The mindfulness conspiracy, The Guardian, 14 June 2019, Ronald Purser
Happiness Is Not Just Inside Our Heads
“Most people spend part of every day surrounded by strangers, whether on their daily commute, sitting in a park or cafe, or visiting the supermarket.
Yet many of us remain in self-imposed isolation, believing that reaching out to a stranger would make you both feel uncomfortable.
These beliefs may be unwarranted. In fact, our research suggests we may often underestimate the positive impact of connecting with others for both our own and others’ wellbeing.”
Through the WI Lens
Mindfulness seems to promise revolution, but in reality does it offer only acceptance of things as they are – including the injustice and unhealthy conditions which many people suffer?. That’s the central pretext of this polemic, which focuses especially on the works of Jon Kabat-Zinn, described as the “master of modern mindfulness”. It is a creed that preaches ‘non-judgmental awareness’ and at heart believes social good and ethical behaviour arise naturally from a process of self-discovery, rather than through any form of political engagement; and offers therapy to the individual rather than to society.
Why is this important? Surely it is only a matter of time before those whose personal wellbeing is afflicted by issues like debt, unhealthy working practices and environmental devastation begin to look for a form of mindfulness that is more cognizant of injustice. And mindfulness offerings that give succour to those who practice unethical capitalism may face their own backlash from activists. There’s an opportunity to develop forms of mindfulness that are not only focused internally but provide energy that can be harnessed to face what’s wrong in the world outside.
Too lofty a vision? Tell us what you think.
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”
“All roads lead to a wellbeing anchor, whether that be economic/financial, physical, mental or emotional: all contribute to a progressive and inclusive cosmopolitan world. The answer should not be a choice of one or the other but of a joined up and compassionate solution for society, business and individuals.”
“The paradox is that we continue to do this in spite of recognising that striving to become ever-more productive is an intrinsically unhealthy behaviour, leading to stress and too often, a sense of failure.”
“The same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among black Americans with Covid-19,” Maimuna Majumder, a Harvard epidemiologist working on the Covid-19 response, tells Vox.
The take-out from this? Wellbeing cannot exist at a more elevated level without our basic needs being met.