I read this book for I knew it would most likely offer the opposing sides view. This book is mostly meant to debunk the effectiveness of mindfulness, or explain how it is ineffective in a society that is not meant to benefit you.
The Mindfulness Revolution
In recent years, mindfulness has become more mainstream, many celebrities such as Oprah, Goldie Hawn and Ruby Wax have all endorsed it. Many of the founders of the mindfulness movement believe in a future where there is discipline combining science and mediation.
It has also been believed that this mindfulness movement is not so revolutionary.
the main concern is not what mindfulness does, but what it doesn’t do. Purser’s estimation is that much of people’s suffering is not caused by how they manage stress internally, but rather by hardships and inequalities they are faced with in a capitalist society. To Purser, mindfulness courses are advertised as a meaningful and sustainable way to reduce your stress, but as long as the social and economic causes of stress are ignored, there is no true way to have that satisfaction.
“Reducing suffering is a noble aim and it should be encouraged. But to do this effectively, teachers of mindfulness need to acknowledge that personal stress also has societal causes. By failing to address collective suffering, and systemic change that might remove it, they rob mindfulness of its real revolutionary potential, reducing it to something banal that keeps people focused on themselves.”
Purser, Ronald. McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality. Repeater, 2019. p 30
This is a strong indication that mindfulness practices have been beneficial to many people. To better understand it, we need to look at Purser’s argument from a few different angles. The biggest quesion Purser is asking is What do we know about the causes of people’s stress and illness, and what mindfulness does and does not address?
One of the largest thing mindfulness is good for is focusing on one’s own individual behavior. Mindfulness can help people to come off “autopilot” and by doing so, they begin to pay closer attention to their habits and actions.Consequently, people aren’t as impulsive and make better decisions in how they care for themselves. In fact, mindfulness has been applied quite effectively to help people quit smoking and improve their eating habits
But besides enabling habit change, mindfulness also has a direct effect on health and well-being. Mindfulness practice helps to bring the body back into physiological balance by reducing the heart rate and blood pressure. It also helps people to become more aware of their emotions, and to manage them more skillfully, in a way that also reduces stress.
“Despite the apparent sincerity of his intentions, Jon Kabat-Zinn does something similar. Having secularized mindfulness to help patients face chronic pain, he sells it as a global panacea. We are simply told to focus on the present, ignoring the long-term effects of our behavior. Abstaining from being “judgmental,” we are invited to abandon ethical discernment. Just like Trump, the mindfulness movement promotes moral ambiguity to help us feel better. Both reflect the triumph of narcissism in American culture.”
Purser, Ronald. McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality. Repeater, 2019. p 75
Purser would be harried to find an area where Jon Kabat-Zinn asks people to abandon ethical judgement. While there may be a bigger point the author is attempting to make amidst all of his mischaracterization. Given the countless benefits that Jon Kabat-Zinn and his programs have brought for so many people, it is evident that mindfulness is not something to be tossed aside. In addition, the teachings of mindfulness aren’t perfect, and no one claims that practicing mindfulness is a panacea, but it can work. Mindfulness offers so much to so many, it offers relief from stress and pain, and a powerful set of skills and practices to navigate our lives.
Purser, Ronald. McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality. Repeater, 2019.