Mindfulness (part 2)
In my observations from all of these areas, I have found that people make up their own minds about whether to take mindfulness further into regular practice or just use strategies to help them cope when something quite stressful manifests itself in their lives.
In this way, and like other therapies, mindfulness can be used reactively in the here and now to deal with emerging problems and crises. Conversely, by engaging in regular practice, mindfulness can be used proactively to help sustain us in a state of well-being and keep us more robust for when we inevitably experience ‘dips’ in life.
Mindfulness isn’t for everyone though and for some people walking up a mountain, painting a picture, playing loud music or baking a cake might be just the ticket to ‘de-stress’. (In fact I quite fancy both the mindfulness and the cake!).
Mindfulness is not a therapy though and you don’t have to look far to find some critiques of it and the way it has been used. For this blog I will attend to just one excellent article by a Buddhist Professor in the US: David Loy. Loy summed it up perceptively in an article entitled ‘Beyond McMindfulness’ (2013)1. He argued that mindfulness can be:
- used by organisations as a technique to shift the burden of stress onto the individual and cynically to get more performance out of them;
- that there is often a dissociation between one's own personal transformation and the kind of social and organizational transformation that takes into account the causes and conditions of ‘suffering’ in the broader environment;
- used instrumentally, as a tool, to reorient the practice to service the needs of capitalist economies, rather than to bring about a critical reflection on the causes of people’s collective suffering.
I agree with his critique and I believe that in this capitalist society, organisations tend to use whatever they can to maximise profits often at the expense of their workers and of society as a whole. There are lots of examples of this which have gone before, let’s not be naive.
However, is there any reason why leaders of organisations cannot take into account the well-being of all individuals, improve performance and make reducing global suffering as a part of their mission? To me, that is the more sustainable approach and the one more likely to lead to a more secure and stable world future.
In time there will be a new ‘flavour of the month’ and mindfulness will become ‘yesterday’s news’ leaving in its wake some dedicated practitioners and others who will gradually peel off and attach themselves to the next big thing.
In the meantime though, Loy reminds the world that mindfulness is born out of a desire to reduce suffering in the world and that we should remember this as we advocate responsible and compassionate practice.
1'Beyond McMindfulness', David Loy (2013), reprinted Huffington Post 2015
References for article
Burch, V and Penman, D (2013) Mindfulness for Health: A Practical Guide to relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring wellbeing. Piatkus, London.
Holzel BK, Carmody J, Vangel M, et al. (2011) 'Mindfulness Practice Leads To Increases In Regional Brain Gray Matter Density'. Psychiatry Research 191:36–43.
Kabat-Zinn J (1990) Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Random House, New York.
Leader, G, Litherland, R, Mason, T, Pilchick, T, Sansom, S and Robertson, G (2013) Mindfulness and Dementia : Report of a Pilot Study. A joint project by Innovations in Dementia and Positive Aging Associates. Exeter : Innovations in Dementia CIC/Positive Aging Associates November 15th 2013.
Linehan, MM (1993) Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder. Guildford Press, New York.
Linehan, MM (1993) Cognitive Behavioural Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder. Guildford Press, New York.
Loy, D (2013) 'Beyond McMindfulness'. Reprinted Huffington Post 2015.
Tolle, E (1997) The Power of Now. Namaste Publishing, New York.
Well, RE, Kerr, C, Wolkin, J, Dossett, M, Davis, RB, Walsh, J, Wall, R, Kong, J, Kaptchuk, K, Press, D, Phillips, RR, & Yeh, G (2013) 'Meditation for Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Pilot Randomised Trial'. Journal of American Geriatric Society 61 (45):642-645.
Williams, M, Teasdale, J, Segal, Z and Kabat-Zinn, J (2007) The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing yourself from Chronic Unhappiness. Guildford Press, New York.
Williams, M and Penmann, D. (2011) Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Piatkus, London.Back to blogs