McMindfulness markets in everything

by on February 9, 2016 at 3:11 am in Economics, Philosophy, Religion | Permalink

McMindfulness is the commodified, marketised and reductionist version of mindfulness practice which consists in the construction of courses, “apps”, books, and other items for sale to the public.

There is more here, via the excellent Mark Thorson.

1 So Much For Subtlety February 9, 2016 at 4:50 am

Cottage-industry witch doctoring good; Factory-produced witch doctoring bad?

I am inclined to agree. I am a traditionalist. I think irrational superstitions ought to be produced Artisanally.

2 dearieme February 9, 2016 at 6:57 am

That sounds like a cryptic disparagement of the Roman Catholic church.

3 kimock February 9, 2016 at 7:46 am

How and why is mindfulness “witch doctoring?” Or an “irrational superstition?” There is significant empirical evidence that it improves people’s well being in a number of ways.

4 So Much For Subtlety February 9, 2016 at 7:06 pm

If it worked it would not matter if it was produced en masse or not. Aspirin does not work less well than willow bark because it comes from a factory.

This is just middle class status signalling.

5 Ano February 9, 2016 at 10:44 am

Mindfulness is not a superstition or irrational. There is no supernatural element. It is simply observing your own mind. It is very consistent with the enlightenment tradition.

6 RustySynapses February 9, 2016 at 3:02 pm

The only thing irrational about mindfulness is that people don’t practice it more. The empirical evidence indeed supports it, and when I tried doing it regularly, I really saw benefits – but somehow, with all the time I waste each day, I haven’t managed to get back into the habit. Oh, well, next lifetime…

7 Axa February 9, 2016 at 5:14 am

“… in order to protect vulnerable people”. I’d really like to ask this guy to describe vulnerable people because I just see adults buying self-help books.

From another point of view this is just an intellectual property issue. If you don’t like other people using your brand, register it. If you can’t register it means it isn’t yours, end of the problem. A nice example of this Tux, the Linux penguin. Linux is basically an non-profit NGO, but if you want to sell t-shirts with Tux on them… need to ask a trademark license to the Linux Foundation.

8 rayward February 9, 2016 at 6:47 am

Of course, mindfulness is just another iteration of status, like the $4 cup of coffee or the $600 smart phone. I’m reminded of the dictum that it’s getting more and more expensive to maintain a rich lifestyle, but not much more expensive to maintain a working-class lifestyle. Mindfulness, like the $4 cup of coffee and the $600 smart phone, is the intersection of the two and provides the illusion of equality.

9 A Definite Beta Guy February 9, 2016 at 7:35 am

Yep, just another weapon in the “status” war. Thank god we live in such an “Authentic” Culture.

10 Dan in Euroland February 9, 2016 at 9:06 am

Certainly that may be people’s initial draw to it. But with continued practice it will undermine their need for status.

Mindfulness is a process of dis-identification that allows people to disentangle their social conditioning from their preferred, valued, behaviors. It needs to go beyond mere “McMindfulness” and be implemented and taught in high schools (along with other psychological training.) Such training will end “microaggressions” and other such liberal psychoses* sweeping the country.

*I mean psychoses quite explicitly. Go read Albert Ellis or the DMV and then look at all the insanity these kids and their liberal are expressing. Narcissism, anxiety, depression, etc.

(Note: conservatives do have many of the same issues, their social structures are typically in place to mitigate the damage versus accentuate it. E.g. “man up” type philosophies.)

11 Anonymous February 9, 2016 at 6:51 pm

Look, if you’re going to bullshit about psychology, at least get the name right. It’s the DSM, not DMV

12 A Definite Beta Guy February 9, 2016 at 7:10 pm


This sounds like “true communism” instead of the fake communism the Soviet Union had. Mind you, I don’t disagree WRT the benefits of mindfulness: observing your mind as an independent agent instead of letting oneself be swept away in juvenile emotions is unhealthy.

However, I doubt most will ever experience “mindfulness” as anything besides an exercise on a Ted Talk. Much like “Authenticity” is Elevated Fraud for most of the UMC.

13 Nathan W February 10, 2016 at 10:39 pm

Narcissism, anxiety, depression, etc., of course, being completely modern and new things. The Greeks, for example, never would have encountered such “psychoses”.

