake points out that the version of meditation offered in apps is like a watered version of meditation and that we err in presenting mindfulness as the cure for the modern ills.

Ratnayake and Purser seems to concur on the opinion that meditation does not allow one to take responsibility for one’s feelings promoting then a self-centered well-being disregarding everything else happening around. For this or other reasons Ratnayake says that she practices mindfulness occasionally rather than a regular practice.

 

 

 

Mindfullness

After reading these three articles, they are quite similar but also quite different.
“The Mindfulness Conspiracy”, Ronald Purser talks about social theory and transformation and change. He says in our modern day mindfulness, what it does for us. Clears our mental state which helps us think and be better. All of these practices comes back to the spiritual philosophies when he thinks about Buddhism and Yoga. Mindfulness in its form helps with the idea of Capitalism. He says our situation we are living in is exhausting in other words. It is killing everything around us slowly. Making our mental state and judgment compromised in other words.
In the article “The Problem of Mindfulness” Sahanika Ratnayake. With her having her masters in Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, she says mindfulness was very much in the air. Being raised as a Buddhist in two places, she has a long history with meditation although it has a-lot to do with her and cultural Catholics. At the university she learned psychotherapy to cope with her stress. She later found herself attached to schools or approaches marked by buddhist philosophy and meditation one of which was mindfulness. She was able to escape free and relaxed and able to step away from her feelings. Something about the mindfulness practice left her cultivated and encouraged and engaged with her emotions which turned out to making her feel free and estranged from life.
In the article “The mindfulness Revolution”,Kate picked talked about mindfulness and different techniques that associated with philosophy. Meditation is considered an essential meaning of achieving mindfulness which can simply be achieving your full attention of what you are doing.”One can work mindfully, parent mindfully and learn mindfully. One can exercise and even eat mindfully”. I guess she is trying to say, it is two different levels of doing someone when you are in the present vs when you are in the not pass but when your mind if not present. She also gives different examples of what mindfulness can be classified as. ” Engineers who write code often talk about being in the zone, the same way a successful athlete can be , which mindfulness teachers say is the epitome of being in the past and paying attention”. In other words of something I mentioned earlier.

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.

Mindfulness: Self-Help Critiques

In this reading response #8 blog, we were asked to read three articles. Firstly, I would like to say that I found these three articles to be very interesting and intriguing. They all talked about one’s mind, which relates to the meditation assignment that we are currently working on for two weeks. When I look at the word mindfulness, I think it means to focus on your mind being balance with the right amount of everything that is going on in your life. I also think that mindfulness is having complete control with your own mind to where no one or thing can dispute or destroy your process.

The first article I read was called, “The Mindful Revolution,” by Kate Pickert. It was posted on The TIME magazine official website on January 23rd, 2014 at 4:13pm EST. This article talked about different exercises that companies did to get the prefect mindfulness. As stated by Pickert, “Mindfulness says we can do better. At one level, the techniques associated with the philosophy are intended to help practitioners quiet a busy mind, becoming more aware of the present moment and less caught up in what happened earlier or what is to come. Many cognitive therapists commend it to patients as a way to help cope with anxiety and depression. More broadly, it’s seen as a means to deal with stress.” This defines the article’s definition of mindfulness. She also stated, “Though meditation is considered an essential means to achieving mindfulness, the ultimate goal is simply to give your attention fully to what you’re doing. One can work mindfully, parent mindfully and learn mindfully. One can exercise and even eat mindfully.” As I stated in my first paragraph, mindfulness is connected to meditation. The article also mentioned the meditation app call Headspace, that I am using for my meditation assignment.

The second article I read was called, “The mindfulness conspiracy,” by Ronald Purser. It was posted on The Guardian magazine official website on Friday 14th of June 2019 at 1:00pm EDT. This article mentions parts of the first article, “The Mindful Revolution,” by Kate Pickert. Purser states, “So, what exactly is this magic panacea? In 2014, Time magazine put a youthful blonde woman on its cover, blissing out above the words: “The Mindful Revolution.” The accompanying feature described a signature scene from the standardized course teaching MBSR: eating a raisin very slowly. “The ability to focus for a few minutes on a single raisin isn’t silly if the skills it requires are the keys to surviving and succeeding in the 21st century,” the author explained.” This shows that he was critiquing the article. Purser also states, “Mindfulness is nothing more than basic concentration training. Although derived from Buddhism, it has been stripped of the teachings on ethics that accompanied it, as well as the liberating aim of dissolving attachment to a false sense of self while enacting compassion for all other beings.” I some what disagree with him because I think he was displaying it in more of a negative way.

