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The Mindfulness Conspiracy, New MusingMind Website, & 13 Social Miracles
The new MusingMind website is live! Still a few major projects in the website pipeline, but the basics are up, & I’m excited about this next iteration of my digitized existence. Any feedback/suggestions much appreciated.
Ron Purser sent me an advance copy of his forthcoming book, McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality, and I’m really, really digging it. He places the dharma and neoliberal capitalism in direct opposition, challenging meditation practitioners to confront the sociocultural structures that perpetuate unnecessary suffering.
This brings to the fore ideas that’ve been simmering in my mind for months (years?). Any serious interest taken into the spaces, structures, and potentialities of conscious experience must consider the economic, social, technological, and political scaffoldings that contextualize consciousness. Because as folks like Marshall McLuhan & Felix Guattari write, cultural environments have psychic consequences (more on that below).
I’ll be writing up a book review soon.
A nugget of his critique:
"A kind of bury-your-head in the sand mindfulness which acts as a sanitized palliative for neoliberal subjects who have lost hope for alternatives to capitalism."
Vending Machines of Desire
I wrote an essay about the vending machine in my apartment building’s lobby. But as these things go, it’s about more than that:
The financial incentives to induce a sociopolitical stupor, an inertia in our becoming as human beings by feeding us junk, showing us standardized movies, busying us with soul-dampening labor, and shackling us with debt so we cannot realistically entertain any other way to live.
The urgency of *feeling*, rather than just knowing things.
“Practices of feeling the transiency of sugary delights, feeling the plight of whales stuffed with plastic as they wash upon the beach to die, or feeling the loss of biodiversity as the loss of our own limbs.”
& the wonderful Mary Oliver.
The Faux Revolution of Mindfulness
Ron Purser just published a long teaser essay for his book in The Guardian, & the Buddhist community is reacting.
Thomas Metzinger, an elder of the meditation, philosophy, and neuroscience communities all melded into one, Tweeted:
Vince Horn of the Pragmatic Dharma approach & the Buddhist Geeks podcast:
Vince’s thread accepts the critique, but laments that it stops at critique. Purser seeks to deconstruct the neoliberalization of mindfulness without offering a vision of reconstruction from its ruins.
Point well received, and I dislike the platitude of ‘raising awareness is a virtue in itself!’, but this critique actualized me in a way I wasn’t before. It got gears of thought moving that’d been stuck. I think this critique needed a mainstream articulation, and I think this is it.
As with any piece that penetrates public consciousness, response is mixed. But my faith in public discourse is heartened when folks like the fantastic Oliver Burkeman manage to disagree without demeaning:
Among Purser’s most salient critiques is this: America is neutering, or has already neutered, meditation.
By reducing meditation to mindfulness, and describing mindfulness as a personal practice disconnected from all sociocultural context, we’re reproducing a meager shadow of meditation practice, a sliver of the sheer magnitude of the dharma.
By ‘privatizing’ mindfulness practice, it’s enabled to occur and thrive within a neoliberal socioeconomic framework that Purser views as antithetical to contemplative ethics.
Purser writes that mindfulness pacifies us as neoliberal subjects to the oppressive power relations inherent in the socioeconomic system. This is what’s meant by privatizing stress - it’s not society’s problem that you’re stressed out, it’s your own problem!
Or, put differently. If we are not engaged in an ongoing love affair with existing, if we suffer, who’s to blame?
Is it an individual failure of attention? Is a failure of mindfulness the reason I cannot continually bask in the splendor of the present? Or are larger contextual factors at play, such as the social, economic, political, and technologic systems that undergird our realities, and cause unnecessary suffering?
To my mind, the response to these critiques lies in both, and territory. But Purser’s critique is sensitive to the very sort of ecological, or ecosophical thinking that I’ve been so jazzed up on lately, so I’m devouring the book, and excited to write up a review.
Shinzen Young: I’d Take Meditative Consciousness Over the Alternative Every Time
Here’s a quick clip from meditation teacher Shinzen Young’s Google talk some years back. The clip should automatically begin at 1:00:21.
He offers a little thought experiment:
“You take anybody that’s meditated for 40 years, the way I have, and ask them:
'do you want to live one day knowing what you know as a meditator, and die, or live the rest of your life, but you’re not allowed to have a meditator’s consciousness.’
No one will hesitate, give me one day with the meditator’s consciousness. That’s incomparably better than a lifetime of ordinary pleasure.”
h/t to Tasshin’s link page for this vid.
Marshall McLuhan Playboy Interview
Rumor has it this is the best interview to encounter Marshall McLuhan’s thought (in this case, rumor is David Perell). Seems like McLuhan prefigures Felix Guattari’s ecosophy, and the whole interconnectedness of consciousness & culture train I’m riding.
From the interview, McLuhan says:
So, yeah, it’s a hell of a read. Link here.
McLuhan = Guattari
Check out the ideological similarities between Felix Guattari & Marshall McLuhan:
“Without modifications to the social and material environment, there can be no change in mentalities. Here, we are in the presence of a circle that leads me to postulate the necessity of founding an ‘ecosophy’ that would link environmental ecology to social ecology and to mental ecology.”
“My work is designed for the pragmatic purpose of trying to understand our technological environment and its psychic and social consequences.
This reminds me of a bit from Borges, where he describes certain ideas as living outside of time, just waiting to break in. Individuals are just bridges between the atemporal realms where these ideas reside and the bounded spacetime perceptual realm we operate within.
Individuals as memetic bridges between the ideas of eternity & the lived reality of spacetime. That’s a nice thought.
Borges wrote (& I cannot recommend reading his two page essay enough):
“Perhaps an archetype not yet revealed to [hu]man, an eternal object, is gradually entering the world…”
13 Social Miracles
I’ve been digging into the work of Zak Stein recently, an eclectic guy (of the current generation) whose specialties appear to lie at the intersection of integral theory and education.
He just released a book, Education in a Time Between Worlds: Essays on the Future of Schools, Technology, and Society, which I hope to read soon. He’s been on a few podcasts to discuss things like ‘metamodern education’, and I really appreciate the breadth and depth of his thinking.
In his book, there’s a bit about “The 13 Social Miracles”. These are pragmatic utopian steps he feels we could actually take, and I want to share the table of contents for the 13 miracles -
This is the kind of comprehensive, integral, ecologically informed vision for a sane society, upheld and enriched by its social, economic, and technological scaffolding that gets my blood flowing.
This also fits into Ron Purser’s Mindfulness critique.
Purser points out that Buddha taught the eightfold path, of which ‘right mindfulness’ was only one (of eight) components. To live the dharma is larger than living mindfully, and requires a much broader, integral framework.
Not to compare Stein’s 13 miracles to Buddha’s eightfold path - I haven’t even read Stein’s book yet. But it helps combat the idea that there’s any single solution. Ameliorating the human condition in a complex society cannot come from any single source - this only invites imbalance.
A multidimensional vision respects the complexity of society today.
Peter Limberg recently Tweeted about a school he calls ‘Sensemaking’ for which the crew around Zek Stein are considered chieftans:
If anyone is aware of more people alive now who are calling for integral solutions that respect the complexity of life today, shoot me a message! I’d love to build out my map of folks approaching the interplay between consciousness and culture at this level.
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