A contemplative practice with Buddhist roots, mindfulness is "the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present-moment, non-judgmentally." Practicing mindfulness can be an effective adjunct in treating psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, and addiction. But have we gone too far with mindfulness? Recent books on the topic reveal a troubling corruption of mindfulness practice for commercial gain, with self-help celebrities hawking mindfulness as the next "miracle drug." Furthermore, common misunderstanding of what mindfulness really is seems to be fueled by a widespread cultural trend toward narcissism, egocentricity, and self-absorption.
Thomas Joiner's Mindlessness
chronicles the promising rise of mindfulness and its perhaps inevitable degradation. Giving mindfulness its full due, both as a useful philosophical vantage point and as a means to address various life challenges, Joiner mercilessly charts how narcissism has intertwined with and co-opted the practice to create a Frankenstein's monster of cultural solipsism and self-importance. He examines the dispiriting consequences for many sectors of society (e.g., mental health, education, politics) and ponders ways to mitigate, if not undo, them. Mining a rich body of research, Joiner also makes use of material from popular culture, literature, social media, and personal experience in order to expose the misuse of mindfulness and to consider how we as a society can back away from the brink, salvaging a potentially valuable technique for improving mental and physical wellbeing.