"Moving Mindfulness from 'Me' to 'We'" by Marie Holm, PhD

 

While mindfulness proponents often state that practitioners can reap benefits from the concept being infused with Buddhist wisdom, they typically swiftly clarify that mindfulness is secular and not religious. This contradiction has been pointed out by critics1 who encourage a a broader notion of mindfulness that includes not only being attentive to the present moment, but also being attentive to those around us and the planet we live on.

While Buddhist and other spiritual and faith traditions incorporate the concept of mindfulness into their philosophy and teachings, the inverse is not the case: those within the mindfulness movement are generally not at ease with the mere mention of the word spiritual, never mind religion. Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, restricting mindfulness to a solely individual practice likely limits the collective change that it can bring about. Given the challenges the world is facing, from political to ecological disasters, from inequalities to humanitarian suffering, it seems clear that we need to shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’.

From a spiritual perspective, there are several
concepts2 which could serve in supporting this transition from prioritizing ourselves to embracing the bigger picture.

Firstly, from a spiritual viewpoint, all people are seen to be equally important and part of the same humanity. People must respect others and help those who are in need, materially (food, shelter, etc) and spiritually (emotional support and guidance, etc). Thus, beyond living mindfully, living spiritually means caring for others and doing what is possible to assist them.

Secondly, life is an opportunity to evolve, as part of our spiritual existence. We need to take responsibility for our thoughts, words and actions, as these guide our learning and development, and impact not only us but others. From a spiritual perspective, we evolve though expressing love, toward ourselves, and others - the earth and all its creatures. It is through making effort to contribute to improving humanity and the earth that we grow spiritually, deepening our level of understanding and compassion, and become better people.

Lastly, a spiritual perspective allows us to be aware of our inherent connection with others and the planet. Sensing this interdependence can allow our thoughts, words and actions to arise from the realization that we’re all in this game of life together! Instead of being attentive merely to our own existence, as mindfulness is sometimes restricted to, this aligns us with the greater whole. The result can be that we further advance our learning and development.

Thus, being mindful spiritually is to maintain and strengthen this link with humanity and the earth, guiding our thoughts, words and actions to reflect this collective whole rather than as ‘us’ versus ‘them’. Choosing to take responsibility for our lives, and aiming to add our unique, albeit small, piece to solve the puzzle of the challenges that life presents, can benefit not only ourselves but others too, in the process.

  1. McMindfulness from Ronald Purser and David Loy, amongst other critiques: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ron-purser/beyond-mcmindfulness_b_3519289.html
  2. Drawing from spiritualist principles: http://spiritualist.no/english

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Marie Holm PhD is a researcher, speaker and professor linking corporate mindfulness and workplace spirituality with sustainability and corporate social responsibility. She holds a Doctoral degree in Management Science from Sorbonne University and a PhD from ESCP Europe. Marie lectures in English, Norwegian and French at leading management schools internationally. She is a long-time meditation and yoga practitioner, a certified holistic healer, medium and minister with the spirituality organisation in Norway.  www.marieholmphd.com