July 26, 2019

"Why Corporations Want You to Shut Up and Meditate/Ron Purser’s new book McMindfulness examines how spiritual practices and self-care became tools for corporate compliance."

Headline at The Nation. Excerpt:
Rooted in a centuries-old Buddhist meditation practice, mindfulness, like the religion it originates from, is based on the Four Noble Truths, the first of which loosely translates to “Life is suffering.”...

Today’s corporatized mindfulness is largely a do-it-yourself practice (with countless books, meditation apps, podcasts, gurus, and seminars) filling the vacuum of a lonely culture obsessed with self-optimization, mind hacks, and shortcuts to self-care. Modern mindfulness is often sold as evidence-based, sanitized of any cultural baggage—neuroscience with a dash of what Jon Kabat-Zinn, known as the father of the modern-day mindfulness movement, calls “the essence of Buddhism.” It’s at once secular and clinical yet sacred....
The article is written by Zachary Siegel, who interviews Ronald Purser (author of "McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality"). Excerpt:
ZS: Your book chronicles various spiritual movements rising and falling in America—the rise of New Age in the 1970s and Transcendental Meditation in the ’90s. Who is behind the mindfulness boom?

RP: In terms of other social movements, the mindfulness movement is an elite social movement, which started with white elite males like Dale Carnegie and the prosperity-gospel guys. It’s quite unlike more grassroots activist movements like the civil rights movement, where you could see a more communitarian strand of mindfulness, run by people of color. There was coming together, talking about our oppression, sharing our vulnerabilities and working together to resist. That was very spiritually and religiously motivated and required a tremendous amount of mindfulness, but in collectives. Nonviolence takes a lot of mindfulness to pull off, but you can’t do it alone. It’s a stark contrast to what we see with these very rich, wealthy white men who are the promoters, who I call mindfulness merchants, and they’re spouting that mindfulness is good for everybody, it’s universal. These differentials in power trouble me, and I think we need to interrogate these differentials....

ZS: What was going on in Google’s mindfulness program?

RP: The Search Inside Yourself seminar promised the program “increases productivity, enhances leadership effectiveness and supports happiness.” What more could an employer want? The workshop was an amalgam of childish icebreakers, turn-to-your partner exercises, three-minute breathing meditations, and a hodgepodge of superficial materials on emotional intelligence as a pathway to career success, along with the usual neurobabble that meditation changes your brain....

ZS: In breaking down the science behind mindfulness, you write, “The widespread belief that there is compelling clinical proof that ‘mindfulness works’ is simply not supported by the scientific evidence.” Is “evidence based” built on a house of cards?

RP: One of the problems is a big gap between the rhetoric on the so-called science of mindfulness and the actual science. If you read the journal articles, there are a lot of qualifications and hedging. But when it is translated into the public domain—like in Harvard Business Review, which claimed, “Mindfulness Can Literally Change Your Brain”—that’s where you see sweeping claims exaggerating the efficacy....
 Mindfulness is a very unregulated industry. Unlike psychotherapy.... I know for a fact that some corporate mindfulness trainers just take an online course and in eight or 10 weeks they reinvent themselves. They were probably corporate trainers in some other area, and now they’re experts in mindfulness training....
ADDED: Considering buying this book, I read the 1-star review (there's only one). Excerpt:
... I don't think it was a very bright idea to deface a Buddhist statue on the cover. Did somebody skip sensitivity training? Oh, go ahead and explain that to an Asian Buddhist seeing this in a bookstore, with some deep philosophical discourse on love, peace, harmony or the "dark side of mindfulness"....
Here's the cover:

54 comments:

Annie C. said...

Ah, pining for Crack MC now that mindfulness is here.

Birkel said...

Annie C. said what I was going to say.
Now, by rule, I must be angry at Annie C.

Fernandinande said...

(with countless books, meditation apps, podcasts, gurus, and seminars)

I understand and will obey.

mindfulness is ...at once secular and clinical yet sacred.

