Are you into mindfulness?
Have you been told it will help you?
De-stress and then refocus on your job?
What about the things that are stressful about your job? How will mindfulness actually make those go away?
Oh, it won’t?
If you have a boring job, bad boss, or are constantly afraid to get fired, mindfulness will not fix that?
Hmmm… then can I ask you another question? Who is mindfulness really serving?
That’s right. Your bosses.
There’s a reason that Amazon is installing mindfulness closets inside its warehouses.
“I feel like living wages and better working conditions are better than a mobile despair closet” says writer Talia Levin.
As Ronald Purser shares in his book, McMindfulness, it’s the perfect capitalist spirituality. Don’t think, just be with your breath, then go back to work like a good little robot.
Frankly, I am done with mindfulness.
Because it “shifts the burden of psychological stress and structural insecurities onto individual employees, frames this as a personal problem, and makes mindfulness the answer.” -Purser
Mindfulness attempts to place us in an ahistorical present where all we have to do is “pay attention to our breath” (and never think about the systems that created the rage that we feel.)
What if mindfulness was bullshit?
Nothing but FEEEEELINGS
A lot of us inside nonprofits believe that the systems that got us here need examination, and need to be dismantled.
Mindfulness encourages us to forget our struggle, and go into denial about why we feel what we feel.
The way mindfulness is practiced in business settings valorizes peace and tranquility, and makes anger something to be avoided. It encourages us to be “better adjusted cogs” according to Purser.
It’s ahistorical, and anti-narrative for a reason! It asks us to actively try to stop thinking, instead of looking at the reason for our suffering, and then, I don’t know, DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
What moment are you living in?
Whether it’s a glorified anti-intellectualism or just a simple way of keeping the masses disengaged from a historical or political or class analysis of our struggle, mindfulness tries to keep us blind to our own narrative.
But we live inside a historical moment, and a narrative that we should be considering each time we look at the reasons for our sadness and suffering.
You might say, but Mazarine, seriously, why do I have to look at my suffering? Can’t I just zen out?
Sure. But your suffering will still be there tomorrow. So maybe look at it? And then it will be lessened? Just a thought!
Let’s say for example your boss is telling you to come back to work, but it won’t be safe, you know your coworkers are not masking up, and not everyone is vaccinated. And then 6 people on your floor get COVID, and one of them dies. You get sick but you luckily survive. (This really happened to a nonprofit friend of mine.)
Should mindfulness be what you turn to? OR, should you maybe decide that going into work at the office is not going to be a safe thing, and demand more stringent workplace rules around COVID?
Which one is going to solve the problem?
We fundraisers often encourage a passive sort of humanism. Like, give us a donation and… you’re helping poverty! But how? Don’t worry! Just give that $5 bill to that homeless person…and then you’ll have a warm glowing feeling, no analysis necessary, no need to go offer them a place to stay.
Our own ahistorical lens encourages us to never look upstream from the problem. It’s social amnesia, forgetting that the world we live in is a narrative, contingent on power and special interests. Working in the sector is like wandering in an amoral maze of thought-terminating cliches. People pleading with us to be less angry, more calm, and adjust to “the world as it is!” To this I say!
This quote from Dr King: “There are certain things in our nation and in the world (about) which I am proud to be maladjusted and which I hope all men of good-will will be maladjusted until the good societies realize. I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few, leave millions of God’s children smothering in an air tight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, to self‐defeating effects of physical violence.”
As Martin Luther King said, the system is sick, and maladjustment is the only answer to a sick system. We should not strive to be well adjusted to corruption, violence, mass deaths, and abuse of power. We should strive to do better at seeing what is really happening, and doing something about it.