‘Mindfulness Revoluion’ or Mindlessness?
Guru Sattvananda, President of the Sunbury Yoga Society, rather thinks he’ll continue with his fifty-five years of ‘mindlessness practise, thank you’. He challenges the punditry of the so-called ‘mindful revolutionaries’ and chides them for their masterpieces of cosy thought they seek to pedal to the unwary by means of intellectual ‘flim-flam’.
My reaction to the ‘Mindfulness Revolution’ was one of pure ambivalence. Firstly, a begrudging admiration for the veritable Founder of the movement, Jon Kabat Zinn, for having created such a wonderful concoction of speculative ideas and secondly, even more intellectual flim-flam to muddy the waters.
I was recently presented with a book: ‘Mindfulness in Plain English’ written by Bhante Henepola Gumaratana, which was commented on by the very same Jon Kabat Zinn as; ”A masterpiece. I cannot recommend it highly enough.” On reading the book there is much with which I concur, but its presentation leaves me with a certain amount of unease.
I am left with a similar question to the one I am constantly reminded of regarding the on-going Yoga debate. That is, do any of these ‘golden calf’ creators ever get beyond the head and the ‘cosiness of thought’, into the rough and tumble of practice? Had they done so, they might have been moved towards making a subtle change to their title; from the ‘Mindfulness Revolution’ to the ‘Mindlessness Revolution’.
It was a 20th century sage that gave me the clue, much earlier in my own game, with his well-known statement;
My own practice, having confirmed this, and further demonstrated how all ideas ‘tumble’ into nothingness when meditatively ‘gazed upon’, inducing Samadhi. The journey of breaking free from the mind and into transcendence beyond, but not actually going anywhere!
The obvious paradox in this whole concept of Mindfulness (as well as its semantic contradiction) is its omission to free the consciousness of awareness from the mind. Instead the protagonists seem preoccupied in wanting to be ‘something’ or ‘somebody’. Their belief in achieving this leads them to fill the mind with even more unassimilated clutter. This culminates in an ‘act of compassion’ to justify dumping it onto other troubled soul. Presumably, if they themselves are impressed enough with their ‘clever ideas’ then, likewise, it will be bound to impress others.
There is an old saying in the world of psychology about ‘castles in the air’. It would appear that is equally applicable here.
“Neurotics build castles in the air; and psychotics live in them. Whatever the case, both the psychiatrist and the psychotherapist collects the ground rent.”
But it is not always that easy to differentiate tenant from landlord! The roles appear to intermingle and are interchangeable. A folly of Man is to build a system of new ideas onto a previously-held false concept, and each successful layer removes us further and further from the ‘truth’. To add further layers is to bury deeper the suppressed causes of unhappiness and pain. The very opposite to that which is intended.
The power of meditation does not seem to be in dispute here, rather its definition and application, but more disconcertingly, particular in relation to those people identifying themselves as Buddhists. What does meditation actually mean to them?
For the sufferer the discipline for the formal preparation of meditation must essentially be simple, for only the meditator has the power of self-healing. No therapist, whether scientifically trained as a medical doctor, or persuaded into a mind-set as an alternative/complimentary medical practitioner, has the power to cure! The greatest giveaway of all is its claim of self-worth, gaining validity from an expanding neuroscience. A meditator substantiated in the art of meditation, requires no endorsements from an allopathic ‘medico’. Not that they should be in competition, but the criteria of each are arrived at differently.
The Medico uses and recycles the forms extant within the Mind. The Meditator uses the immediacy of Consciousness on Consciousness, transcending the Mind altogether. In life, both may co-exist, and it is important that they both do so.
Wherever we identify with any group, system or organisation, whether religious or secular, we both institutionalise and become sectarian in our attitude and consequently in our institutions, thus becoming the creators and perpetuators of a house divided against its self. Is this really what we seek?
It is not my intention to debunk every new idea, or even recycled old ones for that matter, but rather to challenge the use of these ideas as a complete system within itself (intellectualism). Such an approach traps the sufferer in the mind, and although it may bring a feeling of relief by suppressing the symptoms temporarily, will eventually erupt once more after the affect has worn off.
It saddens me to see how the efficacy of a system is often judged by its degree of difficulty, therefore requiring ‘trained experts’ with qualifications to administer it. The jargon used by them tends to be magniloquent (‘lofty in speech’). The potency of any system will ultimately be tested when it comes to be used by the sufferer/victim, whether given by a therapist or self-administered.
Hence, simplicity is the key factor here.
I invite your comments, fellow yoga practitioners. I write this to initiate a debate on what is rather an important issue which is affecting the therapy market at the moment. Have I revealed the ‘Emperor has no clothes’ or got the wrong end of the stick?
Guru Sattvananda (Keith ap Owen),
President of the Sunbury Yoga Society.
10th January 2014