Whackfulness: The Unexamined, Sometimes Silly, Side of Mindfulness
Whackfulness: The unexamined, sometimes silly, side of Mindfulness. (Formerly Mindfulness is Whack)
Last month we started a series Mindfulness is Whack. It caused a bit of a stir - including this email from someone whose opinion I value, the message was in response to the first article and ended with: "Others may find the articles and discussions helpful. Not me."
Here is the full email with some parts redacted for privacy.
“I suspect you are the kind of person who likes to mix it up. That's not me. For me, public criticism is an artifact of modern times I can't abide by. No matter how civil public discourse promises to be, it isn't (WT.Social gets the closest, I think, as well as academic journals on occasion). I don't ever go on Facebook and haven't been on Twitter in months. So...
I couldn't really tell your intentions with the article and the promised future articles. Are you trying to change the minds or practices of the Mindful Leader community? Are you trying to change those outside the Mindful Leader community? As Seth Godin would ask, Who is this for? What is it for?
I agree with your concern about the troubling things we see in the mindfulness industrial complex. For too many years, I followed religious ideas I now find shameful. So, I get your abhorrence of mindfulness abuses. And, I understand the value of intellectual honesty. I adapt and learn every single day!
But, the approach of the article feels unnecessarily provocative in tone: whack? I'm not sure what that means - even after reading the article and briefly trying to make sense of the provided link (until I had neither time nor will to pursue it further). I deal with too many of the hardest things in life every working day (terminal illness and death).
I aim to do what I do to the best of my ability (to support the people at my organization). That's where I'm at. Our staff doesn't care about the technicalities as long as I treat them with dignity, honesty, and respect (which also means respecting their values and not insulting their beliefs, whatever they are).
Others may find the articles and discussions helpful. Not me.”
Receiving feedback is something I'm always grateful for, and this time was no exception. This stung a little and got me reflecting. My goal is to encourage critical thinking and address some of the blindspots that exist within the field of mindfulness. Although my approach may come off as provocative at times, it's not my intention to insult or disrespect anyone's beliefs or values. Nor to distract or disturb in ways that take away from the benefits of this work. Rather, I hope to promote healthy dialogue and foster intellectual honesty. In light of some of the questions that have been asked, I thought it would be helpful to follow up and provide some clarity.
Who is this for?
As I thought about the "Mindfulness is Whack" series, my initial reaction was that it was meant for the Mindful Leader community and the broader community as a whole. But after a bit more reflection, I realized that this series is also for me. I have been deeply involved in this work for over a decade and I am passionate about the potential of workplace mindfulness, mindful leadership, and mindfulness as a means of helping people and building community.
In my first article, I may have come across as bitter, angry, and in pain. The truth is, I have been feeling those emotions, but I don't want to be provocative just for the sake of it or turn people off who I hope to engage in this conversation. I also recognize that sometimes people respond in kind to the energy we put out, and perhaps some individuals felt attacked or misunderstood my message.
I believe it's important to have rational conversations, explore the reasons behind our perspectives, and keep things light when possible. “Whackfulness” can add some flavor to the conversation and make it more engaging. If you find the "Mindfulness is Whack" series irrelevant or unhelpful, please feel free to ignore it. But for those who are interested in exploring these topics and engaging in critical inquiry, I hope you will continue to be part of the conversation as we explore and address the issues that have limited the potential of mindfulness.
What is this for?
A thought-provoking question was asked of me regarding this series: "Are you taking a stance, or trying to have a conversation?" I found this question to be both poignant and lovely. The person who asked it even warned me that I might anger some powerful people along the way. I want to initiate a conversation with the community so that we can reach a point where we can all decide on a stance. I don't have all the answers or even all the questions, but I do have some good questions that I feel compelled to ask. I want to share some of the past conversations we've had with critical thinkers while exploring new ones, and I promise to adapt, listen and synthesize based on all your feedback - both positive and critical.
I was also asked if I'm here to complain or offer solutions, let me be clear: I'm not here to be a hypocrite or to throw shade. Some of my peers whose support contributed to the initial success of Mindful Leader are now doing things that I'm not comfortable with. We're trying to model what I believe is a more ethical, transparent, trustworthy, and community-driven approach. We are not perfect and have a long way to go but if you've engaged with Mindful Leader meaningfully, you’ve probably picked up on these qualities in our events, training, and communities of practice.
What is this for? Simply - where can you find an honest debate about our field these days? Without critical examination how can we evolve and stay true to our shared intention?
Where can you find an honest debate about our field these days? Without critical examination how can we evolve and stay true to our shared intention?
As I was reflecting on the feedback I’ve been getting, I realize that my fear of upsetting people and being attacked is limiting me. I recently listened to a podcast featuring an expert archer, who introduced me to the term "recoil bracing." From what I understand recoil bracing is a term used to describe the instinctive flinching or tensing up that happens when we anticipate a painful or negative experience. It's a natural response that can happen in many situations, such as when an archer releases an arrow, or when a boxer is about to take a hit. However, it can also happen in less physical situations, such as when we anticipate criticism or negative feedback. Recoil bracing can be an obstacle to effective communication and can prevent us from fully engaging with difficult topics or conversations. By addressing our fear and discomfort, and learning to manage our recoil bracing, we can better navigate difficult conversations and engage in honest, open dialogue.
It's not easy to put oneself out there and challenge the status quo, but I recognize that this is necessary for growth and progress. I need to address my fear and discomfort and also confront some of the pain and anger that I've been feeling in order to engage in this conversation in a more effective way.
