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Mindful : October 2015
MYTH 4 Mindfulness is being used to create perfect killers... and capitalists Now that mindfulness is taught in so many practical contexts, a fear has emerged that it’s becoming no more than a handy trick to improve mental acuity. And the even bigger fear is that mindfulness is being used toward any end what- soever, regardless of the ethical consequences. Critics who voice this concern worry that mind- fulness practice without an ethical system will result in a world filled with snipers trained to aim “mindfully” and mindfully rapacious CEOs like Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street. But genuine mindfulness practice—taught by experienced practitioners properly trained to teach—carries with it the understanding that the bare attention of mindfulness naturally grows into broader awareness and inquisitive- ness. It causes one to see and take into account one’s interconnectedness with other people, the community, society, and the planet. Mindfulness can also give you the space to rediscover, exam- ine, and refresh the underlying values that drive your choices in the heat of the moment. The mindfulness prog rams under develop- ment for police and soldiers are intended to help them regulate their nervous systems so they make better choices and act less impul- sively—and to mitigage the trauma inflicted on their bodies and minds. Whatever military choices political leaders make on our behalf, the fact remains that soldiers can reduce harm to themsleves and others if they can keep a cool head. In addition, stints in the military are short. When soldiers return to civilian life, med- itation practice may still be of great benefit, to them personally, to their families, and to society at large. This is a key part of the vision of those who teach mindfulness to military personnel. Some people say workplace mindfulness programs are no more than cynical tools to squeeze more work out of people by improving their focus. This viewpoint is rarely informed by actually talking to people who have taken part in these programs. Most of us work somewhere, would like to enjoy our work more, and want to be better at it. Yes, employers look at the bottom line, but in the main they know it’s important that we feel our work is rewarding and our workplace is a good place to be. Programs that genuinely improve employee health benefit both the employee and the employer. Any good thing can—and will—be misused, but raising the specter of mindful snipers and mindful corporate sociopaths is demagog uery. Extreme examples are used to cast a harsh light on something that’s largely beneficial, like saying same-sex marriage will lead to people getting married to dogs and cats. Mindfulness training doesn’t dictate the ethical choices you should make, but it puts you in a better position to make those choices for yourself. 38 mindful October 2015