Let’s not turn Mindfulness into a Capitalist Spirituality

I never dreamed nine years ago, when I entered the world of Mindfulness, that this practice would slowly but surely come to the Balkan region. However, I hope that we will not suffer a similar fate as in the West, where Mindfulness has become something called “McMindfulness”, that is, a quick and effective “solution” to get rid of stress, difficult thoughts, and feelings as soon as possible.

“McMindfulness” is like a magic pill that makes us better people, workers, partners, parents, etc., just by being present… Just like at McDonald’s, mindfulness becomes fast food that immediately satisfies our hunger for well-being. So, maybe I’m doing myself a disservice—as someone who is a Mindfulness Trainer—but I’m going to tell you a slightly different story about the joy of living in the present moment and why this practice can be so much more than it’s made out to be (but unfortunately, only saying that doesn’t sell it!).

The beauty of the present moment

How wonderful it is to be here and now! enjoying your first morning coffee, feeling the warmth of a child’s hug, and the smell of the wet earth as you walk through the forest with the first rays of the morning sun. Enjoy the soft breeze against your face as you relax and take in the sounds of the birds’ singing.

Of course, appreciating the gifts of being a human on Earth requires a focus on the here-and-now. Nature. All of the senses that we possess. People we hold dear but tend to overlook in the midst of our hectic schedules. Though we may be going through a rough patch, there are still little pleasures in life that help us get through it.

Slowly but surely, we are building our own little universe of presence, awareness, and being here and now—in our families, relationships, jobs, and lives. We are building our little oasis of presence and peace.

Only as long as we have a good time. Only as long as we are Zen. Just as long as we are our best versions of ourselves. We know all those techniques of self-soothing, relaxation, better focus and presence. We have become more aware adults, parents, and more productive workers. Why should we worry about all the bad things that people say and the problems that might happen in the future? Let us be here and now, and here and now is very good for us.

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While the world, society, and humanity around us are falling apart…

Yes, you read the previous sentence correctly. I know I sound apocalyptic and that’s my goal.

Why is Mindfulness being approached the wrong way?

The way Mindfulness is taught today, adapted to Western people, often excludes values such as empathy, compassion, and concrete action to change and do something in our society.

As long as I don’t disturb my tranquility, I’ll be fine in my own little world of ease. We forget that we are, first and foremost, social beings who exist in communities and with other people, and instead place too much value on mastering our own thoughts, emotions, and stress. Also, the things that happen in our immediate surroundings and in society as a whole have a big effect on all of us.

People learn to be passive and content with their lives when taught Mindfulness in the West (not always, but this is an increasingly common criticism).

I recommend Ronald Purser’s McMindfulness: “How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality.” I only don’t agree with everything written, but there are some valid points.

Everything is blamed on the responsibility of the individual to better control stress and that the reasons for everyone’s stress are exclusively individual (suppressing the fact that stress is often a consequence of bad policies, socio-economic conditions, discrimination, racism, poverty…)

It is forgotten that Mindfulness practice and how it can be used as a development of the individual’s awareness to notice what is wrong and does not work in society, and that from that state of awareness, understanding, and compassion, the individual can take action to change something.

Mindfulness as a force for change

As someone who has volunteered since the age of 16 with vulnerable groups of people, I was very bothered by the passivity of the mindfulness communities I was a part of at the beginning of my studies of this approach.

It was not uncommon for me to encounter western teachers who advocated for acceptance and patience, but there was a misunderstanding of the difficult conditions in which certain individuals lived and who spoke of “inner peace” as something that would solve all their problems, which just wasn’t reasonable.

That’s why I searched for a long time for teachers and mentors who could see and apply Mindfulness as a practice that can collectively help us to wake up, strengthen, and, thanks to that inner peace, become a force of action that wants to make this world a better place.

Mindfulness can awaken in us that childlike curiosity, a beginner’s mind, to approach other people’s sufferings and problems with patience and a desire to help and change something on this planet.

Mindfulness can help us in the fight against discrimination, racism, nationalism, peer violence, environmental protection, etc., and I am happy to see that more and more Mindfulness programs of this type are being created. I am fortunate to be part of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEIB) group of the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion from America today, where I listen and learn about how Mindfulness and Mindful Self-Compassion practices are used to reduce racism, support LGBT communities, or prevent peer violence. I’m also working on creating a program in the near future that will be able to support young people with limited opportunities to acquire the skills of mindfulness.

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Final words from Vesna

Let’s unlock the full potential of mindfulness: it’s more than just a stress-busting toolbox. Dare to explore its depths, and join the movement to elevate our world. As teachers and students of mindfulness, let’s commit to shaping a responsible, open-minded practice that fosters positive change for all. Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below – let’s create a mindful, conscious community together!

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