[Note: This is a slightly revised version of a previous post with the same title.]
Approaching the mindfulness movement as a form of discourse reflecting a broad array of influences (cultural, historical, ideological, religious) and employing various rhetorical strategies to boost its appeal is not to say that the insights or wisdom associated with mindfulness are without merit or foundation in reality. A lot of things constrain and influence how we see the world and how we see the world may still reflect, more or less accurately, what is the case. An example: to paraphrase Steven Pinker , our neurobiology, upbringing and linguistic conventions enable us to experience and label something as “red” and “redness” corresponds to something real, e.g. a wavelength of light from approximately 620–740 nm on the electromagnetic spectrum.
To claim otherwise is to engage in either/or thinking, or “rathering” – a wonderful term coined by Daniel Dennett. Cultural (or, for that matter, psychological) reductionism is a form of “rathering”: rather than seeing the world as it is, we see through our cultural (or psychological) lenses. Such reductionism is often applied to those with whom we disagree: Their way of thinking is a product of influences or self-interest; my way of thinking is the result of close observation of reality.
There’s no need to choose between analyzing discourse as such and also considering its truth-value. I intend to do both. I want to understand mindfulness as a form of discourse and I want to know how well the assumptions, beliefs and practices associated with the mindfulness movement comport with the current scientific understanding of how people and the world works.