The Experience of Mindfulness; Susan Reviews Thomas Joyner's New Book on the Mindfulness Movement

susan weighs in on Thomas Joyner’s new book Mindlessness; The Corruption of Mindfulness in a Culture of Narcissism for the Los Angeles review of books

Joiner says he expects his attack on the commercialization and popularization of mindfulness to provoke a fight. But I have no problem with Joiner’s criticism of the mindfulness craze and have taken my own share of shots at it. The youngish field of secular mindfulness is growing more quickly than those of us who’ve been in it for a while ever expected. Many of Joiner’s criticisms are well considered and well deserved. I will push back, however, against his main premise, which pits faux-mindfulness against authentic mindfulness. This oppositional set-up misses an essential component of authentic mindfulness, which is resistance to such simple dualisms.

The most straightforward explanation for why inner work is not narcissistic is common sense: when someone becomes less neurotic and more discerning, those around him or her reap the benefits. Usually, when starting out, people look to self-compassion (and mindfulness) for stress reduction and emotional healing, in the hope that these practices will help them feel better. The exercise is mostly conceptual, as people investigate painful patterns and behaviors. It’s only later, when the investigative process couples with a more experiential one, that self-compassion is more likely to emerge. Compassion becomes an insight born of experience rather than an aspiration.

This experiential shift is no small thing, and it shows up in how people speak, act, and relate to one another.

Susan Kaiser Greenland