The third article I read was called, “The problem of mindfulness,” by Sahanika Ratnayake. It was posted on the Aeon website on 25th of July 2019. As stated by Ratnayake, “Mindfulness promotes itself as value-neutral, but it is loaded with (troubling) assumptions about the self and the cosmos.” Sahanika Ratnayake is a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Cambridge. Her PhD project concerns the history and philosophy of contemporary psychotherapy. What I admire from this article was how she was able to gain a wonderful experience from said university she attended, along with changing things in her life due to difficulties. “At the end of the Cambridge study, I found myself to be calmer, more relaxed and better able to step away from any overwhelming feelings. My experience was mirrored in the research findings, which concluded that regular mindfulness meditation reduces stress levels and builds resilience.”

Self Help Critiques (Mindfulness)

Mindfulness is a concept I have heard of several times as well as a common theme throughout our study of Self Help Literature. Mindfulness seems like a concept that can be usefully applied and used but also through the readings of self help texts and this weeks article reading, I can tell it can also be a loaded concept with many people goal is to profit off of it. I really like how all three articles addressed all the positive of the mindfulness concept but also addressed all the inflation and corruption within the concept of mindfulness and the self help industry. It is intriguing at first glance how each of the titles of the articles are controversial, “The Mindful Revolution”, “The Mindful Conspiracy”, and “The Problem of Mindfulness”.

“The Mindful Revolution” by Kate Pickert had a more positive learning approach to mindfulness. Kate Pickert takes us through a timeline of progress and realization of the concept of mindfulness. On her journey Pickert mentions how adapting to mindfulness is fully grasping the concept and allowing yourself to almost rewire your brain. This is such a revolution because so many in our day and age are not comfortable with internal change which is ironic because our world is changing with technology and advancements every single day. It seems as the world gets more and more advanced our internal selves retract and we almost have become like robots that aren’t in tune with what is around us.  Through Pickert’s learning of mindfulness she came out with new additions to her daily life. She is now more aware of digital time and has taken approaches to limit her time digitally and embrace what is around her. This article was definitely the least controversial of the three articles.

“The Mindful Conspiracy” by Ronald Purser was definitely my favorite out of the three articles. I likes how Purser addressed the controversy within the Self help community as well as with the mindfulness concept. He addresses that mindfulness within itself isn’t a bad concept it the people who have taken this concept and inflated it to fulfill their pockets. He mentions many famous figures who have partake in the self help industry. Purser gives a more realistic approach to mindfulness and address the concept without all the “fluff” that many self help texts and individuals use. I really liked how he concluded his article he says “Mindfulness isn’t cruel in and of itself. It’s only cruel when fetishised and attached to inflated promises. It is then, as Berlant points out, that “the object that draws your attachment actively impedes the aim that brought you to it initially”. The cruelty lies in supporting the status quo while using the language of transformation. This is how neoliberal mindfulness promotes an individualistic vision of human flourishing, enticing us to accept things as they are, mindfully enduring the ravages of capitalism.”

“The Problem of Mindfulness” by Sahanika Ratnayake gives us and insight from an insider almost. Sahanika Ratnayake was raised as a Buddhist, many self help concepts stem form Buddhism and mindfulness also has roots that come from Buddhism. Ratnayake take us through her studies of Western beliefs compared to Buddhism. Buddhist takes on self care and mindfulness and the western adaptation dont always match up. Ratnayake takes a depper look. into the concept of mindfulness are interrogates its true usefulness. She comes to find that to her mindfulness has limits and can not be used in every single situation. “The contrasting tendency in mindfulness to bracket context not only cramps self-understanding. It also renders our mental challenges dangerously apolitical. In spite of a growing literature probing the root causes of mental-health issues, policymakers tend to rely on low-cost, supposedly all-encompassing solutions for a broad base of clients. The focus tends to be solely on the contents of an individual’s mind and the alleviation of their distress, rather than on interrogating the deeper socioeconomic and political conditions that give rise to the distress in the first place.” I really like this part of the article because she really dives deeps within the flaws of mindfulness and concludes that it isn’t the solution for everything and it puts people within a bracket where as many people come from different backgrounds.

