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What's Wrong with Mindfulness (And What Isn't)

Zen Perspectives

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Mindfulness seems to be everywhere—but are we sure that's a good thing? Teachers Sallie Jiko Tisdale, Gil Fronsdal, Norman Fischer, and more explain how removing mindfulness from Buddhism may set a dangerous precedent. 

Mindfulness is in fashion. Oprah loves it, Google teaches it to employees—it has become widespread as a cure-all for stress, health problems and psychological difficulties, interpersonal trouble, and existential anxiety.

However, when its proponents try to make it more accessible by severing it from its Buddhist roots, they run the risk of leeching mindfulness of its transformative power. Taught outside of its ethical and spiritual context it becomes a mere means to an end, rather than a way of life. Mindfulness is in danger of being co-opted into the spiritual equivalent of fast food: “McMindfulness.” Instead of being better people, we just become better employees, better consumers. The Zen teachers gathered here ask a bold question: Is universal mindfulness really a good thing?

Ranging from thoughtful critiques to personal accounts of integrating mindfulness into daily life, each chapter offers insights to ground mindfulness in a deeper understanding of both where it comes from, and where it might be headed. 

With contributions from Marc Poirer, Robert Meikyo Rosenbaum, Barry Magid, Hozan Alan Senauke, Sallie Jiko Tisdale, Gil Fronsdal, Max Erdstein, Zoketsu Norman Fischer, Janet Jiryu Abels, Grace Schireson, Sojun Mel Weitsman, and Robert Sharf.

  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications (October 18, 2016)
  • Length: 208 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781614293071

“This book is the best thing I’ve read on mindfulness and the mindfulness movement.”

– David R. Loy, author of A New Buddhist Path

“This thoughtful book offers reassurance to those concerned about maintaining authenticity amidst the current hype about mindfulness. The book presents a range articulate and courageous voices that collectively expand the reader's understanding of mindfulness in the context of Zen teachings. What’s Wrong with Mindfulness merges deep respect for tradition with thorough acceptance of contemporary times.”

– Deborah Schoeberlein David, author of Living Mindfully

“If you’re really into mindfulness; if you really want to know about mindfulness deeply, then this is a book for you to read and, more, to contemplate. This isn’t about how to use mindfulness to make you happy, or to deal with stress, or to help with your business. This is about knowing more profoundly what it is all about and what it isn’t. Be prepared to be moved.”

– Arthur C. Bohart, professor emeritus California State University Dominguez Hills

“More than ever, with mindfulness now an in thing to do rather than be, I am awed, appreciative and impressed by the daring of the editors to examine the meaning of the word “mindfulness” and how it is being lived. It is refreshing to read a book of wisdom and depth by people of experience who are committed to maintaining the integrity of this ancient tradition. I applaud the questions raised and the diversity of thought and practice. May we all be awake, alive and read this book!”

– Elana Rosenbaum, author of Being Well (Even When You’re Sick)

“Raises urgent questions about Mindfulness—capital "M"—now that it has been extracted from its Buddhist roots.”

– Gaelyn Godwin, Abbot, Auspicious Cloud Temple, Houston Zen Center

“What’s Wrong with Mindfulness (And What Isn’t) does a fantastic job of detailing these setbacks and offering a clear picture of what earnest practice looks like.”

– The Tattooed Buddha

“The essays in What’s Wrong With Mindfulness mutually illuminate each other, like the facets of a jewel. The critical and historical analyses create a space in which the personal accounts of mindfulness, grounded in years of Zen practice, sparkle with creativity and the potentiality of free play.”

– Linda Galijan, San Francisco Zen Center