[Note: This is a slightly revised version of a previous post with the same title.]
These posts will also be part critique of the mindfulness movement. Per Wikipedia, a critique “is a method of disciplined, systematic analysis of a written or oral discourse…. and in the philosophical tradition it also means a methodical practice of doubt.” A critique is not just descriptive but implies evaluation of merit. The questions of merit I’m most interested in relate to the truth-value of assertions made in the name of mindfulness as well as possible effects of mindfulness discourse and practice.
Some assertions cannot be proven by argument or evidence; that is, they are unfalsifiable. Variations on “I just know” are unfalsifiable. These include: it’s a matter of experience, higher understanding, wisdom, essential truths, deeply felt emotion, being, higher consciousness or faith. There certainly is room for unfalsifiable convictions, but if a conviction is about something that can clearly be evaluated according to the rules of logic or evidence, then “I just know” or any of its variants is not enough. For example, “I know in my heart that, deep down, people are good” would be hard to confirm one way or another, but “I know in my heart that John never hit that woman” refers to something that potentially could be shown to be true or false.
Even though many mindfulness advocates welcome scientific support for mindfulness practice, such support may not considered essential because, ultimately, the “truth” of mindfulness is not subject to impersonal rules of logic or evidence. As Jon Kabat-Zinn put it in Full Catastrophe Living:
“And if a science of mindfulness had never emerged, meditation would still be just as important to me. Such meditative practices stand on their own. They have their own compelling logic, their own empirical validity, their own wisdom which can be known only from the inside….” 280 (Kindle pagination – my bold)
Maybe, maybe not. If an assertion includes falsifiable elements, that assertion is fair game for logical and/or empirical critique.
Reference: Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Kindle Edition (2013) by Jon Kabat-Zinn (Author), Thich Nhat Hanh (Preface) Bantam Books, NY