Meditation for Sale
The chances are that by now either you or someone you know well has begun to practise Buddhist Vipassana meditation by another name —- In the past four years or so it’s gone from being an eccentric but harmless hobby practised by contemporary hippies, (under a new name as a consumer product) to infect the whole western establishment. The presentation is meant to be somehow “neutral” to any other considerations of faith or mysticism or anything like that. Fuck mindfulness I say!
If you consider in both America and the UK it’s probably easier to count on your fingers the number of institutions that aren’t engaging in ‘mindfulness’ than those that are; giving ‘mindfulness’ teachers special spaces to have classes and encouraging staff to take part.
The mindful idiots include Google, Kensington and Chelsea Council, the European Central Bank and the US Marines. The British NHS is funding mindfulness sessions for depression as an alternative to pharmaceutical interventions. There’s an all-party mindfulness group in parliament, which Ruby Wax helped launch. Madeleine Bunting has suggested in the Guardian that it should be mandatory in schools. All nonsense in my view.
It’s been touted as a cure for pretty well everything, from depression, stress, anxiety and chronic pain to eczema. And for those who can’t manage the group sessions, there’s a handy app called HeadSpace which enables you to do mindfulness on the go from your smartphone and now offers a bespoke service. The app was invented by Andy Puddicombe, a forty-something former Buddhist monk with a degree in circus arts. According to the New York Times, “Puddicombe is doing for meditation what Jamie Oliver has done for food.” Certainly mindfulness is doing for Puddicombe what food has done for Jamie Oliver, because he’s now worth about £25 million.