Interested in this proposal for an experiential workshop on 'mindfulness'?
Mindfulness is all the rage and in fashion everywhere – in therapy, in business, in health.
It’s supposed to cure all ills, increase performance, improve your relationships, help you make money, relieve all sorts of pain from physical to mental, and establish a peaceful society.
But the promise of mindfulness is already flagging, and people are becoming disenchanted with it and disappointed in it.
Any deep and powerful practice that has the potential to transform our increasingly driven, alienated, self-destructive contorted misery, will – once there is evidence that it is ‘working’ – attract the ‘wrong’ kind of attention. Having become over-hyped, popularised and commercialised by upstarts looking for any marketable niche, jumping on the bandwagon and diluting the practice beyond recognition, it’s not surprising that mindfulness has turned into another fad which can’t possibly live up to people’s desperate expectations and idealisations.
What a shame! Because it can be a profoundly powerful and transformative practice, that is: unless an alienated and disembodied ego gets hold of it and uses it for its own purposes.
As Westerners, we are in grave danger of misreading the Eastern teachings on mindfulness through the legacies of our dualistic, religious heritage. Instead of ‘attending to the body in the body’, as the Buddha taught, the idea of mindfulness can easily plug into our established dissociation between mind and body, and exacerbate the crippling established dominance of the mind over the body which culturally we find ourselves always already ‘thrown into’.
In our entrancement with the supposedly superior mind we miss the fact that arguably, in many Eastern traditions, the aim of mindfulness is to transcend the mind, i.e. to get beyond the mind and arrive at a state of mindless-ness which is considered as even deeper/higher than mindfulness. It is this effortless state which gives the effort of mindfulness practice its ultimate purpose.
In a culture which is rampant with addictive mindlessness designed to numb out dissociated trauma and unaddressed pain, it is difficult to get our heads around the possible benefits of mindless-ness.
But when we recognise the dissociative mis-uses of mindfulness techniques, exacerbating the delusions of mental control (which always backfire), we are intuitively being attracted towards a potentially deeper and more challenging, but infinitely more satisfying version of mindfulness. We then realise that ‘true’ mindfulness can occur only within what we might call ‘bodymind fullness’.
If confronting addictive mindlessness is difficult, and mindfulness constitutes a challenge, ‘bodymind fullness’ is off the scale – no wonder it’s not usually on the menu. But without ‘bodymind fullness’, we can work our mindful socks off, running past the point of exhaustion just to stand still, and still not get anywhere worth while. Without ‘bodymind fullness’, you ain’t going nowhere.
Therefore, for most Westerners, our experiential starting point and most useful and realistic focus is the initial question:
- what kind of psychology (and ‘un-psychology') will help ourselves and others to establish that ‘bodymind fullness’ without which mindfulness cannot flower?
- what kind of techniques (and ‘un-techniques') are effective in walking the knife-edge between mindfulness and mindlessness, towards that place we long for, but do not want to arrive at?
If you are interested in participating in a workshop that experientially explores these questions (some time next spring or summer), let me know … and I’ll put you on the long, long waiting list 🙂