08 Sep

by Justin Standfield

In recent years, mindfulness has gained immense popularity as a practice to promote wellbeing and reduce stress; however, a new phenomenon known as 'McMindfulness' has emerged, raising concerns among may mindfulness practitioners. Should those of us who teach mindfulness be concerned about this trend? In this article, I’ll delve into the concept of McMindfulness to understand some of its implications.

What is McMindfulness?

McMindfulness refers to the commodification and oversimplification of mindfulness practice, taking it out of its rich spiritual and cultural context; it’s been criticised for diluting the transformative potential that mindfulness can offer, reducing it to a marketable quick-fix solution. Ronald Purser popularised the term McMindfulness in a piece he and David Loy wrote for the Huffington Post a few years back. In that article, he argued that “mindfulness practice has become commercialised. It’s been reduced to a mere self-help technique.”

The limitations of McMindfulness

One limitation of McMindfulness is that it often focuses solely on individual wellbeing, neglecting the wider societal and systemic issues that contribute to stress and suffering. By emphasising personal happiness and stress reduction without addressing the root causes, McMindfulness can perpetuate the status quo and fail to create meaningful, lasting change.

Maintaining authenticity

To counteract the tendencies of McMindfulness, mindfulness practitioners and teachers must strive to maintain its authenticity. This involves encouraging a deep understanding of the practice, its historical and cultural roots, and its potential for personal and collective transformation. One way that I do this with The Calm Barn courses I run, is to recommend videos and signpost people to articles and books that offer a deeper exploration for learners - as well as including some of the historical/cultural context in the introductory session.

The importance of context

Another crucial aspect to consider is the recognition of the context in which mindfulness is practised. Mindfulness, in its true essence, is not just about silence and meditation. It's about bringing awareness and compassion to all aspects of life, including our actions, relationships and the world around us. Practising mindfulness in isolation from the wider context can result in a shallow understanding and application of its principles.

Integrating mindfulness into life

Instead of treating mindfulness as a quick fix or a self-help tool, I have always believed that it's important to integrate it into our daily lives in a holistic way. This means embodying mindfulness in our thoughts, words and actions, and cultivating a genuine sense of presence and connection with ourselves, others and the world.

Addressing the critiques and challenges

While the rise of McMindfulness may present challenges, I think it can also open up opportunities for reflection and growth in the field of mindfulness. By acknowledging the critiques and limitations of McMindfulness, we practitioners can deepen our understanding and refine our approach to teaching mindfulness as needed. For me personally, this has involved re-evaluating the emphasis I place on individual benefits and I am continuing to explore ways to support learners to address societal issues through mindfulness practice. At The Calm Barn, I aim to promote a more holistic and transformative understanding of mindfulness - by incorporating it into various contexts and addressing the root causes of stress and suffering, mindfulness can become a powerful tool for personal growth and social change.

I have given talks on this subject many times over the last few years: I believe that mindfulness is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and it shouldn’t be reduced to a marketable product. Rather, it should be approached with nuance and an understanding of its principles and potential. The emergence of McMindfulness highlights the need for mindfulness teachers to be vigilant in preserving the integrity and depth of the practice. By staying true to its spiritual and cultural roots, mindfulness has the potential to offer profound and meaningful benefits to individuals and society as a whole.