I just received the June issue of Mindful Magazine (yes, there is a magazine devoted to mindfulness). Inside the front cover is a full-page ad for a clothing company called Best Dressed Monk, Attire for the Mindful Man. I honestly thought it was a joke, but it’s not. Mindfulness has truly entered the commercial space.
Unfortunately, it’s entered the political space as well. All too often, proponents of mindfulness wrap the practice up as a world changing force that will bring forth an emergence of a politically progressive agenda. As if one must think GMOs are always bad or income redistribution is always good to be truly mindful. Of course, sustainability is a good thing, and self-interest serves society better as enlightened self-interest, but none of this has anything to do with being mindful.
In fact, if mindfulness is truly to be defined as nonjudgmental awareness, proponents of mindfulness must be accepting of all points of view.
On mindfulness retreats I often feel like an outsider. So many people speak from the left. So many have little tolerance for my pro-growth, pro-liberty views. Conversations quickly turn away from the openness of the meditating mind, the noticing of whatever comes up, and close in on class distinctions and questionable ethics of social justice. At lunch during one retreat I mentioned that I thought money was better spent funding promising entrepreneurs than on the economically disadvantaged. The silence that followed was as deep as that in the meditation hall. Then the retorts. Then the insult that I am one of them.
But it’s sad, isn’t it. “Them” are whom we need for mindfulness to truly stick and effect positive social change.
Mindfulness is on the verge of being an accepted therapy for physical and psychological illness. Nonbiased, peer reviewed research is establishing the practice as a successful, cost-effective intervention for the stress that underlies much of the disease we face as individuals and as a society. It is losing it new agey, smells and bells connotations and entering the mainstream. And nothing will kill this mainstream curiosity about mindfulness faster than it’s identification with a left wing agenda.
Yet I still hold out hope that the “mindful revolution” will be an inclusive one. On the cover of the June issue of Mindful is Arianna Huffington on the New Metric for Success. Few media moguls are more aligned with a left wing agenda. But the interview with Huffington is completely without bias. It is simply about how mindfulness can benefit each practitioner and positively influence society. Gone are the distinctions between left and right, dynamism and stasis, and present are the simplicity of the practice and the need to reduce the negative effects of stress.
Mindfulness can lead to better health, foster compassion, and improve creativity. These positive effects can serve us well. It can also help us let go of the constant judgment of those whose opinions don’t match our own. But for mindfulness to take hold and have its greatest impact, it must enter the neutral, clinical space of wellness and leave the personal views of its teachers, and cheerleaders, out of the quiet space of being still in our awareness and just noticing what we experience. All without drawing political, social, and economic distinctions.