Bookmarked How too much mindfulness can spike anxiety (bbc.com)

For those who still like the idea of contemplation, it may be time to consider a broader range of techniques. Certain religious traditions encourage practitioners to focus on things outside your body, for instance – such as a bunch of flowers on your desk or even a passage from a poem. These may be better at calming overwhelming feelings of anxiety, or coaxing yourself out of those feelings of dissociation than observing your body or your breathing, says Britton. There’s also a growing interest in meditative techniques that encourage you to think about others’ perspectives and to cultivate feeling of compassion – strategies that are especially effective against feelings of loneliness.

At the moment, some people may feel like they have to stick with one particular strategy – like mindful breathing or the body scan – without considering the alternatives. But this is a mistake, says Britton. “We should really honour the diversity of contemplative practices that are available, because they all do different things, and people would have a much better chance of matching what they need, if they had a bigger buffet of choices.” Each person should choose the best technique – and the correct “dose” – for their particular situation, rather than doggedly pursuing a plan that is not working.

David Robson reports on the growing research around mindfulness and its limitations. In particular, Robson criticises the one-size-fits-all approach that some take.

Each person should choose the best technique – and the correct “dose” – for their particular situation, rather than doggedly pursuing a plan that is not working.

This is an interesting read alongside Christopher T. McCaw dicussion of mindfulness in education, as well as Ronald Purser’s critique McMindfulness.

Bookmarked Would you like ethics with that? The possibilities and risks of (Mc)Mindfulness in schools (EduResearch Matters)

Mindfulness has multiple meanings, and a complex history. Therefore, we cannot take for granted that we always agree about what is involved in discussions of mindfulness in schools. To help us think more clearly about specific uses of mindfulness I have developed a distinction between ‘thin’ and ‘thick’ mindfulness.

Christopher T. McCaw discusses his research into the rise of mindfulness in education. To make sense of the different ways in which it is practiced, McCaw differentiates between thick and thin implementations.

It should be clear that a school classroom embracing a ‘thin’ version of mindfulness might look, sound and feel quite different to one embracing a more ‘thick’ version. The former might be more concerned with maximising student attention, focus and emotional stability in order to support behavioural compliance and enhanced academic performance. The latter might be more concerned with developing students’ personal awareness and responsibility, building a classroom culture of compassion, respect and deep listening, and calling into question competitive individualism as the basis for student motivation.

This touches on some of the concerns raised by Ronald Purser and McMindfulness. For McCaw, the questions that we need to consider is what is the type of mindfulness being taught, who decides this is what it looks like and what are the implications of this. It would be interesting to use the Modern Learning Canvas to frame this.

Bookmarked Rethinking ‘resilience’ and ‘grit’ – The Boston Globe (BostonGlobe.com)

The terms “resilience” and “grit” have become the greatest honorifics — praising individual pluck and survival instincts. But focusing on these traits skews conversations away from equity. And for those who fail to thrive, there is an implied lack of character.

Alissa Quart discusses the way in which ideas of ‘grit’ and ‘resiliance’ have replaced conversations around structural problems and the issue of inequality. This is something that Ronald Purser touches on in his questions around mindfulness.
Bookmarked The mindfulness conspiracy (the Guardian)

It is sold as a force that can help us cope with the ravages of capitalism, but with its inward focus, mindful meditation may be the enemy of activism

In this extract from McMindfulness, Ronald Purser argues that paying closer attention on the present is not revolutionary, but rather magical thinking on steroids. Stripped of spirituality and ethics, mindfulness is nothing more than concentration training. Sadly, it becomes something another commodity to market to people, with little done to resolve the underlying conditions. This reminds me of a point made by Audrey Watters about the problem with blaming people for social media addiction.

Marginalia

Anything that offers success in our unjust society without trying to change it is not revolutionary – it just helps people cope. In fact, it could also be making things worse. Instead of encouraging radical action, mindfulness says the causes of suffering are disproportionately inside us, not in the political and economic frameworks that shape how we live. And yet mindfulness zealots believe that paying closer attention to the present moment without passing judgment has the revolutionary power to transform the whole world. It’s magical thinking on steroids.

The problem is the product they’re selling, and how it’s been packaged. Mindfulness is nothing more than basic concentration training. Although derived from Buddhism, it’s been stripped of the teachings on ethics that accompanied it, as well as the liberating aim of dissolving attachment to a false sense of self while enacting compassion for all other beings.

What remains is a tool of self-discipline, disguised as self-help.

People are expected to adapt to what this model demands of them. Stress has been pathologised and privatised, and the burden of managing it outsourced to individuals.

By failing to address collective suffering, and systemic change that might remove it, they rob mindfulness of its real revolutionary potential, reducing it to something banal that keeps people focused on themselves.

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.

Kabat-Zinn, a dedicated meditator, had a vision in the midst of a retreat: he could adapt Buddhist teachings and practices to help hospital patients deal with physical pain, stress and anxiety. His masterstroke was the branding of mindfulness as a secular spirituality.

A truly revolutionary mindfulness would challenge the western sense of entitlement to happiness irrespective of ethical conduct.

If mindfulness just helps people cope with the toxic conditions that make them stressed in the first place, then perhaps we could aim a bit higher. Should we celebrate the fact that this perversion is helping people to “auto-exploit” themselves? This is the core of the problem.

Liked Pause by Deb Netolicky (the édu flâneuse)

Pausing is difficult but what is even more difficult is prioritising it as important rather than ‘nice to have’. What seems so possible during a holiday is challenging to bring into the busyness of everyday working-parenting-living life.

Where do you, or where could you, find a pause in your day, your week, your month?

Replied to Meditation in the Time of Disruption by Mike Powell (The Ringer)

Using Insight Timer, which greets you with a large map charting everyone currently meditating on the app (as well as a tally of how many people have meditated today and a ticker of how many are meditating at that very moment), it can be impossible to feel alone. The first few times I use it, it reminds me of wandering into a good used bookstore: You’ll probably find what you want eventually, but you’re going to get lost in some weird stuff along the way.

Is it just me or does the combination of mindfulness and platform capitalism seem slightly ironic? I respect the lofty aspirations to develop:

A platform to give meditation away for free to everyone on the planet.

However, if this is built on the back of angel funding, then there is clearly some windfall at play? When the developer starts analysing the data:

In the course of charting user data and trying to discern exactly what Insight Timer actually is, Plowman has noticed that “People who come in with preferences set to secular and highly scientific teachings start to meander.”

It provides insight into the benefit that such a platform could gain, especially when combined with other data points.