Somehow it has happened that I am now a believer in the limitations of the conscious mind.
There seems to be this underlying belief in the western self-help wave that with discipline and determination and repetition and some good ol’ fashioned elbow grease anything is possible. This is very apparent in our approach to medicine, our psychoanalytic heritage, our general attitude towards diet and health, and our general obsession with the majority of our behaviors being “habits” that you can etch into your stony robotic circuits after 21 days of repetition you metal robot you.
Strangely enough the mindfulness fad, when it came from the mysterious and wise East, was supposedly the “antithesis of the short-sighted industrial Western approach” (I am quoting no one) to health. In the service of not being completely one-sided: yes, it did bring in a new body-centric dimension to traditional purely rational/analytical understandings of the human psyche, and in this way did represent a step forward towards a more complex and accurate understanding of the human experience. However, it also fit nicely into the little cubby cut out by the western paradigm.
I’m gonna take a step back here and say: what the hell is the “Eastern” perspective anyway, and why are we so wedded to the idea that its more wise and advanced and without flaws and whatever?.. Could that be a Western idea of linear human-advancement-leading-to-eventual-perfection sneaking into view on the horizon?
We act as if we can just cherry pick whatever cultural novelties interest us and use them in our own paradigm and that somehow is us acting out that culture or something.. We can take our shoes off when we go into the house and how Japanese that is of us.
Let me ask you this, have you ever met China, or Japan? Do you feel like you actually understand the important nuances and angle and all that bullshit of the perspective? Let me tell you, you probably don’t. From just a practical standpoint I would argue that it is nearly impossible for one human to have both these worlds vibrantly alive in their mindscape at the same time – even if you have spent significant time in both, they kind of have to.. take turns. Furthermore, if you have any experience with how vastly complex these constantly evolving different worlds can be then you will likely also have an appreciation of how this Baby’s First Cultural Narrative between East and West can’t be anything other than some gratuitous mythologizing.
With that said, I’m not even going to try to address the role that Mindfulness plays in “Eastern culture” because I have no fucking idea. Also, even if I did magically have a brain full of enlightened understanding, I don’t intend to throw around the “Eastern credibility” card as if that automatically makes whatever the argument is “more correct” and “authentic”.
Back to my experience here in this western culture that surrounds me, there are some fishy-smelling discrepancies.
Here it is. The idea that in order to be in ourselves or to inhabit ourselves, we have to exert a constant conscious effort of our conscious minds. We have to do it 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week; 15 minute intervals, two times a day, seven days of the week. We have to go to yoga classes or meditation retreats. We have to schedule it into our lives and get “on the wagon” to “reprogram” our brain circuitry database filing access systems. In another popular model, we have to “cultivate” a “practice” as if we are managing an agribusiness of chemically modified corn whose seeds cannot self-reproduce.
Get it? All these shitty analogies aside, the fact that this what-ever-it-is only works as long as we are consciously pushing ourselves towards it, and seems to eventually completely revert if we leave it alone hints to the fact that something may be amiss in the way we are viewing what is really going on here.
I see some eerie parallels of this “mindfulness” movement and the diet movement. Maybe whats going on here is a failure of imagination.
(To be continued, and edited)