Access to mindfulness has never been easier and apps such as Calm and Headspace attract millions of followers, but not everyone is happy about this sudden uptake, hence Ronald Purser’s 2019 book entitled McMindfulness.
For over 40 years mindfulness has been linked to stress reduction especially in the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn who developed the stress reduction course MBSR. Yet despite scientific research in this field, stress is still the greatest cause of work based illness. So if the uptake in mindfulness is increasing why isn’t stress being reduced? Research suggests that the theme of mindfulness, as an antidote to stress, has become diluted because of the numerous contexts in which mindfulness can be applied. In the UK the take up is relatively low but in the US, companies such as Salesforce and Google are engaging in extensive mindfulness programs. However, it is the contribution to the field of emotional intelligence that seems to be driving the current interest in mindfulness. In his book, Purser is not discounting the benefits of mindfulness, but believes that it has been hijacked by the corporate world and separated from its ethical context. Mindfulness, a practice synonymous with just being and none doing, is now being linked to bio-power and brain hacking. There is no doubt that mindfulness does play a role in emotional regulation, a great asset in the working environment. However, the mind is a complex and individual beast that has been created and shaped by millions of thoughts and multiple experiences over many years. When we practice, we do not all start on the same playing field and we may not like what we see. A good program recognises the risks and will provide practices that support us through difficult times. Whilst mindfulness can be transformational we should bear in mind that some of the benefits alluded to in the quick fix programs can take many years to cultivate.