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.
What this article goes on to explain is how positive thinking – described here as ‘thriving’ – can counter the effects that come from the negativity outlined above, from reduced memory to diminished performance. Based on studying people in a series of organisations in different industries, one of the authors has found that people who attain this state are more resilient, experience less burnout, and are more confident in their ability to take control of a situation
“Behind the jargon what this is really about is how we address the challenge of biodiversity under threat, move away from fossil materials like plastic and concrete, and use nature in a sustainable way, all of which could be summed up by “living in harmony with nature”.”
“In the new ‘consensual contract’ between employer and worker, what’s required is a commitment from the employer to safeguard the wellbeing of their people, and a commitment in return from employees to take personal responsibility for their performance of their job.”
“Could loneliness not only be damaging our mental and physical health but also be making the world a more aggressive, angry place? And if so, what are the implications for a cohesive society and democracy?”
“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.”