I did a little research based on a previous post here, and the "clinical" stuff seemed scammy, e.g. no control groups, "measuring" feelings, etc., and they seemed to pointedly avoid actually measuring athletic performance, which is one of the selling points.

rhhardin said...

Look up "Let Your Mind Alone!" in your LOC Thurber.

Lucid-Ideas said...

When Gwyneth Paltrow and her recent GOOP brand mindfulness seminar-turned-debacle can be panned and pilloried not just in the media but by its attendees, it's a sign the shark has been jumped.

Mindfulness is what is known as "Chick Crack". Like tarot cards are palm-reading.

#fakesacred
#Everestviahelicopter
#EveshittestedGod
#awomanandhermoneyaresoonparted

Ralph L said...

This crap probably started with someone trying to fleece people with borderline personality disorder.

Shocked that rhhardin didn't tell us it was calming distraction for unsatisfied and arguing women.

Shouting Thomas said...

If we were properly mindful, we'd Hate Whitey.

Got it.

It is The Nation after all.

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, I thought of Crack Emcee when I was writing the post. And I actually think he is reading this.

He's here... in spirit.

Wince said...

Modern mindfulness is often sold as evidence-based, sanitized of any cultural baggage—neuroscience with a dash of what Jon Kabat-Zinn, known as the father of the modern-day mindfulness movement, calls “the essence of Buddhism.” It’s at once secular and clinical yet sacred.

Clearly, over at the Nation they prefer Howard Zinn to Jon Kabat-Zinn, and ideological baggage over "cultural baggage".

It’s quite unlike more grassroots activist movements like the civil rights movement, where you could see a more communitarian strand of mindfulness, run by people of color. There was coming together, talking about our oppression, sharing our vulnerabilities and working together to resist. That was very spiritually and religiously motivated and required a tremendous amount of mindfulness, but in collectives. Nonviolence takes a lot of mindfulness to pull off, but you can’t do it alone. It’s a stark contrast to what we see with these very rich, wealthy white men who are the promoters, who I call mindfulness merchants, and they’re spouting that mindfulness is good for everybody, it’s universal. These differentials in power trouble me, and I think we need to interrogate these differentials...

rehajm said...

I've always assumed the whole movement movement was a liberal/corporate construct designed to sell crap.

Annie C. said...

Is that a permanent anger Birkel, or is it limited to today only?

Kevin said...

where you could see a more communitarian strand of mindfulness, run by people of color.

What Color is Your Mindfulness?

Craig Howard said...

Sounds a lot like modern education.

Teach the kids reading "skills" and how to think "critically" without giving them anything to read or anything to think about.

buwaya said...

I liked older corporate self-help fads.

The Zen-aggression one, the popularity of Musashi's "Book of Five Rings".

I think Larry Ellison never recovered from that, and has tried to live like a Samurai since.

The internal guerrilla war one, in Peters&Watermans "In Search of Excellence".
Sadly eclipsed by process, regulation and compliance.

Dave Begley said...

St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, invented Western mediation over 400 years ago. His feast day is next week.

Dave Begley said...

I should add that St. John's church at Creighton has a death mask of Ignatius. Also a beautiful sculpture of him in front of the library. Soldier. Scholar. Saint.

chuck said...

Oh, Sun Tzu, where have you gone? Did you lose?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Annie C. said...
Is that a permanent anger Birkel, or is it limited to today only?

I suspect Birkel is fully present in his angry of this moment. He is not dwelling on anger from the past, nor worrying about anger yet to come...

Ken B said...

I like to check the bad reviews first. This one is a doozy. Kevin Williamson wrote about the vast electronic apparatus of self-moronization. A splendid example.

gspencer said...

Marianne Williams expects the same from voters. Listen to her campaign ad,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sYK7lm3UKg

buwaya said...

Confucius, I think, is the precise opposite of the navel-gazing tendency.

His is a fine corporate-ethic model.

Shouting Thomas said...

I had one full time job for 6 years during my career.

The rest of my career I worked as a freelancer and consultant.

