In claiming to offer a multipurpose, multi-user remedy for all occasions, mindfulness oversimplifies the difficult business of understanding oneself.
With the no-self doctrine, we relinquish not only more familiar understandings of the self, but also the idea that mental phenomena such as thoughts and feelings are our own. In doing so, we make it harder to understand why we think and feel the way we do, and to tell a broader story about ourselves and our lives.
Yet I’d also become troubled by a cluster of feelings that I couldn’t quite identify. It was as if I could no longer make sense of my emotions and thoughts. Did I think the essay I’d just written was bad because the argument didn’t quite work, or was I simply anxious about the looming deadline? Why did I feel so inadequate? Was it imposter syndrome, depression or was I just not a good fit for this kind of research? I couldn’t tell whether I had particular thoughts and feelings simply because I was stressed and inclined to give in to melodramatic thoughts, or because there was a good reason to think and feel those things. Something about the mindfulness practice I’d cultivated, and the way it encouraged me to engage with my emotions, made me feel increasingly estranged from myself and my life.
When eating the raisin, for example, the focus is on the process of consuming it, rather than reflecting on whether you like raisins or recalling the little red boxes of them you had in your school lunches, and so on.
Mindfulness has become something of a one-size-fits-all response for a host of modern ills – something ideologically innocent that fits easily into anyone’s life, regardless of background, beliefs or values.
Original source: Mindfulness is loaded with (troubling) metaphysical assumptions