|Basic InformationLatest NewsBlog EntriesVideosLinksBook Reviews|10 Minute Solution: Butt Lift10 Minute Solution: High Intensity Interval Training101 Ways to Meditate29 Gifts3-In-1 Total Body Fitness with Desi Bartlett30 Minute Ab & Butt Blaster5 Day Fit Yoga5 Mega Miles with Toning Band7 Weeks to 100 Push-Ups8 Keys to Body Brain Balance8 Keys to Practicing MindfulnessA Journey Into Yin YogaA Philosophy for the Science of Well-BeingA.M. EnergyAccessible Yoga for Every Body DVDAfter the Ecstasy, the LaundryAge-Proof Your MindAgeless Mobility: Pain-Free Wellness For LongevityAlmost MeatlessAM/PM YogaAnd BreatheAnswers for AristotleAnywhere, Anytime, Any Body YogaAthlete's Guide to YogaAuthentic HappinessAwakening Self-EsteemBack in Action: Yoga for a Healthy BackBack To Basics: Fitness with Charlotte OrdBalanced AssetsBedroom Body: Booty Burner, Core & Pelvic Floor WorkoutBeginners Meditation & Mindful StretchingBeginners Yoga DVDBeginning YogaBellyFit ElementsBetter Sex Through YogaBeyond the SelfBody By BethennyBody Mindful YogaBorn to Balance - Balance BasicsBOSH!Breath-Centered YogaBreathingBrightening Our Inner SkiesBuddhist Boot CampCalm Body Clear MindCalm EnergyCalm Focus JoyChakra MeditationsChoosing CivilityClassical Pilates Technique DVDComplementary and Alternative Therapies ResearchCore Fusion - Pilates PlusCore Fusion - Pure Abs & ArmsCore Fusion - Thighs & GlutesCore Fusion Body SculptCore Fusion Lean & TonedCore Fusion Power SculptCore Strength PilatesCore Strength Vinyasa Yoga Power Hour with Sadie NardiniCore YogaCreative Core AbsCreative Writing In Health And Social CareDance Off the Inches: Cardio Hip Hop PartyDance the Chakras Yoga WorkoutDeep ListeningDeep Stretch / Yin YogaDetox YogaDr. Andrew Weil's Guide to Eating WellDr. Andrew Weil's Guide to Optimum HealthDr. Andrew Weil's Mindbody ToolkitEastern Body, Western MindEasy YogaElement: Barre ConditioningElement: Targeted Toning Pilates for BeginnersElement: Yoga for Stress Relief & FlexibilityElements of Yoga, Earth FoundationsElements of Yoga, Fire DynamicElements of Yoga: Air & WaterEmotional Chaos to ClarityEmotions, Stress, and HealthEvamarie Pilipuf's Yoga Express DVDEvery Day Yoga for Every Body DVDEveryday GreensEveryday Workout for the Everyday WomanEveryday Yoga for Stress Release Everything VeganExercise-Based Interventions for Mental IllnessExhale Core Fusion 30 Day SculptFamily ForagingFamily YogaFast Food for the SoulFat and FuriousFear and Other Uninvited GuestsFit Family Fun CircuitFit in 5 DVDFlat Abs PilatesFlow and YinFlow YogaFluid Power Vinyasa Flow YogaFood You Can ForageForgiveness is Really StrangeFully PresentGaiam Pilates Slide and Sculpt Kit with DVDGaiam Pilates Total Toning KitGaiam Yoga For Weight Loss KitGet Ripped & ChiseledGet RIPPED! 1000 #3Get RIPPED! and Jacked - The Boomer WorkoutGood MedicineGoodbye, ThingsHandbook of MindfulnessHealing the Heart and Mind with MindfulnessHealing Through Movement: Pilates Head to ToeHealthy AgingHealthy Sexy Beautiful Kundalini YogaHemalayaa's Yoga for Young Bodies DVDHemalayaa: Bollywood BootyHot Body Cool Mind - Level 1Hot Body Cool Mind: Waking Energy How to Be a PatientHow to Be a StoicHow to Cook Everything VegetarianHow Would Buddha Act?I Contain MultitudesI'd Rather LaughIn Defense of FoodInsight Yoga Earth: Balancing Yin EnergyInsight Yoga Heaven: Balancing YangInsight Yoga with Sarah PowersIntegrated YogaIntegrative MedicineInternational Perspectives on Reminiscence, Life Review and Life Story WorkIntroduction to Ashtanga Yoga DVDIntroduction to Qi YogaIntroduction to Yoga DVDIt's