Is there such a thing as too much mindfulness?
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
A friend of mine from my ENYSSP family, i.e European Network of Young Sport Psychologist recently sent me the link to this article and said he saw it and thought of me and wanted to know my opinion.
I had earlier in the year done a workshop at ENYSSP, the title was can mindfulness make you walk on water, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed doing the workshop and the considerable positive feedback I received was inspiring and insightful. I was full of ideas on where to take my practice on mindfulness for performance when someone who had been at the conference reached out to me and asked if I would like to be involved in the first Virtual Applied Sports Psychology Summit (VASPS). I jumped at the chance and ended up developing my presentation for walking on water, doing an interview, a life webinar and a guided meditation. So this friend seeing I was presenting on mindfulness sent me this article. I was intrigued by the article, as earlier in the week before receiving the article I had received a message on social media in response to promotional material I had posted for my talk at VASPS. The message had asked about the contraindications around mindfulness. What the negative impact is of using mindfulness was, if any. During my MSc research I hadn’t found any data showing the negative side of mindfulness, everything I had seen was positive positive positive. Hence why I called my presentation can mindfulness make you walk on water. I asked the person who raised the question if he was aware of any research showing the negative side, he pointed me in the direction of wikipedia. Hmmmm, I decided I wasn’t going to pursue that route. So when I received this link I read through it and started to reflect on the points raised.
The article is a Q&A with the author of McMindfulness and he poses the question has mindfulness become the new capitalist spirituality? I thought the article was very interesting and it does feel like the wellness industry is cashing in on mindfulness, this raises concern that the wellness industry will pick and choose bits from mindfulness to fit into our western corporate world and leave out the ethical and spiritual teachings of Budha. Strangely enough the article made me think of a book I read straight after university called the 'Celestine Prophecy'. It’s a fictional story but a lot of the issues talked about seem very relatable to real life. The book also preached about a collective mindfulness approach to stop the damage western corporate society is doing to the world. The key point I remember from the book is if enough of us started to act from a mindful place and give good energy to the world, we would collectively all raise our energy levels and bring on a new dawn in humanity. I agreed with the point raised in the article that we should not just focus on the individual because we exist in a collective global world.
The article did provide a viewpoint on the potential negative impact of the mindfulness movement that we should all be aware of. Here are some extracts taken from the article “Mindfulness is now all about critique being turned inward, toward ourselves. We need to flip that critique back out toward the systems and practices that are causing the problems in the first place”. A collective form of mindfulness would not throw the baby out with the bathwater, it wouldn’t throw out self-care, would not disregard the therapeutic benefits of meditation - but it would expand the scope of its environment.” The article also touched on how mindfulness was developed as a rebellion against the Indian caste system striving to change the environment around it for the better. My take from the article is that we should not just pick and choose the nice parts of mindfulness that deal with self care, but remember to focus outwards on the community and environment.
I feel that we should strive to adopt an altruistic approach to mindfulness which looks outwards on the community and environment to alleviate collective social suffering. For example when you meditate don’t just think about you and your thoughts, but how you want to connect with others, how you want to make them feel, the energy you want to give out and go out and contribute to lift others in whatever small way. Adopting this collective mindfulness approach would help create a more expansive mind by looking outward and detangling yourself from the noise of being purely inward focused.
I would love to hear your take on the article, do you feel the capitalist version of mindfulness is too me focused?