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Mindful America: The Mutual Transformation of Buddhist Meditation and American Culture Hardcover – August 1, 2014
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"The definitive catalogue of the ways 'mindfulness' is being used by Americans."--Journal of the American Academy of Religion
"Feature[s] a superb bibliography of contemporary English-language writings on mindfulness...Recommended."--CHOICE
"This book [is] fascinating, eye-opening...I hope that the makers of the mindfulness movement will read [this] and consider its implications for their work and for Buddhism in America. I hardly need add that all scholars of contemporary Buddhism and of American history should do the same."--H-NET
"[A] compelling study."--Journal of Religion
"But true to his word, Wilson never indulges in speculation about whether or not mindfulness delivers on its professed benefits. His unsparing account instead amounts to a spirited cross-examination of everything 'mindful' in America."--Tricycle Magazine
"Despite its intended scholarly audience, this is an accessible and remarkably jargon-free study. Wilson is clearly not a reluctant writer, and his prose is clear without being reductive or dry. The readability, and thus possibility of a larger, non-academic audience, is due in large part to the fantastic organization of his argument. He makes his case clearly and forcefully, without treading into repetition."--Winnipeg Free Press
"Mindful America could not be more timely: mindfulness is widespread, at its height of its influence, and significant both in terms of the history of American religion and of Buddhism. This book is well researched, thoughtfully conceived, provocative, intelligently theorized, and accessible to both scholarly and lay audiences. Any serious consideration of mindfulness in the West must address the issues Wilson brings up in this important book." --David L. McMahan, author of Buddhism in the Modern World
"This is a much-needed guide to the mindfulness movement that has moved onto central stage in American Buddhism over the course of the last two decades. Jeff Wilson demystifies the current mindfulness vogue by setting it in historical perspective and providing insightful analyses of the way in which an Asian Buddhist religious practice and value has been spiritualized, medicalized, psychologized, and secularized as it has been reshaped to address the needs of middle class Americans. General readers, practitioners, teachers, authors, and promoters alike will value Wilson's insights into the way in which mindfulness as a technique to address suffering has come to mean many different things for many different people. Wilson again shows himself to be the leading interpreter of the American Buddhist scene." --Richard Seager, Bates and Benjamin Professor of Religious Studies, Hamilton College
"In this well-honed study, Jeff Wilson explores the mindfulness movement in the context of modern American religion and culture. As he does so, we are invited to reflect upon the multi-faceted phenomena of religious transformation, appropriation, and commodification of old world meditation techniques and new world realities. An engaging and enlightening read." --Jan Willis, author of Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist and Buddhist-One Woman's Spiritual Journey
"Mindful America is a superb study by Jeff Wilson, scholar of American religion, that situates the practice of mindfulness within the lineage of American religious movements. What makes this movement unique, of course, is the central focus on the traditionally Buddhist practice of mindfulness... The study has both breadth and depthappropriately encompassing of the broad expanse of mindfulness practice yet specific enough to avoid reckless generalization that neglects the nuance and subtlety of mindfulness in America today. No stone is left unturned as Wilson seeks to understand mindfulness in the broadest possible contextsin light of the aforementioned American cultural tropesalongside some of its benevolent and dastardly particulars: from mindfulness for suicidality to mindfulness for sex. In the end, it represents an ideal example of the study of religion in America." --U.S. Studies Online
"In Mindful America, Wilson explores the origin of the mindfulness movement. The book offers one of the first critical descriptions of the movement, which is focused on more that the movement's practices... Mindful America does a very good job in exploring the mindfulness movement." --Metapsychology
About the Author
Jeff Wilson is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and East Asian Studies at Renison University College (University of Waterloo). He is the author of Mourning the Unborn Dead: A Buddhist Ritual Comes to America (2009) and Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South (2012).
Top customer reviews
Wilson argues that mindfulness over the last three decades has gone from an obscure Asian religious technique to a widely touted panacea and a serious money making industry. Today, mindfulness is touted as a cutting edge technique said to produce everything from financial success to mind blowing orgasms.
This 260 page book is well-researched and easy to read for the lay person. I'd give this book three stars for writing style but four stars for the author's leading-edge research in this wildly popular phenomena, the mindfulness movement in America.
Wilson’s treatment of his subject is often predictable and formulaic. Sometimes his critiques of the movement's advocates get repetitive chapter to chapter. Nevertheless, he weaves hundreds of interesting facts, quotations, and sources from the mindfulness movement and addresses six questions.