I'm committed to doing my best to approach these topics with honesty, openness, compassion, and some lightness. I believe that honest debate and critical thinking are essential for creating meaningful change, and I'm willing to put in the work. Ultimately, my goal is to foster a community that is willing to explore difficult questions and engage in thoughtful dialogue in order to unlock the full potential of mindfulness.
With that we are adjusting, goodbye Mindfulness is Whack and hello - Whackfulness: The unexamined, sometimes silly, side of Mindfulness.
Share your thoughts please, does this article help clarify? Are you willing to explore this with me?
I think it's great to be able to look at a practice such as Mindfulness in more than one way. People respond to things in different ways, no matter how you bring it on. If this helps a whole new group of people get into Mindfulness, so be it. It might help some who have been involved in it for some time but, need a refresh. And like you mentioned above, if it's not for "you", that's okay too. Learning is good and the practice is good. I've even attempted, with some of Mindful Leader's earlier days, to bring it into the office. It didn't take as a whole but, I know some people took it on individually. :)
Thanks for your comments Jodi!
I really appreciate the why here! For me, it helps to understand the emotion I bring to a topic and helps me avoid making assumptions. This was the first time i have heard the term recoil bracing but knew what you meant as soon as I read it. I think Whackfulness is a perfect training ground for leaning into these moments and overcoming our instinct to recoil when things get uncomfortable. I have to say, the initial introduction to Mindfulness is Whack did set me back on my heels (which isn't always a bad thing) but with this deeper reflection and explanation, I am in!
Thanks Marnie, I'm glad you're in! And its so true how understanding emotions helps with assumptions and bias. I also felt the same way when I first learned of recoil bracing.
Thank you for being open to criticism and debate! We need to be able to look at ourselves and our beliefs from the perspectives of others, and be open to the need for change when legitimate evidence points the way.
Well said Kay, it's important to walk the walk! How can I help explore critical thought and openness in this work if I am not able to accept valid criticism, address it openly, and adjust?
Nice article. Can I offer two points.
1. The critical letter could be seen as just disagreement. Its positive and polite tone and structured argument makes for great debate and constructive reflection. Disagreement is conflict and feels unsettling but if just seen as such, rather than personal, it is a positive. Engaged people disagree, others just walk away.
2. I am not religious. I used to wince when spirituality and similar was mixed in with mindfulness and awareness work. However after working with scores of religious people I have come to realise that the goals are the same, just the language is different. People trying to get closer to God are doing the same thing as those of us trying to get closer to a state of aware balance. Once I saw this my adverse reaction vanished and for the most part I saw clearly some of the most wonderful people seeking what we all seek.
Great article. thankyou.
Thank you, Aidan, for your insightful points! I appreciate the reminder to view disagreement as an opportunity for growth, and I like how you pointed out that shared goals can bridge the gap between spiritual and secular mindfulness practitioners in some ways.
This was a great follow up Mo, this is clearly something you are passionate about exploring and I'm excited to learn about what you uncover. I appreciate the light and fun balance, while also taking a critical eye to important aspects of our profession, count me in!
Thanks Abbey, I appreciate your comments, your perspectives, and all your support behind the scenes as we talked this through!
Hi Mo, I very much appreciate this series and am looking forward to seeing where you go with it because I’ve started hearing practitioners talk about “Big Mindfulness,” and so they see it. Why should we pretend we don’t? Perhaps we have similar cultural references; some things are just whack, and that’s all there is to it. Recoil bracing is a great concept, and something I will use this week. Thank you!
Hey Denise thanks for your comments I'm glad you find value in this series and appreciate the "whack" perspective! It's important to address the concerns around "Big Mindfulness" (the commercialization of mindfulness) and engage in open discussions. I'm happy that you found the concept of recoil bracing helpful, it was an eye-opener for me as well!
I really appreciate this. I appreciate someone in a leadership role really listening to feedback and getting into the thick of it. Struggling with themselves and their reactions. Trying to find the balance in tough conversations. Let’s all start modeling like this, being open when we think we may need to adjust and explaining why. And then moving on and trying again. Maybe from a slightly different vantage point. I’m into it and I look forward to it. Even more so now.
Carrie, your response is much appreciated! Facing my fears and ego has been a journey, however, it would not be possible if not for the various advisors and folks in our community that help challenge me and help reveal my blind spots.
balanced wit or wit-chi
Thanks Nelia, I love the idea of "wit-chi" - a balanced blend of humor and wisdom to keep discussions engaging and insightful. Let's keep that wit-chi flowing!
In relation to being able to discuss these issues as a group I think it is something fundamental, especially in a community like this that seeks to reach out to organizations.
Personally I value several of the questions raised here because they question me, generate uncomfortable emotions and make me reflect on whether some of the things I am doing or saying as a teacher (with the best of intentions) can lead to interpretations such as those shared in this series (e.g., Article mindfulness in schools).
Moreover, for those of us who are part of this community, I propose to read the series as a practice to explore what emotions are aroused by reading them, where they are felt in the body? what thoughts do they generate in us? It is an interesting opportunity to look at these questions from a critical and rational point of view, but also to deepen our own self-knowledge.
Maria Isabel, I love your suggestion to use these discussions not only from a rational point of view but for self-reflection and exploring uncomfortable emotions. Often the greatest source of discovery and growth is when we uncover blind spots and question beliefs that we tie to our egos.
On your last thread, I saw someone correct your usage of the word "Whack" and replace it with "Wack." I like this series, and I believe to give it the maximum credibility, we ought to use language in the most accurate way possible, even when using silly terms. I urge you to change the name of this topic to "Wackfulness" to be truer to the English language.
Thanks for your consideration.
Thanks Ryan, its funny you mention that - we had a good internal debate about that - however this is worth reconsidering, thanks for sharing the link!
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