Tagged: capitalism

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?]


[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.

Top-Gro$$ing Movies Embrace Hinduism

may the force be with you
Jedi Master Yoda advertising on the London Imax Cinema, Richard Croft, CC BY-SA 2.0

Interstellar, Matrix, and Star Wars are just a few of the top-grossing blockbuster movies with Hinduism as the driving philosophy (probably without you even noticing). Why?

Interstellar’s box office total is $622,932,412 and counting. It is the eighth highest-grossing film of the year and has spawned an endless raft of thinkpieces testing the validity of its science and applauding the innovation of its philosophy. But it is not so new. The idea that propels the plot – there is a universal super-consciousness that transcends time and space, and in which all human life is connected – has been around for about 3,000 years. It is Vedic [of the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism].

Original article appeared in The Guardian

Of course, Hollywood’s eager embrace of Buddhism, yoga and other esoteric Indian systems is not new. David Lynch is an outspoken exponent of transcendental meditation, Richard Gere follows the Dalai Lama and Julia Roberts affirmed her Hinduism in the wake of Eat, Pray, Love – a movie that tells the tale of a modern American woman’s journey towards peace through Indian spiritual practises that grossed over $200m (£128.6m). Hinduism can get the tills ringing even when it urges parsimony.

“Look at the first Matrix movie,” says producer Peter Rader… “Neo achieves the abilities of the advanced yogis [Paramahansa] Yogananda described, who can defy the laws of normal reality.

“Rader’s latest movie, a documentary about Yogananda, who was among the first gurus to bring Indian mysticism to North America in the 1920s, has been a sleeper hit in the US… ‘There’s a big pent-up demand,’ thinks Rader. ‘There are a lot of closet spiritualists who are meditating, doing yoga, reading books and thinking about a bigger reality. And now they can come out and say, ‘Yes, I’m into this.’

“Spirituality is the open-secret,” says Rader. “A lot of people know that if we quieten down we can tap into a deeper power. And the movies that tap into that, like Star Wars and Interstellar, are hugely popular.”

A philosophy to which many are keen to subscribe is what makes religions successful. Movies, too.

Read the full article How movies embraced Hinduism (without you even noticing) | Film | The Guardian

Read my posts Everywhere Religion and “Lived” Religion: See “unnoticed” New Age spiritual- and religious-themes in the popular media and across global society

By examining religion everywhere we see New Age spiritualities as part of the whole “space” of religion in contemporary society. In the last 20 years, the internet and digital technology have accelerated religion “everywhere”–in the mediatized space of religion and New Age spiritualities.

Question for readers: Anything else in popular media or blockbu$ter movies that embraced Hindu themes?

New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion

Below is the index for my posts inspired by this excellent book:

New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion
Edited by Steven J. Sutcliffe and Ingvild Saelid Gilhus
Acumen Publishing Ltd, 2013

Rather than treating new age as exotic or on the fringes of “proper” religion, New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion, examines the field as part of everyday “lived” religion. The book brings together an international cast of scholars to explore topics and case studies in healing, divination, meditation, extraordinary experiences, and the nature of interactions with gods, spirits, and superhuman powers. Read my book review on Amazon.

steve_sutcliffeGilhus-Ingvild-Saelid_author_fullSteven J. Sutcliffe is Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religion, University of Edinburgh and author of Children of the New Age: A History of Spiritual Practices and editor of Religion: Empirical StudiesIngvild Saelid Gilhus is Professor of History of Religions, University of Bergen and author of Laughing Gods, Weeping Virgins: Laughter in the History of Religion and Animals, Gods, and Humans.

Here are my posts inspired by this book New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion–

Why Yoga Can't Save Us From Ourselves

SOLSTICE IN TIMES SQUARE 2011 / Mind Over Madness - Times Square, Manhattan NYC - 06/21/11
SOLSTICE IN TIMES SQUARE 2011 / Mind Over Madness – Times Square, Manhattan NYC – 06/21/11

How Yoga Became A $27 Billion Industry — And Reinvented American Spirituality

Across America, students, stressed-out young professionals, CEOs and retirees are among those who have embraced yoga, fueling a $27 billion industry with more than 20 million practitioners — 83 percent of them women, says Huffington Post’s Carolyn Gregoire in her article “How Yoga Became A $27 Billion Industry — And Reinvented American Spirituality”.