Mindful America explores six questions under these chapter titles (I provide a few quotes from the chapters):
Chapter 1 Mediating Mindfulness: How Does Mindfulness Reach America?
In this classic presentation [of the Satipatthana Sutta] mindfulness is taught to the monks, not the general Buddhist community, and it is clearly associated with traditional transcendent monastic concerns, such as nirvana. Mindfulness meditation is to be pursued as a way to disengage from clinging to the everyday world of suffering and turn toward a rigorous discipline, resulting in breakage of the cycle of rebirth. p21
Chapter 2 Mystifying Mindfulness: How is Mindfulness Made Available for Appropriation?
For foreign religious practices to be successfully appropriated by mainstream American society, they need to be rendered spiritual and personal to best fit into the prevailing trends in religious orientation...Hinduism is appropriated as yoga, Islam as Sufi poetry, Daoism as tai-chi, Japanese folk healing as reiki, and Buddhism as mindfulness.
The historic authority over these practices of Asians, Middle Easterners, and other groups coded as non-white in American society must be dissolved so that white Americans can claim authority over them, an authority that issues from the fact that these are now self-evidently universal, spiritual, or medical practices available to all comers, which new constituencies have a right to use, and to sell, as they wish. p61-62
Chapter 3 Medicalizing Mindfulness: How is Mindfulness Modified to Fit a Scientific and Therapeutic Culture?
Buddhist monks were supposed to preach, chant, and performed blessings. Too much meditation was believed to cause mental illness. And, anyway, the proper Buddhist methods for dealing with psychological issues, sickness, and other health impairments were exorcism and chanting, not mindfulness. p76
Buddhist practice has been removed from the realm of religion and professionalized to become the property of psychologists, doctors, scientists, and diet counselors, to be engaged in by clients rather than believers, who are not expected to take refuge, read scriptures, believe in karma or rebirth, or to become Buddhist. p103
Chapter 4 Mainstreaming Mindfulness: How is Mindfulness Adapted to Middle Class Needs?
At the heart of OneTaste is Orgasmic Meditation (OM), a form of mindful clitoral stimulation that OneTaste devotees practice daily, either in a group setting or at one of the OneTaste centers, or at home if they have taken OneTaste workshops. As the OneTaste website states, “Practitioners experience benefits similar to other mindfulness practices such as sitting in meditation, as well as the well-known benefits associated with orgasm”. p122
[In] the Satipatthana and Mahasatipatthana Suttas...the Buddha tells the reader to think of one’s own body as a rotting, oozing corpse eaten by worms and disintegrating into its component parts. Mindful-eating authors never quote these passages. p118
Chapter 5 Marketing Mindfulness: How is Mindfulness Turned into a Commercial Product?
Here's nine of the many commercial mindful "products" discussed in the book:
Mindful Horsemanship: Daily Inspirations for Better Communications with Your Horse (sport)
Tennis Fitness for the Love of It: A Mindful Approach (sport)
OneTaste: female orgasm through the practice of Orgasmic Meditation (sex)
The Heart of Buddhist Meditation (religion)
The Mindful Brain (science)
Mindful Therapy (therapy)
Mindful Knitting (hobby)
Mindful Mints (breath freshener)
MindfulMayo Dressing and Sandwich Spread (food)
Chapter 6 Moralizing Mindfulness: How is Mindfulness Related to Values and Worldviews?
In mindfulness movement writings the present moment becomes both savior and heaven: the vehicle for salvation and salvation itself. As Thich Nhat Hanh asserts in You are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment: “The only moment in which you can be truly alive is the present moment. The present moment is the destination, the point to arrive at”. p174
...Mindful civil religion does not call for mandatory participation in mindful activities, radical changes to the economic structure, aggressive or combative politcial struggle, or class warfare. Rather, for many it is apparent that mindful capitalism will be sufficient, as will mindful politics, mindful consumption, mindful work, and so on. p183
We might call this secular religion, one devoid of the supernatural and the afterlife yet operating as a deep well of values, life orientation, and utopian vision. p185
Those who do attach morals to or derive values from their mindfulness practice are often people with a connection to a religious tradition, especially Buddhism. p185
Most recent customer reviews
- Claims to be an objective study;
- Plenty of facts and observations;
- Mentions many books that can orient one's research;
- Addresses an...Read more