Up to YouJanis Saffell Beverly Hills YogaKids Teach Yoga - Flying EagleKidYogi - Yoga for ChildrenKnowing the Nature of FearKripalu YogaKripalu Yoga Dynamic DVDKripalu Yoga Gentle DVDKundalini Yoga : DVDKundalini Yoga for Beginners & BeyondKUNDALINI YOGA for Your Week - MONDAYKUNDALINI YOGA for Your Week - TUESDAY - CoreKundalini Yoga Meditation for Beginners & BeyondKundalini Yoga Meditation for Complex Psychiatric DisordersKundalini Yoga on the BallKundalini Yoga Solar Power All-In-One WorkoutKundalini Yoga to Detox and Destress DVDKundalini Yoga Transformer All-In-One WorkoutKundalini Yoga: Green Energy of the HeartLife MakeoversLifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues--Level 1LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues: Level 2Living BeautifullyLiving Room Yoga DVDLiving Room Yoga: Twist and BendLiving Your Best LifeLiving Your DreamLunar Flow YogaMadhur Jaffrey's World VegetarianMake It Fast, Cook It SlowManage Your Depression Through ExerciseMaui PilatesMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for Back PainMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for IBSMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for InsomniaMean GenesMeditation in a New York MinuteMeditations for BeginnersMeditations on Self-Discipline and FailureMind GamesMindful AmericaMindful AngerMindfulnessMindfulness for BeginnersMindfulness-Based Treatment Approaches: Clinician's Guide to Evidence Base and ApplicationsMisadventures of a Garden State YogiMotivational YogaMozart's Brain and the Fighter PilotNamaste Yoga: Season 3 Part 1NeuroLogicNever Home AloneNew York PilatesNext-Level PilatesNutrition Essentials for Mental HealthOn Being an Introvert or Highly Sensitive PersonPassionate VegetarianPerfect in Ten AbsPerfect in Ten: PilatesPerfect in Ten: StretchPerfect in Ten: YogaPilates AnatomyPilates AnatomyPilates for BeginnersPilates for MenPortraits of ResiliencePositivityPower to the Peaceful YogaPower YogaPower YogaPower YogaPower Yoga for HappinessPower Yoga: Core PowerPower Yoga: Fat BurnerPrenatal FlowPrescriptive StretchingPresence Through Movement: Yin YogaPsychology Moment by MomentPure and Simple YogaPure SculptPure Yoga Pilates with Kerry BestwickQi Gong Fire & Water With Matthew CohenQi Gong Flow for BeginnersQi Gong for Low Back PainQi Gong for Upper Back and Neck PainQi Gong for Weight LossQi Workout AM/PMQiGong for Healthy Joints & BonesQiGong IllustratedQuick Blast MethodReach - Upbeat Toning & Flexibility for a Dancer's BodyRed Lotus YogaResistance Stretching With Dara TorresRestorative Yoga PracticeSara Ivanhoe's Taste DVDSaving NormalSelf-CompassionSeven Challenges To Change Your Life DVDSleep BetterSolar Flow Yoga DVDSoupsSparkSpontaneous HappinessSports Hypnosis in PracticeStep By Step Strength TrainingStep by Step Tai ChiStrength & SpiritStrength, Grace, HealingStress ReliefStrong & SculptedStrong Body, Ageless BodySun SalutationsSuper Natural CookingSuper Seniors: Box, Balance, & Lift SuperhumanSupersurvivorsSurf Yoga SoulSybel's Yoga For Sports & FitnessSybel's Yoga For Sports & Fitness Vol 2Tai Chi for Beginners with Grandmaster William C. C. ChenTaming Your Inner BratTeach Yourself MeditationTeen YogaTeenYogi DVDTen Minutes to RelaxThe Accidental VeganThe Angelica Home KitchenThe Art and Science of MindfulnessThe Athlete's Guide to YogaThe Beginner's Guide to Healthy EatingThe Best Things You Can EatThe Booty Barre -Total New BodyThe Breathing FieldThe Cafe Brenda CookbookThe Complete Book of Raw FoodThe Complete Vegetarian HandbookThe Easy Yoga WorkbookThe Feeling Good