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“Mindfulness Lost Its Soul”

20 March, 2014 by David Finer

Scientists are confused about the concept of mindfulness, and overlook its social and existential dimensions. Mindfulness has become commercialized mindlessness and lost its soul. So says Håkan Nilsson at University of Gothenburg, Department of Literature, History of Ideas and Religion in Sweden.

Håkan Nilsson is a lecturer in social psychology and the author of the Master´s thesis Making Mindfulness: Highlighting the Social and Existential Dimensions.

In a press release from Gothenburg University, he says that many scientists seem to be confused about the meaning of the mindfulness concept. So he set out to make a critical analysis of the concept.

Overlooked Dimensions
Mindfulness is increasingly used for stress management in the workplace and in health care. According to Nilsson, however, the popular usage of the term encompasses – and is limited to – body scanning, meditation, yoga and mental control of thoughts and feelings.

The social and spiritual dimensions of mindfulness get overlooked however, Nilsson says. The former relates to empathy, leading to sustainable social relations, the latter is about how mindfulness creates meaning in life.

Håkan Nilsson also calls for better monitoring of the effects of mindfulness in the longer term.

Lost its roots
He regrets that mindfulness has become adapted to our needs in the West and in the process has lost the original elements of spirituality and ethics of Buddhism.

–       I see mindfulness as a physical and mental exercise, whose purpose is to create lasting social relationships, leading towards a sustainable social climate, says Håkan Nilsson in the press release.

Quick-Fix Healing
In a previous article published in Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Studies, in 2013, Nilsson wrote:

”It is fairly well accepted that mindfulness techniques such as MBSR, MBCT, DBT and ACT* have been beneficial in terms of treating various illnesses. Unfortunately, in the process of transforming mindfulness (or sati) from a Buddhist soteriological to a postmodern Western ontology, the practice has lost a bit of its true soul. The paradox of mindfulness in the West is that while, on the one hand, its various modern formations have been effective when it comes to the treatment of illness, on the other, it has been commercialized as a form of quick-fix healing by certain therapists and instructors.”

David Finer

* Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Read More

How Mindfulness Becomes Mindlessness – A Hermeneutical Approach.

Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Studies; 4(1):187.196, 2013.

Mindfulness – ett verktyg för att skapa mening och hållbara social relationer (Mindfulness – a Tool to Create Meaning and Sustainable Social Relations). Press Release, March 13 2014, University of Gothenburg.



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