The Shadow Side of Mindfulness

Discussion Facilitator: Bruce Cantwell. July 6, 2019

This week Jocelyn shared a blog post entitled "The Shadow Side of Mindfulness" by Kelly Wendorf, which discusses the adoption of mindfulness techniques by corporations like Google, Nike, Harley Davidson and Apple.


1. "McMindfulness occurs when mindfulness is used, with intention or unwittingly, for self-serving and ego-enhancing purposes that run counter to both Buddhist and Abrahamic prophetic teachings to let go of ego-attachment and enact skillful compassion for everyone," writes David Forbes, author of Mindfulness and Its Discontents. "Instead of letting go of the ego, McMindfulness promotes self-aggrandizement; its therapeutic function is to comfort, numb, adjust and accommodate the self within a neoliberal, corporatized, militarized, individualistic society based on private gain."

We shared instructions from the Google-developed "McMindfulness" course Search Inside Yourself based on the Tibetan Tonglen "Taking and Giving Meditation."

With the generosity of an open heart and mind, imagine you can see yourself sitting in front of you. Look at your “ordinary self,” with its suffering—whatever might be troubling you lately.

Breathe this in as if it is a dark cloud of gunk, and let it disperse and transform.

Breathe it out as rays of light. Repeat this breathing cycle for a short time.


Notice if you feel more tenderness, understanding, and warmth for yourself.


Now let’s practice for others:

Imagine you see in front of you someone in your life who is suffering.

With an in breath, feel how open you can be to his or her experience. Perhaps you can feel a strong intention arising to relieve this person of his or her difficulties.

Breathe this in as a dark cloud and feel it entering your heart, where it dissolves any traces of self—interest to re— veal your innate goodness.

Breathe out rays of light, setting your intention to alleviate suffering.

Let’s spend some time breathing in and out like this.



For the last few moments, you can bring your hand to your chest and just breathe.

2. "We are systematically numbed to the increasingly uninhabitable and unacceptable state of our modern world, legs crossed, starting at our navels, self-regulating and controlling our emotions. ‘Where are all the protestors, the raging masses?’ people now ask. Answer: sitting in their office, earbuds on, eyes closed, meditating."

We explored the difference between passivity and mindful detachment. Passivity leads to inaction. Mindful detachment is more likely to lead to skillful action.

Francis shared a link to the "Hacking Consciousness" episode of the podcast Untangled, demonstrating how instead of omitting the spiritual aspects of interconnection, technology is being used to help us experience it with greater immediacy.

Bruce Cantwell