Does mindfulness make us “bear the unbearable”?

A few days ago, I came across a fascinating article by Zoë Krupka in The Conversation called: “How corporates co-opted the art of mindfulness to make us bear the unbearable” (click the image below for source and original article). What first appeared to be simply an interesting read, quickly turned into a topic that is in great need of further research and discussion. So this article is the basis for today’s blog post. (Full credit to Zoë Krupka and The Conversation for the content of the article quoted throughout.)

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The article

It appears that mindfulness has now morphed into a business concept. Mind-co: A “low-cost” corporate tool. A practice to increase “productivity and compliance” in the work place. Mindless drones disguised as mindful and compliant workers. “McMindfulness” taken one step further. “Slowing down, tuning in and radical acceptance have been molded into low-cost tools to increase our ability to speed up, tune out and drive ourselves harder than ever before”. What might have started out as a beneficial practice for employees aimed at reducing stress and anxiety and increasing mental well-being, is now being used in ways totally contradictory of true mindfulness practice: increasing productivity, increasing compliance, tuning out distractions, speeding up, and accepting corporate policy without question. The article further emphasizes that in the corporate environment, “mindfulness is an ideal tool to induce compliance, with its focus on the individual management of our responses to forces we’re being told are well beyond our control”.

The problem

All of these habits seem to go against such mindfulness practices as non-doing, mindful awareness and acceptance, being present yet observant, and thinking autonomously and morally. Being mindful does not mean staying silent, giving up control, accepting injustice, or ignoring stress and anxiety while working more and more. This is a “misinterpretation” of mindfulness practice. A mindfulness misconception. The issues raised above strongly highlight the problems of condensing mindfulness into a “one-size-fits-all” approach, a “miracle cure”, or a “quick-fix”. While I do not claim that mindfulness must always be taught within a Buddhist context, the concerns raised in this article clearly show that mindfulness without the Buddhist teachings of morality, philosophy, and intention of practice, is no longer mindfulness at all. Even in its pure form, mindfulness and meditation can be practiced by anyone of any religious or philosophical background, and should be seen as a way of living, rather than a technique for becoming more productive, a better worker, more business savvy, or less stressed all the while taking on more and more job tasks. These problems are likely to occur when mindfulness is taught by inexperienced and unqualified instructors, but also when individuals have no broader knowledge of the true meaning of mindfulness and its origins.

And now for the research-based evidence

Scientific research is strongly needed to investigate the issues mentioned in this article. As of today, a majority of research appears to focus on the “benefits” of mindfulness in the corporate environment, for instance among nurses, ICU doctors, and teachers. Often, these studies focus on “mindfulness-based interventions” that have been further compressed and adapted to the work environment in terms of delivery, content, and length of sessions, with the aim to increase resilience, productivity and work engagement, and decrease stress and number of days off work due to burnout or sickness. To my knowledge, research into the potentially negative side-effects of mindfulness in a corporate environment, particularly in relation to “corporate mindfulness”, is still lacking. In the meanwhile, education about mindfulness and meditation may help safeguard individuals from these practices, which are at best a short-term solution, and at worst detrimental to mental wellbeing.

 

Feel free to comment below any thoughts you have about the original article or this blog 🙂 

 

 

 

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