14 Isabella Mirtha February 9, 2016 at 7:44 am

What is today mindfulness practice that is not highly commodified and marketised.

15 kimock February 9, 2016 at 7:50 am

The author merely repeats the common complaints of early adopters of cultural trends that become increasingly popular. “I was into it before it was popular. What is popular now is inferior to the pure activity in which I have long been engaged.” This allows the author or speaker to both feel good about him- or herself and to appear to be cutting-edge, yet it neglects the welfare improvements of the masses who were late adopters.

16 Careless February 9, 2016 at 8:43 am

Pretty much.

17 A Definite Beta Guy February 9, 2016 at 9:33 am

His actual complaint seems to be that certain cultural institutions are co-opting his techniques. He disagrees with these cultural institutions. For instance, if the military uses mindfulness training, it MUST be misusing it, because the military is bad people. Killing is wrong.

18 Yog Sothoth February 9, 2016 at 9:56 am

Agreed. Increasingly, these methods no longer associated exclusively or mainly with Buddhism. This threatens individuals who are clinging to mindfulness and meditation as ways to bolster a “Buddhist” self image.

The fact is that these are useful practices for many people, and folks who get something out of them ought to use them.

19 anon February 9, 2016 at 11:21 am

To meet him back halfway through, we might be wary of people selling thin soup.

20 Edward Pierce February 9, 2016 at 3:42 pm

It’s curious to me that an expert on Buddhism is so grumpy at what he sees as someone else doing mindfulness wrong, such as it were. I’m no Zen master, but my basic understanding of the religion/philosophy is that suffering is borne of desire — to make the world conform to your own feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. How very un-Buddhist of Mr. Hyland to suggest that mindfulness is being somehow “ruined” by others. McMindfulness is not good or bad, it is simply…thus.

21 Donald Pretari February 9, 2016 at 10:19 am

I read the report and found the project very sensible, and believe it should be judged by its effectiveness. An acquaintance of mine, Thomas Cleary, who has translated many Buddhist, Zen, etc., texts, and who lives by them, felt that I’m a bit of a dilettante because I mix these texts with Wittgenstein, etc. No doubt he’s right, but we all doing what we can.

22 Albigensian February 9, 2016 at 10:31 am

The obvious parallel would be how Yoga in the USA was separated from its Hindu origins. Yet cultural imports are invariably changed in the process of adaptation

What actually gets used is rarely authentic to its origins, and what remains authentic remains too foreign for adaptation. So? If it’s too authentic I’ll get accused of cultural appropriation for using it, and if it’s adapted/inauthentic I’ll get accused of inauthenticity. So, I’m supposed to care? Ultimately the the only cultures that do not borrow/steal/take from others are dead ones.

If the complaint is that mindfulness changed when it was imported, well, isn’t everything, and isn’t that what a reasonable person would expect? Or is the complaint more that he doesn’t care for the particular ways it was changed, that it could have become less authentic in a more morally superior way?

Or is this all just someone (yet again) trying to signal his superior moral virtue?

23 Thor February 9, 2016 at 12:41 pm

I’m sorry I didn’t see this when I posted (below). This is excellent and not just because I agree! I too think that Hyland is signalling his superior moral virtue.

The parallels with yoga are interesting. Today, very few people are authentic yogis. But so what? So what if a few suburban moms and dads do yoga “wrong”? So, yes, good points Albigensian.

24 Matt February 9, 2016 at 11:24 am

A MONK came to the master Nansen and asked, “Tell me, is there
some teaching that no master has ever taught?”

Nansen said, “There is.”

The monk asked, “Can you tell me what it is?”

Nansen said, “It is not Buddha. It is not things. It is not

25 Thor February 9, 2016 at 12:34 pm

“New Age”-ist stuff — books, bowls, mats, trinkets, tapes — is part of a huge and lucrative industry.

Mindfulness connects up with Buddhism, the only religion / spiritual practice that progressive and mainstream North American can get behind. Indeed, people think of a kitten sitting on a lotus when they think of Buddhism.

(And frankly, who wouldn’t rather have our prison population taught Buddhism and mindfulness as opposed to Wahhabist thought?)

Terry Hyland seems worried about dilution of moral principles. As a moderate pragmatist, I would say, don’t worry about moral perfection: “if it works, don’t knock it. If it improves a few peoples’ lives, leave it alone.”

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