Mindfulness is a capitalist grift: How faux enlightenment maintains our status quo

wildmind meditation newsKali Holloway, Salon: I stumbled across mindfulness, the meditation practice now favored by titans of tech, sensitive C-suiters, new media gurus and celebrities, without even really knowing it.

A couple of years ago, I was deeply mired in an insane schedule that involved almost everything (compulsive list-making at 4am, vacations mostly spent working, lots of being “on”) except for one desperately missed item (sleep; pretty much just sleep). A friend suggested I download Headspace, a meditation app he swore would calm the thoughts buzzing incessantly in my head, relax my anxious energy and help me be more present. I took his advice, noting the app’s first 10 trial sessions — to be done at the same time over 10 consecutive days — were free. When I found the time to do it, it was, at best, incredibly relaxing; at worst, it barely made a dent in my frazzled synapses. When I didn’t find the time (because again, schedule), the effort to somehow make time became its own source of stress. In the end, I got an equally hectic yet far more satisfying career, took up running and forgot Headspace existed.

That is, until the term “mindfulness” reached a tipping point of near ubiquity. As it turned out, what I’d regarded as just a digitized form of guided meditation was actually a “mindfulness technique,” part of a bigger, buzzy, Buddhism-derived movement toward some version of corporate enlightenment. As long ago as 2012 …

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Kali (he/she?) states in that article that meditation is now dubbed mindfulness. I have seen this erroneous perception from others too.
    I am a novice at Mindfulness, but if I have understood the concept right, then Mindfulness is a state of mind, which can be reached by using meditation as a tool.
    Bodhipaksa, might it be an idea for you to write up a post about this?

    Reply
    • The term “mindfulness” has to a large extent now become shorthand for “the Dharma,” Peter. Secular teachers need/want to avoid mentioning Buddhism too much, but mindfulness in isolation is simply not enough on which to base a practice. So they integrate lovingkindness, ethics, and even insight under the name “mindfulness.”

      I’m not sure this is something I want to write an article about. I think there are people better suited to do that.

      Reply
  • Bodhipaksa, with all respect due to a person of your standing, I don’t think you answered my question.
    My point is that meditation and mindfulness are often used interchangeably, which, as I understand the 2, is wrong.
    Meditation is a tool, Mindfulness is a state of mind, if I am not mistaken.
    Perhaps it is not worth a full article, but might be worth pointing out in one of your posts
    Please note that I do not intend to tell you what to write. So if you decide this is just to small of an issue, or even a non-issue, and therefore not write about it, I understand.

    Reply
    • Hi, Peter.

      Sorry for the misunderstanding. You wrote “My point is that meditation and mindfulness are often used interchangeably,” and my response was intended to convey that not only is that the case, but mindfulness is now being used interchangeably with “dharma.” I don’t think this is an insignificant phenomenon, but I’m just not at the moment interested in writing about it.

      Reply

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