Saluting the corporate flag and mouthing the corporate pieties, I couldn't stand it.

Corporations have no business fucking around with my life and mind in this fashion. I refused to allow them to do it.

As I told Althouse, I'm an outlaw. Always have been. Not the kind of outlaw who goes down in a blaze of glory to thrill the ladies. The kind of outlaw who figures out how to live successfully on his own terms.

Anonymous said...

Shame the interviewer needs to shovel stupid into what appears to be a straightforward critique of the current "mindfulness" fad that might be salutary to The Nation's cat-lady subscribers. I.e., the sort of people who don't have the sense to be skeptical about about their HR department's processing, canning, and distribution of "spiritual" mcNuggets.

That was very spiritually and religiously motivated and required a tremendous amount of mindfulness, but in collectives.

Lol, jayz, what does that even mean? Pure duckspeak. Everything's gotta get shoe-horned into the ever-shrinking bounds of The Narrative, I guess.

buwaya said...

Blaze of glory is a good way to go.
I have seen many of the alternatives.

The only problem with a blaze is the collateral damage, if there is collateral to damage.

Unknown said...

Well, a godless nation has to find god somewhere. Radical feminism, radical environmentalists”radical race mongers.

Birkel said...

Annie C.,
I am over it.
But you're on notice.
LOL

traditionalguy said...

Emptying your mind is not a good thing for you. Your mind needs training and it needs protection of its great power. Only crazed people fall for the seduction to empty their minds and be self hypnotized playthings of others.

Roger Sweeny said...

He is absolutely right that most "mindfulness" training is crap, based on crap research, but it's a good living for the trainers--who are often true believers.

Alas, the same can be said for "sensitivity training" and all the related trainings.

Oso Negro said...

The interviewer has the dates mixed up for Transcendental Meditation, and the New Age. TM was the '70s, the New Age was the '90s.

Caligula said...

1. Promoters promote. That's what promoters do. And much of what's promoted under the banner of "self-help" is bunk. This is news?

2. The Nation et al have been lecturing us since forever that corporations are not people, but now they claim "Corporations Want You to Shut Up and Meditate"? If a corporation is not a person (or in any way like one), how can it "want" anything?

Annie C. said...

Haha! Thanks Birk. Peace out.

Lucien said...

Oh boy — interrogating the differentials — this guy isn’t a slave to SJW orthodoxy at all. (I bet he says “Latinx”, too.)

Gahrie said...

Brown man good!
White man bad!

Howard said...

Being mindfulness requires an empty head.

Gahrie said...

Teach the kids reading "skills" and how to think "critically" without giving them anything to read or anything to think about.

I teach high school History and government. I have been instructed to stop teaching content and teach skills instead. When I ask how the kids can think critically about things they have no knowledge of, I am told that the kids have access to all of history on their phones. Apparently history is now whatever the first Google link says it is.

mikee said...

I, for one, found my spirit guide at the early stages of the self actualization movement.
My spirit guide? Bigwig, from Watership Down.

General Woundwort : Why throw your life away?
Bigwig : Hraka [rabbit for "excrement"]
Bigwig : ... sir!
General Woundwort : Come out!
Bigwig : My Chief's told me to defend this run.
General Woundwort : [Stunned] YOUR Chief?

And of course, Jonathon Livingston Seagull embodied mindfulness over 50 years ago.

James the Lawyer said...

I cannot find a citation Ann, but Russell Kirk used to quote of Daniel Boorstin something like this:

"Every American religious revival results in a new denomination or a new business."

rcocean said...

Just lame Left-wing pushback. Doesn't fit the party line, so they're suspicious. If they discover it helps the Left gain power, they will start cheerleading for it.

rcocean said...

"These differentials in power trouble me, and I think we need to interrogate these differentials.."

LOL!

SDaly said...

It’s quite unlike more grassroots activist movements like the civil rights movement, where you could see a more communitarian strand of mindfulness, run by people of color. There was coming together, talking about our oppression, sharing our vulnerabilities and working together to resist.


