How ‘mindfulness’ gets sold (down the river?)

Uncategorised Oct 24, 2019

As an ex-Buddhist monk, I spent years sitting – sometimes my mind would stop, but sometimes that could be really scary. There is a joke but a very accurate one that neurotics build castles in the air, psychotics live in them, and the psychiatrist collects the rent. So when your castle in the air begins to crumble and you fall into space, it can be scary. Nevertheless, the space, the pure mind is the true agent of healing  – sadly this seems to have become commercialized in a kind of gold rush by psychologists…
“Developed at Google and based on the latest in neuroscience research, our programs offer attention and mindfulness training that build the core emotional intelligence skills needed for peak performance and effective leadership. We help professionals at all levels adapt, management teams evolve, and leaders optimize their impact and influence.”
Mindfulness is enabling corporations to “optimize impact”? In this view of things, mindfulness can be extracted from a context of Buddhist meanings, values, and purposes. Meditation and mindfulness are not part of a whole way of life but only a spiritual technology, a mental app that is the same regardless of how it is used and what it is used for.
Bringing Buddhist meditation techniques into industry accomplishes two things for industry. It does actually give companies like Google something useful for an employee’s well-being, but it also neutralizes a potentially disruptive adversary. Buddhism has its own orienting perspectives, attitudes, and values, as does American corporate culture. And not only are they very different from each other, they are also often fundamentally opposed to each other.
A benign way to think about this is that once people experience the benefits of mindfulness they will become interested in the dharma and develop a truer appreciation for Buddhism—and that would be fine. But the problem is that neither Buddhists nor employees are in control of how this will play out. Industry is in control. This is how ideology works. It takes something that has the capacity to be oppositional, like Buddhism, and it redefines it. And somewhere down the line, we forget that it ever had its own meaning.
It’s not that any one active ideology accomplishes all that needs to be done; rather, it is the constant repetition of certain themes and ideas that tend to construct a kind of “nature.” Ideology functions by saying “this is nature”—this is the way things are; this is the way the world is. So, Obama talks about STEM, scientists talk about the human computer, universities talk about “workforce preparation,” and industry talks about the benefits of the neuroscience of meditation, but it all becomes something that feels like a consistent world, and after a while we lose the ability to look at it skeptically. At that point we no longer bother to ask to be treated humanly. At that point we accept our fate as mere functions. Ideology’s job is to make people believe that their prison is a pleasure dome. 
from an article in Tricycle by Caring-Lobel
Contrast this with Master Rinzai :  ‘You listening to the Dharma, if you are men of the way, who depend on nothing, then you are the mother of the Buddhas…Students seize on words or phrases.. which blinds their eyes to the Way`’