The mindfulness conspiracy

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sciborg2

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« on: June 14, 2019, 12:43:33 pm »
The mindfulness conspiracy

Ronald Purser

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Mindfulness advocates, perhaps unwittingly, are providing support for the status quo. Rather than discussing how attention is monetised and manipulated by corporations such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple, they locate the crisis in our minds. It is not the nature of the capitalist system that is inherently problematic; rather, it is the failure of individuals to be mindful and resilient in a precarious and uncertain economy. Then they sell us solutions that make us contented, mindful capitalists.

By practising mindfulness, individual freedom is supposedly found within “pure awareness”, undistracted by external corrupting influences. All we need to do is close our eyes and watch our breath. And that’s the crux of the supposed revolution: the world is slowly changed, one mindful individual at a time. This political philosophy is oddly reminiscent of George W Bush’s “compassionate conservatism”. With the retreat to the private sphere, mindfulness becomes a religion of the self. The idea of a public sphere is being eroded, and any trickledown effect of compassion is by chance. As a result, notes the political theorist Wendy Brown, “the body politic ceases to be a body, but is, rather, a group of individual entrepreneurs and consumers”.

Mindfulness, like positive psychology and the broader happiness industry, has depoliticised stress. If we are unhappy about being unemployed, losing our health insurance, and seeing our children incur massive debt through college loans, it is our responsibility to learn to be more mindful. Kabat-Zinn assures us that “happiness is an inside job” that simply requires us to attend to the present moment mindfully and purposely without judgment. Another vocal promoter of meditative practice, the neuroscientist Richard Davidson, contends that “wellbeing is a skill” that can be trained, like working out one’s biceps at the gym. The so-called mindfulness revolution meekly accepts the dictates of the marketplace. Guided by a therapeutic ethos aimed at enhancing the mental and emotional resilience of individuals, it endorses neoliberal assumptions that everyone is free to choose their responses, manage negative emotions, and “flourish” through various modes of self-care. Framing what they offer in this way, most teachers of mindfulness rule out a curriculum that critically engages with causes of suffering in the structures of power and economic systems of capitalist society.
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Wilshire

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« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2019, 12:55:49 pm »
I dont know, it seems like good advice to me.

I think the key assumption here is that a person trying to be mindful, or practicing mindfulness, is incapable of both critical thinking and active engagement. Which... is ridiculous. People can do various things, usually one at a time, and being happier (if that's the goal of mindfulness) is OK.

I often stare in amazement at the things people get stressed about. I dont do any form of meditation, "mindfulness", yoga, or prayer, but if those are the things one needs to take a deep breadth and realize that the world isn't coming to an end when a waiter brings you water without ice, then I fail to see that as harmful.

Sure, as with everything, taking it to hyperbolic extremes creates insane outcomes, but do we really think that most people are going to take it to that level?
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sciborg2

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« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2019, 01:38:17 pm »
Yeah, I agree with you to a large extent though the article is interesting and makes some valid points.

Though it isn't surprising to see this in the Guardian, anything that might have the scent of religion or spirituality seems to be a target for criticism in some circles.
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TaoHorror

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« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2019, 02:40:25 pm »
Well ... hmm ... ( thinking while I'm writing here ) ... so every take has a problem in that it's a slice of the whole, but the whole is currently un-gettable ( could be someone's gotten it, would be cool if they stepped forward if they do ... but then again, maybe best to keep in the weeds, don't want to get one's head blown off ). So many are trying to find the seed of how to improve our conscious experience - make it more bearable, becoming happy, increasing capacity and capabilities. There is no seed, so really any effort, while stumbling on truths, will be inadequate. So on the one hand, I don't beat anyone up trying to figure things out. But on the other, following anything that's single/few dimensional will lead to failure and frustration. But it's worthwhile trying ( even if you knocked over the coffee table, broke the glasses, bumped your head, stubbed your toe to get to the other side of the room, at least you got there ). The "truth" could be one that's a composite of many/all takes on the matter and we may have to allow for customization ( what sunshine does to you, moonshine does to me ) and changing ( could be all of these efforts are trying to nail down a perpetually moving target ).

So we need and should keep trying and we'll keep fumbling along, bruising ourselves up on our path. So yes, I agree with the point of the article, but like Wilshire states, humans can walk and chew gum. There's value ( to keep it short ) in calming ones self down, but we should allow ourselves to rev up as well when the situation calls for it.

For example: I thanked god when my father died - not because I wanted him to or I was glad to see him depart - but because I was thankful for having the kind of father that would make me feel so intensely awful in his absence. I allowed it all in and let it all out - I let the emotion, the horror, the sadness wrack me - it was amazing, a gift that we can experience things so intensely, stress our frame, hard. And it helped me get to calm quicker. These internal self calming ( again, using calm for ease of conversation - there's a wealth of study in this space ) techniques are pretty good for day to day operation. But when the meteor hits our lives, employing such techniques could lead one to explode ( becomes denial, not enlightenment - like a pressure cooker ).

