consumers of meditation mindfulness and nirvana

Consumers of Meditation, Mindfulness, and Nirvana

By meditating the consumer believes they can find happiness, health, or Nirvana. Most of all, to practice mindfulness or meditation consumers believe they can collect pleasurable experiences (whether couched in physical, emotional, or spiritual terms).

Here we explore how mindfulness and meditation are used to get people to spend money and consume products that they otherwise might not buy1. We are exploited by elite authorities who tell us we should meditate. What causes us to be consumers of meditation mindfulness and nirvana?

Thus, meditation and mindfulness are the ultimate products, writes Jeff Wilson in his praiseworthy book Mindful America (2014). [Read my post reviewing the book.] The act of mindfulness can not be packaged or measured. So the benefits of practicing are cleverly “packaged”, promoted, and pushed as workshops, retreats, and lessons (books).

Consumers of meditation, mindfulness, and nirvana

Peddlers of meditation and mindfulness use:

  • Scientific studies to promote the benefits of their products and services,
  • Testimonials of people who were once stressed out and unhappy, and thanks to meditation, are now blissed out and happy.
  • Marketing tactics used to sell “ancient” meditation techniques.

A quiet, empty mind is fairly easy to influence, manipulate, and fill with desires. We relax and empty our minds by practicing mindfulness and meditation. It’s then fairly easy to sell us more workshops, retreats, and lessons.

We desire after happiness, self-improvement, and Nirvana; desires that previously were not present before we bought the premises that are promoted by peddlers of meditation and mindfulness products. Ironically, there are thousands of other free products (exercise, relaxation, or sleep to name three) that work just as good or better than meditation.

consumer meditation yoga
Sombilian Photography, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

Game of gain

Playing mindfulness and meditation is a familiar game. We quickly learn to seek and collect experiences. The practitioner accumulates meditative experiences and gains points. The goal is to earn rewards for health, happiness, and enlightenment. The “spiritual” equivalent to earning Frequent Flyer Miles is to meditate more often and longer. Meditators choose from a menu of aspirations and benefits. Practitioners accumulate Frequent Flyer Meditation Miles. The more they practice (fly) the more points they can earn towards rewards of health, happiness, or Nirvana.

There are negative consequences to playing the game of meditation. When players of the mindfulness meditation entertain “bad” thoughts or do “wrong” acts points are lost. In the Orient and Occident this is the notion of “karma”, the cosmic scoreboard, which tallies the meditator’s points for and against the attainment of happiness and ultimately arriving at their destination, Nirvana.

We are led to believe, by meditation peddlers, if we use their products we will gain happiness, health, and Nirvana. In believing, we rely on the authority of those who taught us about meditation products and benefits in the first place. We use mindfulness research studies to bolster our beliefs that our favorite products (techniques) “work”.

Consuming and trusting dubious authorities

Hence, we think meditation works (gives us beneficial experiences). And, when we want something to work we will seek evidence that supports our beliefs. At this stage in the post-purchase process, any experiences in meditation will confirm whatever beliefs we think we choose. In reality, we are not in control of this process. Rather we are conditioned to consume by an elite group who claims to know what’s best for us.

So we are conditioned to consume what we are told is best for us: fixes or gives us health, happiness, and Nirvana. Consumption is the heart of capitalism. “Consumerism”, remarked documentary film maker Adam Curtis in The Century of the Self, “is a way of giving people the illusion of control while allowing a responsible elite to continue managing society.”3 We consume meditation because we trust dubious authorities who created our wants and desires. These authorities then sell us the fix, meditation techniques.

Concluding thoughts

In conclusion, consuming meditation and mindfulness is to seek experiences: happiness, health, or Nirvana. We seek what has been promoted to us by meditation peddlers. When we buy into the underlying premises–that we are “broken” and meditation is the “fix”–it’s fairly easy for “authorities” to get us to consume workshops, retreats, or lessons.

[Read my post Duped by Meditation?]

Notes

[Featured image credit: Buddha Store by Gone-Walkabout, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0]

1 Mindful America: The Mutual Transformation of Buddhist Meditation and American Culture. (2014) Jeff Wilson. Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK. p156. [Read my post Mindful America]

2 Letters to a Young Contrarian. (2001). Christopher Hitchens. Basic Books: Cambridge, MA. p19

3 The Century of the Self. Episode 4. BBC. (2002). Quote from Director Adam Curtis ~0:53:00m. YouTube. Accessed 17 Jun 2017 https://youtu.be/VouaAz5mQAs?list=PLktPdpPFKHfoXRfTPOwyR8SG8EHLWOSj6.

4 comments

  1. saijanai

    What is your response to the researchers at the University of Norwich, who did a randomized controlled study on TM and found that “on every functional measure,” within 90 days, the platoon that was doing TM was outperforming the control platoon?

    What is your response to the researchers at the University of Chicago’s Urban Crime Lab, who had the David Lynch Foundation teach 100+ kids TM and based on the universally “glowing” reviews, are now doing a 6000 (3000 TM, 3000 control) subject study on TM in public schools?

    What is your response to the Peruvian government who, after monitoring the results from 30,000 kids learning TM for free, wants to have 500 school teachers (government employees) trained as TM teachers so that they can teach 500,000 (0.5 million) kids as part of a controlled study on TM?

    How does the above fit in with your narrative?

  2. Scott

    @saijanai: Your comments don’t “fit in with [my] narrative” because –
    1) Proselytizing specific techniques or teachings (in your case TM) violates this sites policies. It’s obvious that you are missionary for TM.

    2) Your examples are from researchers who are neck deep in TM, trying to prove the validity or value of their favorite technique or teaching.

    3) I wonder why you don’t get your own TM site instead of continue to troll my site and others who disagree with your agenda.

    4) You are not engaging with the topic of the post, but just pushing your favorite meditation teaching, as you always do.

    5) Sigh.

  3. saijanai

    Your examples are from researchers who are neck deep in TM, trying to prove the validity or value of their favorite technique or teaching.

    !) The Norwich University researchers were NOT TMers, as far as I know, at that time (though 300 faculty and staff out of the 3,000 at the school now do TM 5 years after the research was first done -the President of the school is a devout Christian who only learned TM to ensure that it was suitable for his charges to practice, but continues it on advice from his doctor to help control his high blood pressure).

    2) The University of Chicago’s Urban Crime Lab researchers don’t do TM as far as I know. Certainly the UCL representative said he “shared the extreme skepticism” about the practicality of using TM in public schools, despite the claims of the David Lynch Foundation.

    3) The government of Peru doesn’t do TM as far as I know (the TM organization is REALLY good about bragging about heads of state and other people in government doing TM, so I suspect I would have heard about it).

    4) By insisting that all counter-examples violate your policy, you have ensured that no discussion of anything that runs counter to your belief can ever possibly b discussed.

    5) Sigh back

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