Get your hands off my Mindfulness
Mindfulness is trending and amidst the noise the simplicity and universality of this powerful practice is being lost. At its core, mindfulness and present moment awareness is simple. So simple, it is easy to lose its intention and get wrapped up in all kinds of words and thoughts about what it is. Especially when we spend so much time in our heads. So lets get clear.
People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.
This is Mindfulness. The non-judgmental vibrant experience of the present moment. This makes me feel alive. That is clear to me. My mindfulness is not about words, knowing, or doing it is about being, experiencing, and embracing life right now. We all have access to this. It’s a human right.
In Virginia Heffernan’s, The Muddied Meaning of Mindfulness she highlights how Mindfulness has been coopted by consumerism and stripped of its essence to be served on platters to the 1%’s. This is happening but I won’t let it muddy my Mindfulness. How mindfulness is marketed maybe a muddy mess but why confuse what we can be clear about?
Heffernan suggests ‘mindfulness’ as being “like the Prius emblem, a badge of enlightened and self-satisfied consumerism, and of success and achievement.” This person is out there and they are a smug asshole. We’ve seen the South Park episode. That person does not serve us, so we let it go. Mindfulness is not this and these ideas only serve to muddy meaning that is naturally still and clear.
Mindfulness or present moment awareness is a practice and tool available to anyone at anytime, always. You do not need a lawyer, an MBA, Lululemon, or have any formal education or money for that matter. You don’t even need to know how to read. Just get present. Just do it. The power lies within us, not without. Heffernan’s article seems more a commentary on the murky identity crisis we face as consumers in a capitalist society. This only confuses the meaning of mindfulness unnecessarily but definitely reminds me how valuable the practice is.
Mindfulness, the word, will always fail to describe the experience of being present. To say that mindfulness may be “another way to keep employees undistracted and to get them to work harder” limits mindfulness and relinquishes its expansive power to the confines of consumerism, corporate greed, and the bottom line. This mindset takes power from the people and is corroding our moral fabric. We must not let that happen or we will lose another power of the people that could very well help us realize the progress we wish to make. Employees can work hard when incorporating mindfulness into their life because they are more focused, content, and less stressed. That is the power of mindfulness. To elevate and uplift the individual which by association may boost the bottom line however that is just a byproduct. Corporate America sees this value and there is nothing wrong with that however we must not let Corporate America muddy our meanings and rob us of something that is an inalienable right.
Heffernan says that this “revolution, [is] not a grass-roots one” and goes on to speak of mindfulness as a tool employed mainly by the privileged. I disagree about the grass roots part and am working to disassociate present moment awareness from privilege.
What is more grass roots then the simple idea of being aware of the present moment?
Something that people have been experiencing across the globe for thousands and thousands of years. Since the first human breath. It is one of the qualities that makes us wholly unique. To say it is not grass roots again takes mindfulness from the hands of the common man and places it in the grasp of the elite like every other story we hear these days. I refuse to let mindfulness become something only accessible from the Ivory Tower or the Fortune 500 and will work breath-by-breath to keep mindfulness accessible to all.
The marketplace has spun this affluent, privileged narrative about Mindfulness, and yoga for that matter, that is not true. Even in India these practices were not for everybody. Mindfulness is for everyone and carries with it thousands of years of Eastern traditions that traveled and have been sown into our identity as Americans by Thoreau, Whitman, Dickinson,Emerson, the Beatles and many more. Mindfulness as a practice, not as a word, has quietly been a part of our American identity for awhile now. I guess its progresses like gentrification. Now that the money knows there’s something happening here it moves in and we must struggle to maintain the identity, the depth and intention, as the neighborhood changes. Mindfulness expresses a simple experience of life that can only be felt. It is our work to put words to what we feel and take action. This is simple and at its best will remain that. We must not forget that our collective power rests with the individual and mindfulness can awaken us to the revolution that is brewing within.
Commercial mindfulness follows in a long tradition of wily yogi’s known for snake charming and selling proverbial snake oil. There are many snake oil sellers out there for sure though we must not let that devalue the true nature of mindfulness. The simple power of present moment awareness is so effective and straightforward it is hard not to question what kind of trick is being played. However, most of nature’s truths are simple and we must not make them complex out of fear. As we step incrementally away from this basic truth we muddy the waters with our thoughts and ideas not the other way around. Power has been stolen from the people by a slight of hand that leaves us feeling insufficient and incapable of enacting any change in our big behemoth of a world. Luckily,
Mindfulness is for every (wo)man and in this sense aligns with the founding ideals of a country of the people, by the people, and for the people.