Mindfulness is not a product

Category : General advice 7th October 2019

Inside Yoga 281 (7/10/2019)

While looking for inspiration for my next article, I looked through my archives and found the blog below posted four years ago; and reading again, I decided to share it again, because the message remains the relevant. Mindfulness is free and it is not a product, read on…

When I was on holiday we had stopped at a service station and whilst I was browsing, actually, I was killing time waiting for my daughter, when I saw a book called The Mindfulness Colouring Book. It was a pocket-sized book filled with black and white out outlined sketches of a variety of pictures, swirls and patterns.

This small book had a price tag of £8. Surely, I thought, buying a child’s drawing book (like one of my daughter’s) would be cheaper? I came away thinking that I had seen, yet again, another piece of overpriced merchandise targeting our need to feel better.

Mindfulness is not a product. Mindfulness is a practice that doesn’t need merchandise and the practice is free, well perhaps not totally, as it is a good idea to go to a teacher to learn how it’s done (otherwise I would not have a job!).

Journalist Eva Wiseman wrote about this in the Observer: “This ancient Buddhist practice (mindfulness), sounds all right, really, doesn’t it? Observing your thoughts, gaining perspective, being better at being you, etc. But there’s something so offensive, so limp about the way it’s marketed, and even more, the way we have leapt at it. Why are we so keen to turn ourselves off? Why are we so desperate to stop thinking? And why are we so keen to pay for it? I’m sure most of us could benefit from meditating for a few minutes a day, but rather than buying tools to teach us mindfulness, can’t we simply work out the method from the word?”

She has a point. Buying the product, wearing the right outfit, stacking our shelves (or filling our mobile device) with books on meditation is all very well, as it must help us feel better and give us the feeling that we are making progress, but practice is the only way. I encourage people to improve their meditation practice, but what I dislike is the commercial exploitation of this need.
Buying sketch pads is a hobby, in the same way that model making, sewing and activities are pursuits which we enjoy and find peace of mind, and there is meditative quality in these activities, so they are thoroughly recommended, but they do not need the marketing tag of being a ‘mindfulness’ product. As Eva commented, the way these times are marketed is offensive.

I can picture someone in a company having the thought: “how can we make money out of meditation and mindfulness as it is the hot topic right now?” This is the wrong motivation. It’s is more about how companies want to exploit our needs and desires, feeding us with distractions, while filling their coffers.

Sitting, standing, walking mindfully, paying attention, watching our breath is quite a simple instruction. It takes practice, and perseverance but it can be done freely.

Carry on doodling, but remember it doesn’t have to cost the Earth!

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