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The PBG and the False Promise of Mindfulness

The PBG and The False Promise of Mindfulness â Buddhist Peace Fellowship / Turning Wheel Media

A Marxist analysis of the growing popularity of mindfulness in the corporate world.

Stashed in: Meditate, @dalailama, Mindfulness, Mindfulness, Marxism

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Any entry point into a sincere meditation practice is wonderful, indeed it is priceless, and any mental or physical suffering that is alleviated therefrom is extremely valuable. I know many people whose starting place in meditation practice was a world away from where they ended up in their quest for “stress-reduction”. On the other hand, I was relieved to hear about the new systematic review and meta-analysis: “Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being.” The study surveyed 47 different studies on the efficacy of meditation practice on a variety of mental phenomena. It showed “modest” or no evidence of improved anxiety, depression, pain, mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, and weight among the 3515 participants. It also found “no evidence that meditation programs were better than any active treatment (ie, drugs, exercise, and other behavioral therapies).” As more and more people make more and more money from the mindfulness movement, it probably won’t matter much what future research proves. Most likely is that we begin the absolute bourgeoisificationof mindfulness where the owning class and the bourgeois state try to use it as a tool for the reification of class dominance and imperialism.

If this sounds over-dramatic, consider another recent essay, “The Militarization of Mindfulness,” which highlighted a $4.3 million grant the U.S. Army and Department of Defense has provided University of Miami researchers for a so-called “Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training” for pre-deployment soldiers as well as $31 million for a “positive psychology” program that will include mindfulness education for 1.1 million soldiers. The Dalai Lama himself gave his approval of the program. I can only imagine that His Holiness has such profound faith in revolutionary nature of mindfulness that he is unconcerned with the utterly dubious ethics associated with training soldiers to be more mindful killers. If so, he is obviously taking the longest of long views.

The Dalai Lama has been known to take very long views.

My shingles eventually went away on its own and my eye seems to have made it through the turmoil unscathed. I’m not sure my meditation practice helped at all but thanks to mindfulness, I had truly accepted the possibility of my loss of vision in a way that I never would have otherwise been able to do. It teaches me every moment about the undependability of things and this has powerfully developed my heart toward a natural response of peace and compassion in the face of suffering. Part of me longs for the day when a study proves, once and for all, that mindfulness is entirely useless for anything beside the development of wisdom and kindness. If it can’t make us beautiful or successful, if it won’t heal the world, if it won’t help us lose weight or win the game, maybe it will get tossed aside by the big money-makers and those seeking to affirm, achieve, and fortify the bourgeois relations of production through contemporary spirituality. Then, those who are interested in liberating their minds from the forces of greed, hatred, and delusion can get back to work without feeling like they are missing the boat on the “mindfulness revolution” just because their lives aren’t magically and blissfully transformed through meditation. Until then, it would be good, at the very least,  if people didn’t go around thinking that it all started in Silicon Valley.

Many people love the Dalai Lama but few are inclined to seriously take on the radical struggle against greed, hatred, and delusion themselves. They are seduced by the notion that mindfulness will help them achieve higher worldly aspirations by increasing their mental capacity or by softening the emotional edges of capitalist alienation. Mindfulness appears to be that secret ingredient that promises to smooth over life’s rough patches and give us the winning edge in whatever game we are playing. With a little meditation in the morning we will be more successful parents, athletes, investors, students, soldiers, activists, prisoners, wardens, guards, and executioners. But just as Marx did not call for harmony between classes as a response to the antagonisms at the root of bourgeois society, the Buddha did not call for a smoothing out of the rough edges of suffering or a negotiated peace with greed, hatred, and ignorance. He called for their complete usurpation, abolition, and annihilation by the forces of love and wisdom. He posited mindfulness as one essential tool for a process of disenchantment that illuminates the profoundly unstable, undependable, and disappointing nature of everything in existence: a revolutionary rather than reformist approach.

What I hear:

Mindfulness is not a tool for getting more. It is a framework for making more careful choices.

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