So yeah, emotion is immaturity and we can choose how to react to events - but at times we need the child in us to drive us into adventure and embrace/enjoy wonder.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2019, 02:42:54 pm by TaoHorror »
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H

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« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2019, 03:49:32 pm »
So yeah, emotion is immaturity and we can choose how to react to events - but at times we need the child in us to drive us into adventure and embrace/enjoy wonder.

Well, I'm not sure I agree with the characterization fully, but I think I understand what you are getting at.  I think that in a sense, it is possible that emotion is the "raw" mind, where the thought is the "re-filtered" mind.  So, in one way, raw and unrefined might be "less mature" but as you say, maturity is not necessarily de facto "better."  It would certainly depend on the application.  Also, emotion is, I think, more "immediate" that is, less mediated, so it can often be "correct" in a way that thought often is not.  That sense of "trusting the gut" likely is not entirely nonsense.

Of course though, the entire idea of "mindfulness" kind of would seem to be predicated on our "default" theory of mind as being true.  That is, partly, the notion that consciousness is directive, that thinking is, perhaps, immediate to action.  But Neuroscience might tell us the opposite, that consciousness and thinking are mediate and delayed, post-hoc and perhaps something of literal afterthoughts.

So, this article seems to spin this off in a very political direction, but what might also, or "really," be at hand is simply that our entire notion of mind, our "theory of mind" is simply not correct.  So, "mindfulness" might work, might not, might just be a ratification on the same "error" we've been operating under since we started talking (as a species).
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TaoHorror

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« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2019, 02:22:36 am »
Of course though, the entire idea of "mindfulness" kind of would seem to be predicated on our "default" theory of mind as being true.  That is, partly, the notion that consciousness is directive, that thinking is, perhaps, immediate to action.  But Neuroscience might tell us the opposite, that consciousness and thinking are mediate and delayed, post-hoc and perhaps something of literal afterthoughts.

Appears it already is - I think someone shared an article on this here, can't remember - but apparently, the brain processes to perform an action begin before we consciously decide to perform said action. I find that amazing.
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sciborg2

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« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2019, 06:04:08 am »
Of course though, the entire idea of "mindfulness" kind of would seem to be predicated on our "default" theory of mind as being true.  That is, partly, the notion that consciousness is directive, that thinking is, perhaps, immediate to action.  But Neuroscience might tell us the opposite, that consciousness and thinking are mediate and delayed, post-hoc and perhaps something of literal afterthoughts.

Appears it already is - I think someone shared an article on this here, can't remember - but apparently, the brain processes to perform an action begin before we consciously decide to perform said action. I find that amazing.

Hmm if you're talking about Libet type experiments even Dennet has noted the flaws.

Admittedly I think a good bit of psychology has done little but show outcomes within a particular set and setting, which was then extrapolated as though the mind can be studied in the way of physics...and it's arguable there's a set & setting issue for the latter as well...
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TLEILAXU

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« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2019, 08:14:32 am »
I think the key assumption here is that a person trying to be mindful, or practicing mindfulness, is incapable of both critical thinking and active engagement. Which... is ridiculous.
If it's ridiculous then how do you explain them practicing mindfulness in the first place? A person capable of critical thinking would not do that.

H

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« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2019, 06:00:36 pm »
Hmm if you're talking about Libet type experiments even Dennet has noted the flaws.

Admittedly I think a good bit of psychology has done little but show outcomes within a particular set and setting, which was then extrapolated as though the mind can be studied in the way of physics...and it's arguable there's a set & setting issue for the latter as well...

Right, it's definitely more complicated than we'd like.  Because it doesn't seem exactly clear, as far as I can tell, what "readiness potential" is telling us about consciousness, besides the fact that it seems to precede it.  Even more troublesome, along what Libet is saying (I think) is that there is no "readiness potential" for then not acting.  So, where does that come from?

I mean, there really is a reason why the "hard problem of consciousness" is exactly that, a hard problem.  I think, in my own terms, the idea of "free will" and the idea of "agency" are very different, but we conflate the two ideas as one thing.  I think we are not in possession of a "free will" because we are necessarily ensconced in an entire universe that is nothing if not relational.  So, unless we are of Substance and driven by Substance, we are bound by some relation to something, even if it is just "ourselves."  In contrast, I think it is relatively "clear" that we have agency and can act of "courses" that are, at least seemingly, internal to our "Selves."

Sorry, this message is all jargony and even worse, with my own personal jargon.  But I'm honestly just trying to work this out in my own head as it is....
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira