[Note: This is a slightly revised version of a previous post with the same title.]
Recap: Borrowing from Robert Jay Lifton and Willard S. Mullins, I’m defining ideology as a relatively comprehensive and coherent set of convictions (a “vision”) about how humans and the world works, which is powerful enough to influence one’s thinking, feelings, evaluations, and actions. In this sense, I consider mindfulness as an ideological movement.
Per Teun A. Van Dijk in Politics, Ideology and Discourse, the “ideological square” is pervasive in ideological discourse. Previous posts have dealt with the first three corners of the square: 1) Emphasize Their bad things; 2) De-emphasize Our bad things; and3) Emphasize Our good things. The 4th corner is: De-emphasize Their good things.
The spirit of the ideological square is 1) other ways are awful; 2) our way (as correctly understood and practiced) has no real downside; 3) our way will make life incomparably better than other ways; and, finally, 4) other ways have little to offer. “They” is a convenient term for what happens when our way is not followed. Of course, for some ideologies, “they” can also mean our enemies.
Now it’s time for “De-emphasize Their good things”.
In the case of mindfulness, “de-emphasize their good things” means to de-emphasize the good things of a life lived without mindfulness, as commonly conceived by its practitioners. Another way of putting this is that it is mindfulness that makes life good – so that without mindfulness, “their good things” don’t add up to much, which is a pretty common attitude within the mindfulness community.
In Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn is clear about how awful life is and will continue to be without mindfulness. Actually, “awful” is too mild – “grim” and horrific” are more like it (Kindle version, p. 9309). He describes such a life as one lived in a “blanket of unawareness” (7639), that “half-sleep” in which we are “habitually immersed” (8047), full of “loss and grief and suffering” (440). Kabat-Zinn advises us to practice mindfulness “as wholeheartedly as possible, as if your life depended on it. Because it does – in more ways than you think.” (340) As society goes downhill (as inevitably it must, unless governed by mindful leaders and infused with mindfulness), “meditation will become an absolute necessity” to “protect our sanity” (9256).
The bottom line here is that no matter what good things life has to offer, those good things aren’t worth a hill of beans without mindfulness. And not only mindfulness in the simple sense of “awareness” but as a disciplined practice of meditation.
What others in the mindfulness community say about life without mindfulness:
“Life without mindfulness is foggy and vague, driven by blind impulse and external pressures.” p59
– C. Alexander Simpkins, Annellen M. Simpkins (2003) Buddhism in Ten: Easy Lessons for Spiritual Growth; Tuttle Publishing, Boston, MA
“Without mindfulness, we miss so much in life. Without mindfulness we become restless, bored, and dissatisfied, forever seeking some new sensation…we miss so much of the beauty and poetry of life.” p. 92
– David Fontana (2004) Meditation Week by Week: 52 Meditations to Help You Grow in Peace and Awareness; Sterling Publishing, NY, NY
“Without mindfulness, you react mentally, emotionally and physically to life, and sometimes the consequences of those reactions are even more damaging than the events that brought them up in the first place!”
– http://www.the-guided-meditation-site.com/mindfulness.html (accessed 9/25/15)
“Without mindfulness, we simply act out all the various patterns and habits of our conditioning.”
– Joseph Goldstein (2013) Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening; Sounds True, Boulder, CO
“When operating without mindfulness, all your decisions are automatic and based on previous decisions.”
-Shamash Alidina and Juliet Adams (2014) Mindfulness at Work For Dummies; John Wiley and Sons; Hoboken, NJ
You get the picture. Without mindfulness, we are half-asleep, suffering automatons. There’s really no upside.
That completes the Ideological Square of Mindfulness:
- Emphasize Their bad things
- De-emphasize Our bad things
- Emphasize Our good things
- De- emphasize Their good things
Reference: Jon Kabat-Zinn Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, Kindle Version, Revised Edition 2013; Bantam Books, New York
[Comment: I often use Kabat-Zinn as a proxy for “common” or “typical” sentiments within the mindfulness community, because he is an influential proponent of mindfulness. Throughout these posts, I use a mix of sources to illustrate points, from powerful figures to academics to the hoi polloi – with the understanding that it’s super-easy to find quotes through internet search and then describe them as representative, which they may or may not be. Ideally I would also use survey data, but quality surveys on mindfulness practitioners are hard to come by.]