Mindfulness has gone mainstream. From education to healthcare, the corporate world to criminal justice, parliament to the military, this ancient Buddhist tradition has been reignited in the Western conscience as the old cure for modern ills. The practice encourages, mostly through meditation, the observation of present thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations in a non-judgemental way. By being more mindful, advocates argue we can develop life-changing skills to temper the stresses of the modern world and begin the journey to enlightened, healthy and happy existence.
But critics argue the evidence for the efficacy of mindfulness is not strong. In a recent academic article, a number of psychologists and cognitive scientists warn that despite the hype, ‘misinformation and poor methodology associated with past studies of mindfulness may lead the public to be harmed, misled, and disappointed.’
There are no doubt certain benefits to meditation and being aware of one’s emotional state. But the mindfulness industry has co-opted these tools and over-promised their utility to sell us more stuff, from ‘mindful eating’ to wellness apps.
Far from making us happier, modern mindfulness is actually inhibiting us from tackling the real issues causing stress in our lives by trying to sell us internal solutions to external problems. If we are overworked and underpaid the problem isn’t our internal wrangling but the external conditions of our unfulfilling work life. Mindfulness tells us our problems are all in our head. But no amount of meditating can conceal the fact we may just need a new job.
Sources & further reading:
The Problem With Mindfulness:
The Mindfulness Conspiracy:
“The truth is that there are no races” Kwame Anthony Appiah controversially wrote in 1985 launching him into fame and notoriety among his professional peers.
In this fascinating conversation between two of the most esteemed and provocative thinkers on racial identity, Appiah sits down with Professor Priya Gopal to unpack the philosophy of race, it’s historical development and why it’s not a ‘biological category.’
For both, race should be understood as a historical categorisation usually used to otherise people by physical characteristics or geographical location.
One of the most interesting talking points of the conversation is the question of “mixed-race” identity. Taking the example of Barack Obama, Gopal explains that despite having a white mother and black father Obama does not walk in the world as a white man. He is racialised as black and American society categorises him as if he had two black parents.
Similarly Gopal is racialised as “minority ethnic” in the West and as “upper caste” in India. The key point is that for both Obama and Gopal, historical categorisation not biology determines how they are racialised.
Appiah argues if we want to eradicate racism we must begin seeing race through this lens of constructed rather than fixed reality. Once we see that having different skin colour is as unremarkable as having different hair colour, we will undermine and immobilize those who wish to exploit imagined divisions between us. Is he right?
We live in a world where once you leave school or college you are defined by “what you do” or more precisely what your profession is.
Occupation stratifies us into a hierarchy of social status with rich people at the top and poor people at the bottom.
Philosopher and founder of The School Of Life Alain De Botton describes how this modern capitalist obsession with economic status is a recipe for depression and deep dissatisfaction. Most of us are unable to bring our true richness of character and personality in line with our business card. Our jobs rarely, if ever, fully reflect who we are as people but merely a small part of ourselves which is publicly on view.
Yet the market based capitalist machine only recognises outward financial, external achievement. Yet most of us carry all kinds of richness which we are unable to translate into quantifiable monetary terms leaving us feel dissatisfied because our human talents are not profitable.
The antidote to overcoming debilitating anxiety around status is to recognise the value of our non monetary goods. Such as being a good friend, being an honest person or being someone who cares for their community and environment around them.
These are incredibly valuable traits and we should look to judge ourselves and the people around us on a comprehensive complete analysis and not narrow the lens of social status to be based on economic output!
Dr. Cornell West provides some excellent insight into the role of hope, imagination and empathy in carving a better more just world in the face of catastrophe and misery.
Quoting some of the worlds best known dreamers and doers, West offers a compelling vision of justice and how it differs from the bitter and counter intuitive idea of revenge or retribution.
A must watch!
Why is it that humans can’t live for a thousand years? Why is it that mice who are very similar to humans genetically only live two-three years?
Physicist Geoffrey West became deeply interested in the physics of mortality when he entered his fifties and people in his life began to perish. In this video he discusses metabolism, comparing it to a road that breaks down due to wear and tear.
He offers some interesting answers on slowing the ageing such as reducing caloric intake and potential drugs that keep the body cool. But whether human life will ever go beyond 110 years is a question not just of possibility but of desirability. 100 years is long enough!
Afua Hirsch describes how segregating children based on their parents faith harms integration and divides communities. As school is an integral part of preparing a child for life surely they should be in an environment where they are exposed to people from all backgrounds, make friends and learn to respect and tolerate everyone’s views.
Rather than being in an artificial, concentrated bubble of like minded people and creating an “us” versus them” and being educated from a narrow perspective. What do you think? Do Faith based schools divide people along religious and class lines? And should a proper inclusive state run schooling system be a requirement of any inclusive secular government?