Surprised to find this headshot of Ronald Purser.

SDaly said...

I'm sure he was a *vital* part of the civil rights movement (sitting quietly in the corner while people of color ran things), during his college years in the early '80s.

readering said...

My firm had a mindfulness program recently. My impression is that it was motivated by bringing down healthcare costs. Almost exclusively women participated.

Sydney said...

This is so true. Physician burnout is a big topic in professional medical societies these days and their answer is to bring in mindfulness experts for lectures at their annual meetings. Whenever I sit through one of these presentations I feel like I'm a slave being told if I just count my blessings every day I will learn to love slavery. No amount of mindfulness or practicing "gratitude" is going to make me love doing prior authorizations, reviewing multi-page computer generated garbage notes from consultants, doing refill authorizations and clicking multiple pop-up windows to document my patient visits. Mindfulness alone does not get you out of hell.

Ann Althouse said...

"Almost exclusively women participated."

Visualize a glass ceiling and realize that you love the view.

MadTownGuy said...

Corporations are not the only entities promoting mindfulness...unless you count our public education system as a huge, monopolistic corporation.

<a href="https://www.mindfulschools.org/training/mindful-educator-essentials/>Mindful Schools</a>

MadTownGuy said...

Reposting the link:

Mindful Schools

Shouting Thomas said...

Visualize a glass ceiling and realize that you love the view.

This self-pity from a woman as rich and successful as you are, Althouse, is truly silly.

And accusing others of bigotry over nothing.

You just can't keep yourself from doing it. What a terrible, juvenile, silly habit.

Do yourself a favor and stop this nonsense.

I'm trying to like you. It's like trying to continue to like somebody who can't stop picking her nose while you speak with her.

daskol said...

This little sensor and app, which I used for a while, seemed helpful. Was the only time I've ever tried meditating where I actually lost time--where the alarm went off and I realize I had no sense that 20 minutes or more had elapsed. It's need to have the sensor, through your phone, provide biofeedback on your current state. I keep telling myself that I should resume using it, because I did feel increased peace of mind and anxiety relief when I was, and maybe I will. It's hard for me to maintain the discipline, though, when I'm already pretty chilled out, which is a shame because meditation and breathing techniques are most helpful when you're in regular practice.

stevew said...

Sounds religious to me. Maybe a replacement for the more mainstream varieties. Filling some vague hole in people's souls.

Sophomore year in high school (1972) my english teacher - very much a hippy, probably in her late 30's - introduced me to Kurt Vonnegut's writing. Player Piano was first, then Welcome to The Monkey House. I happened upon Slaughterhouse-Five (A Duty Dance with Death) on my own. I've had a So It Goes sort of ethos ever since. The universe, god, whatever, doesn't give a shit about you and me, heck probably don't even know we're here. So it's up to us to make of our lives what we will, and own it.

Ray - SoCal said...

I’ve done a Search Inside Yourself seminar and read both Chade-Meng Tan books. I did not realize he resigned due to stuff in his past, sounds like a me-too hit job.

I’ve also gone to a couple of one or two day meditation seminars by Buddhist monks.

The book from the snippet is a bit of a hit job.

Mindfulness / meditation is a tool and it’s like a knife. It can do good, and bad. I find it a good tool for dealing with stress and anxiety. Navel gazing is a danger.

rehajm said...

I used to work for the big eastern syndicate that runs Christmas. The one Lucy had to go and blab about...

Oso Negro said...

@ Shouting Thomas - I read the “glass ceiling” comment as a witticism. I don’t know what image came to your mind, but I imagined looking up women’s skirts and dresses. The schoolboy is not entirely ground out of me yet.

Shouting Thomas said...

@Oso

That's a possibility!

I'm so old I forgot about such things!

Kovai Sky Yoga Center in Coimbatore said...

The levels of anxiety and depression go down.
Some areas of the brain are activated , specifically those associated with feelings of empathy, compassion and altruistic love.
The volume of the tonsil, the region of the brain involved in the fear process, is reduced