Yoga has come to be seen as something of a panacea for the ailments of modern society — tech overload, disconnection and alienation, insomnia, stress and anxiety. And in some cases, yoga may be one antidote to the modern speed of life that’s created a culture of stress and burnout. But inside of today’s instant-gratification culture, it’s very likely that yoga practitioners are just seeking a bandaid or quick fix for their bad habits, like being on the phone all day, in front of the TV, or on their computer.

Yoga Reflections, photo by judepics on Flickr
Yoga Reflections, photo by judepics on Flickr

Why do we have so much “stuff” on our minds and all this mental restlessness to begin with? Is Yoga or meditation really going to bring us inner peace and spirituality if we also continue our bad thinking habits, restlessness, and having groundless minds? If something is promoted as too good to be true, then it usually is. Or, if it’s a quick fix, then it usually isn’t. Why is it that we, especially Americans, seem to prefer to just pop a pill, go on a crash diet, or get enlightened on a weekend retreat?

Nature, solitude, and contentment have always been available and free to us. The best things in life have always been free– simple pleasures, relationships, and nature. The growing demand for complex “spiritual” programs or expensive yoga classes seems to be a symptom of a deeper cause, a festering wound we have allowed, that I’m afraid, won’t be cured by yoga. We cannot solve our problems, a wise person said, by the same thinking that created them. Anyway, why are we so hungry to find inner peace, tranquillity, and contentment? What marketing hype, peer pressure, or cultural indoctrinations have we succumbed to (this time)? And, why are we so eager and willing to pay a yoga instructor or follow a guru who promises to transform us or to turn us into someone better (eg. a more happy, healthy, self-realized person)?

Yoga seems to be an elitist practice, warns Gregoire, that’s inaccessible to the majority of Americans [because yoga instruction is expensive]. As one Bustle writer put it, “inner peace comes with a high price tag.”

More than 1 in 3 Americans describe themselves as spiritual but not religious, according to a 2012 Pew Forum survey. Yoga meditation has its benefits, but not without its costs, and those costs include years of diligent, disciplined practice. A quick fix or solution to our bad thinking habits, it is not. There is no easy, quick solution that will fix years of bad thinking habits and deep-seated nervous restlessness. Traditional yoga of the East, the mental discipline, is not something you need to buy a cushy floor-mat for and show up at a yoga studio to do. As a mental discipline and for presence of mind, yoga meditation can be beneficial, but only when practiced all the time and everywhere for years.

Friends, Cambodia, photo by Jonas Hansel
Friends, Cambodia, photo by Jonas Hansel

The rise of more people who describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious” has made more popular than ever the belief that yoga is a spiritual panacea– the illusion, that if we just believe in this new age religion, this new-ancient faith tradition, and do a little yoga, we just might, this time, be able to save ourselves from ourselves. Many people and advertisements claim that we need to consume more goods and have more stuff to find excitement, joy, and meaning in life. But, learn to be skeptical of these false beliefs and appreciate the simple things in your life– immerse yourself in your thoughts, nature, relationships– and you can save yourself and give yourself a full and rewarding life instantly.

Read the full HuffPost article here How Yoga Became A $27 Billion Industry — And Reinvented American Spirituality.

Meditating With Help From Your Mobile Device

Can You Find Serenity On A Screen? Yes and No says NY Times article

Yes, devices can be distracting, destructive to our serenity. But our mobile phones are also great tools, if used constructively. If you are interested in learning meditation or guided meditations, I strongly recommend you search for free or fee meditation apps that may interest you. Personally, I don’t yet use any. Maybe I’ll try sometime.

I’m curious to know what you think of merging mind, meditation, and mobile device in your meditation practices. Have you tried an app? Do you think technology is a help or hinderance for serenity?

Remember: Skeptic meditations. Peace is a human creation, not divine or supernatural. You have the power to create peace anytime, anywhere with or without meditation. Meditation may help. It is only a tool. Meditation is only sacred if you think it brings you something special. Human dignity seems to be sacred, regardless what you say or think. Practice more reason, critical-thinking, and compassion and you can live a more dignified existence and can let go one-by-one of your superstitions and fears, and master your mind. That approach, my friends, is, in my opinion and personal experience, the only real path to freedom and serenity.

Seeking Serenity on a Screen: NY Times article

“Meditation is not something that’s easy to learn,” says Dr. Madhav Goyal, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University and an expert on meditation. “My own view is that if you want to learn it, then you should go to someone with a lot of experience who can guide you through the nuances and difficulties that a person faces when they’re trying to master their mind.

“And then once you’ve learned the skill,” he added, “that’s where these apps and technologies would be really helpful.”

Read full NY Times article here Seeking Serenity on a Screen – NYTimes.com