The Conversation about “Corporate Mindfulness” Continues… [UPDATED]

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about how a talk on “corporate mindfulness” by Google executives was disrupted by protesters at Wisdom 2.0. Since then, there has been quite a bit more discussion about the incident, as well as the possibilities and (more specifically) the problems of corporate mindfulness. Here’s a rundown:

  • First and foremost, the organizer of the protest has spoken at Tricycle: The Buddhist Review‘s blog: In her bio, Amanda Ream is identified as “a member of Oakland’s East Bay Meditation Center and is in the Dedicated Practitioner’s Program at Spirit Rock. She [also] works as a union organizer in Bernal Heights, San Francisco.” Her post, entitled “Why I Disrupted the Wisdom 2.0 Conference”, points out that “the tech industry’s great economic boom is driving a housing crisis, with no-fault evictions increasing 175% since last year.” “We disrupted Wisdom 2.0 to make visible the struggle of eviction and gentrification that we and our neighbors are facing,” she says. “The invitation still stands for the organizers, presenters, and attendees of this conference, as well as our new neighbors who work for the companies that put it on, to recognize our demands and engage with these social issues.”
  • The Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s wonderful, wonderful Director of Media & Action, Katie Loncke, has posted what can only be described as an awesome editorial on the matter, entitled “Why Google Protesters Were Right to Disrupt Wisdom 2.o”. Katie touches on a number of important issues with great attention to nuance, but also does not mince words about the particular flavor of contemplation being promoted in the corporate world: “This is not true mindfulness. It’s selective awareness, optimized for pleasure. In other words, ignorance.”
  • My pal Justin Whitaker was also very strong in his statements about the event and the participants for a post at his blog American Buddhist Perspective, which he titled “Mindful of Your Immorality?”: “It’s not clear whether anyone on stage that day had any idea about this, but shouldn’t they at least want to know?”
  • The great Joshua Eaton managed to bring this whole conversation to Salon, with an essential-for-all-sanghas-and-practitioners piece called “Gentrifying the Dharma: How the 1 Percent is Hijacking Mindfulness”. I get a nice mention in the piece, and was honored by that.
  • Speaking of Salon, Tricycle‘s Andrew Cooper and critic Curtis White have an excellent new piece up there this weekend about what they perceive as essentially the colonialist appropriation of mindfulness. “Corporate mindfulness takes something that has the capacity to be oppositional, Buddhism, and redefines it,” they write. “Mindfulness becomes just another aspect of ‘workforce preparation.’ Eventually, we forget that it ever had its own meaning.”
  • UPDATE: How could I forget? Ron Purser and David Forbes also offer a superb, prophetic set of reflections at the Huffington Post. “Many in the mindfulness — and Buddhist — community have been seduced by what Google and the Wisdom 2.0 crowd is doing. After all, it’s mindfulness, and maybe it will make corporations kinder, gentler capitalist entities,” they write. “But mindfulness has escaped its moral moorings. Without a principled anchor, mindfulness is a renegade technology on the loose, and the conspicuous absence of an explicit ethical framework in corporate mindfulness programs reflects and mirrors the already fraught relationship these businesses have with regards to social and environmental responsibility.”
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