HandbookThe Five Things We Cannot Change ...The Good LifeThe Happiness of PursuitThe Harvard Medical School Guide to YogaThe Healing Remedies SourcebookThe Healing Remedies SourcebookThe Health Psychology HandbookThe Healthy KitchenThe Heart of YogaThe Indian VegetarianThe Jewel Tree of TibetThe Joy of MeditatingThe Kettlebell BoomerThe Little Book of Healthy TeasThe Little Soy BookThe Little Yoga BookThe Mood CureThe Mozart EffectThe Myth of Freedom and the Way of MeditationThe Nature FixThe Origins of HappinessThe Perfect ExerciseThe Pilates Workout JournalThe Playful BrainThe Quest for Peace, Love, and a 24'' WaistThe Road to Calm WorkbookThe Self-Compassion Skills WorkbookThe Spa DeckThe Spirit of Buddhist MeditationThe Stoic Art of LivingThe Ultimate BALLET YOGAThe Ultra MindsetThe Way of StretchingThe Weight of the NationThe Well-Tuned BrainThe Will to Live and Other MysteriesThe Wisdom of FrugalityThe Yin Yoga KitThink SmartTotal AstangaTotal Health the Chinese WayTotal PilatesTotal-Body ToningTransform Yourself with Jivamukti YogaTransformative YogaTrudie Styler's Warrior YogaUnderstanding the PelvisV-Core WorkoutVegan ExpressVegan for LifeVegan Recipes from the Middle EastVegetarian Turkish CookingVegetarianoViva Vegan!Walk It Off in 30 DaysWalk to the HITS Radio RemixesWalkingWalking a Literary LabyrinthWatch Me Do YogaWeight Loss Cardio KickWellbeingWhat We Say MattersWhen Things Fall ApartWriting in FlowYin and Yang YogaYin Yoga DVDYogaYogaYogaYoga & Pilates Workouts for DummiesYoga 4 TeensYoga : Beginners Flow for EveryoneYoga AnatomyYoga and PsychologyYoga as MedicineYoga Beauty BodyYoga Bliss HipsYoga Body : Lean & Defined Total Body WorkoutYoga By Teens DVDYoga Emergency DVD: Arms & ShouldersYoga Emergency DVD: BackYoga Emergency DVD: Full Leg StretchYoga Emergency DVD: HipsYoga Flow DVDYoga for AnxietyYoga for AthletesYoga for Back CareYoga for BeginnersYoga for Energy & Stress ReliefYoga for EveryoneYoga for MeditatorsYoga for OsteoporosisYoga for Pain ReliefYoga for Regular GuysYoga for Strength & EnergyYoga for Strength & FlexibilityYoga for the Young at HeartYoga for Your WeekYoga In BedYoga in BedYoga Inside Out: Go DeeperYoga Inside Out: The Healing WayYoga Journal's Yoga for StressYoga Journal: Yoga for Strength and Toning DVDYoga Link: Core IntegrationYoga Link: Hip HelpersYoga Link: Shoulder Shape-UpYoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation and Stress ReliefYoga on DemandYoga Quick FixesYoga SanctuaryYoga SculptYoga ShaktiYoga TherapyYoga TherapyYoga Therapy for Back PainYoga Therapy Prescriptions - 60 Health Restorative SequencesYoga To Go's Yoga Quick Fixes DVDYoga to the Rescue - Feel Good from Head to ToeYoga to the Rescue for Back PainYoga to the Rescue for Neck & ShouldersYoga to the Rescue for Pain-Free Back, Neck & ShouldersYoga Weight Loss for DummiesYoga: Freedom from Back PainYoga: Relief from Neck and Shoulder PainYoga: Spirit of Vinyasa FlowYogabodyYogawomanYou Can Think Yourself ThinYou'll See It When You Believe ItYour Body Breakthru - Your Best Body Circuit DVDYour Brain on FoodYour Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings,Your Miracle BrainZaitounZen Encounters with Loneliness
by Jeff Wilson
Oxford University Press, 2014
Review by Finn Janning on Aug 25th 2015
"Thirty years ago, 'mindfulness' was a Buddhist principle mostly obscure to the West," Jeff Wilson writes in Mindful America. Today, however, it has managed to reach nearly every institution of American society (a tendency that is growing in Europe as well, although more slowly). How did this happen?