Ratanyake concludes in a gracious way while still being real. She says “I still dabble in mindfulness, but these days I tend to draw on it sparingly. I might do a mindfulness meditation when I’ve had a difficult day at work, or if I’m having trouble sleeping, rather than keeping up a regular practice. With its promises of assisting everyone with anything and everything, the mistake of the mindfulness movement is to present its impersonal mode of awareness as a superior or universally useful one. Its roots in the Buddhist doctrine of anattā mean that it sidelines a certain kind of deep, deliberative reflection that’s required for unpicking which of our thoughts and emotions are reflective of ourselves, which are responses to the environment, and – the most difficult question of all – what we should be doing about it.”

I totally agree with her, mindfulness should be used in situations where it help aid in a solution but it can be prescribed as the only solution. Many people have different backgrounds, health issues, and lives that one concept cant be a solution for the masses.

All in all I enjoyed reading a different side to Self Help texts. When reading different self help texts many thoughts and criticisms so its nice seeing responses to the Self Help Industry.

Ok The power of now by Eckhart Tolle was the most interesting self help book I’ve ever read. I was reading classmates responses to this book and someone said this book was like a bible. I agree with that person because in the beginning Tolle mentions god a lot and also by the title “The Power of Now, A guide to spiritual Enlightenment”. In the introduction of this book Tolle explains his experiences that leads to how he wrote this book. He also talks about his past experience with continuous anxiety of suicidal depression. A quote he says catches my eyes. He says,” I heard the words “revisit nothing” as if spoken inside my chest. I could feel myself being sucked into a void”. This quote shows that he simply feels ‘nothing’. He is empty and mindless to everything around him. I can connect to this quote because sometimes I feel a empty void. When my grandmother passed I felt a empty void, like something was missing. It was like a big gap missing from my life that needed to be filled in.
In chapter one the author is saying it that if you allow your ego to take over then you will have more pain. Two quotes caught my attention because I can really relate to them. One quote is when he said,”You are unconsciously identified with it, so you don’t even know that you are it’s slave. It’s almost as if you were possessed without knowing it, and so you take the possessing entity to be yourself(Tolle,4)”. In this quote Tolle is saying that our minds got its mind of its own. Our heads are like machines who control how we behave or move. I can connect to this quote because I feel my mind is possessed sometimes. I overthink about so many different things, I even ask myself the ”what if’s?”. In class we have been meditating and that’s been helping me cope with my stress and it’s been working for me. It relaxes my brain and relieves my stress. It also clears my thoughts and I enjoy it. Another quote that interested me was when Tolle says, “You have probably come across “mad” people in the street incessantly talking or muttering to themselves. Well, that’s not much different from what you and all other “normal” people do, except that you don’t do it out loud(Tolle,17)”. In this quote Tolle is saying that people who aren’t normal talks to themselves out loud as if someone was there responding to them. But they think someone is there because they be having a whole conversation. Unlike abnormal people, us normal people just has this voice in our head that’s telling us what to do and what not to do. Sometimes when someone is talking to me my mind is saying “leave” a bunch a times like a broken record. Tolle says that we need to start listening to the voice in our head as often as we can. I feel if we do that certain things won’t turn out good because as I said before we have a mind of our own.

In chapter two Tolle introduces the concept of the emotional Pain-Body. Tolle says, “ As long as you are unable to access the power of the Now, every emotional pain you experience leaves behind a residue of pain that lives on in you. It merged with the pain from the past, which was already there, and becomes lodged in your mind and body.(Tolle,36)”.When Tolle says this he means that emotional scars we carry truly are negative energy created by our ego. I have experienced emotional aspects in my past and I can never forget about it. It’s like it’s stuck in my head forever and it can’t go away. We have to be aware of our emotional pain, while also being a watcher. If we can do that without identifying pain then we can be free. 

 

People’s Choice #6: The Power of Now

For this week’s People’s Choice, you’ll be reading one another’s blogs on the The Power of Now and choosing your favorite post. Comment here to register your vote, & don’t forget to include the name of your classmate, the link to their post, and your rationale for choosing it. Due Thursday, 3/25 by 9am. Happy reading/voting 🙂