In Mindful America, Wilson explores the origin of the mindfulness movement. The book offers one of the first critical descriptions of the movement, which is focused on more that the movement's practices. A key point is that mindfulness could only grow by distancing itself from Buddhism as a religion. This process took place in the 1980s through magazines, films, TV programs and, in particular, through bringing mindfulness into a medical context, where it later would open up a completely new field of research. Whether Buddhism really is a religion is something that has been debated before the era of mindfulness, but it is true that mindfulness (or the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction or MBSR-program of Jon Kabat-Zinn) would probably not be a part of more than 700 medical schools, hospitals, and health care programs worldwide if it were "sold" as religion.
Wilson wants to be neutral in his study, but this is difficult for him. "I do happen to be a Buddhist but am drawn to study mindfulness because of its prominence in the United States," he writes. Being a Buddhist is both an advantage and disadvantage in his work. Wilson knows what he writes about, but it colors his perception at times. For example, he can't help but see mindfulness as a second-rate Buddhist practice. He sees the maneuver of bringing mindfulness from Buddhism into a non-Buddhist context as problematic--a purely business practice; he fails to notice the extent to which it actually has contributed to something such as wellbeing.
Wilson favors a certain kind of origin of mindfulness as if there were only one right way to practice Buddhism. A bit similar if one were to criticize contemporary American pragmatics like Robert B. Brandom or Cheryl Misak because they diverge from the founding fathers Charles Sander Peirce and William James. Evolution is creative. Furthermore, the Dalai Lama looks positively on the matter of how Buddhism or aspects of Buddhism may contribute to reducing suffering in the West.
Having said the above, I still believe that Wilson has written a book that was highly needed. As with all things when they become popular, mindfulness attracts people who are mindful for the sake of money, not for the potential liberation of one's mind. For example, one so-called mindfulness author writes, "mindfulness helps you fall in love," while another writes, "what can that moment-to-moment awareness do for our sex lives" and "another bonus of eating mindfully is that it improves self-esteem." Of course, by targeting sex and food, mindfulness is stretched to fit a need among white middle-class people. In addition, the focus on self-esteem (and worse, on identity) is problematic since among the more serious teachers of mindfulness, the "self" is a process. After all everything changes; everything is impermanent.
The critique that Wilson raises can be raised for the majority of the self-help industry. It targets people who seem to be existentially frustrated, perhaps even bored, rather than those that suffer socially or financially. A title like The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, for example, tells us all we need to know about whom the book is targeting.
Mindful America does a very good job in exploring the mindfulness movement. In its transition from a Buddhist practice strictly for monks to a practice for mainstream Americans, it has had some ups--but mostly downs. The book is not an introduction to mindfulness; rather, it locates this transition in a sociological and cultural setting. It that sense, the need for mindfulness tells us more about the times we live in than about the actual practice itself. Sometimes it can be attractive to become what you're not.
As Wilson says, "Today mindfulness is, quite simply, everywhere." This assertion is both true and false. As a commercial concept it is indeed everywhere, but as a practice, it is not. If it were, the world would be a little bit more caring. Actually, if people were mindful then they wouldn't buy books about mindfulness and sex and shopping and accounting, but simply be mindful.
© 2015 Finn Janning
Finn Janning, Ph.D. in philosophy, is a writer.