Meditation Apps May Calm You Down, But You Miss The Purpose Of Buddhist Mindfulness
In today’s stressful world, mindfulness – a popular type of spirituality that strives to focus on the present moment – promises to ease the anxiety and stress of modern life. The internet is filled with popular mindfulness apps that cater to everyone from busy urban professionals to dieters, people with insomnia and even kids.
We are Buddhist scholars specializing in social media research. In August 2019, we searched the Apple App Store and Google Play and found over 500 apps associated with Buddhism. The majority of the apps focused on practicing mindfulness.
Do these apps really promote Buddhist ideals or are they the product of a lucrative consumer industry?
As practiced in the United States today, mindfulness meditation focuses on being intensely aware, without any kind of judgment, of what one is feeling and feeling at any given moment. Mindfulness practice has been shown to counteract the tendency of many of us to spend too much time planning and problem solving, which can be stressful.
Mindfulness practices, as pursued by Buddhist applications, involve guided meditation, breathing exercises, and other forms of relaxation. Clinical tests show that mindfulness relieves stress, anxiety, pain, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. However, there have been few studies on mindfulness applications.
The current popular understanding of mindfulness is derived from the Buddhist concept of sati, which describes awareness of one’s body, feelings, and other mental states.
In early Buddhist texts, mindfulness meant not only paying attention but also remembering what the Buddha was teaching, so that one could discern between skilful and clumsy thoughts, feelings and actions. This would ultimately lead to liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
For example, the Buddhist text âSatipatthana Suttaâ describes not only paying attention to the breath and the body, but also comparing one’s body to a corpse in a cemetery to appreciate the appearance and disappearance of the body.
âWe are aware that the body exists, just to the extent necessary for knowledge and consciousness. And we stay detached, not clinging to anything in the world, âwe read in the sutra.
Here, mindfulness allows one to appreciate impermanence, not to become attached to material things and to strive for greater consciousness so that one can finally become enlightened.
The first mindfulness Buddhist practitioners were those who criticized dominant societal values ââand cultural norms such as bodily beauty, family ties, and material wealth.
Mindfulness apps, on the other hand, encourage people to adapt and adjust to society. They overlook the causes and surrounding conditions of suffering and stress, which can be political, social or economic.
Mindfulness apps are part of a massive, lucrative industry valued at around US $ 0 million.
Two apps, Calm and Headspace, claim nearly 70% of the overall market share. These apps are aimed at a broad audience, which includes religious consumers as well as a growing number of Americans who see themselves as spiritual but not religious.
Americans spend more than five hours a day glued to their mobile devices. Almost 80% of Americans check their smartphone within 15 minutes of waking up. Apps provide a way to do meditation on the go.
The fact that Buddhist applications exist is not surprising, because Buddhism has always known how to use new media technologies to spread its message. The earliest known printed book, for example, is a Chinese copy of the Diamond Sutra, a Sanskrit Buddhist text that dates from the 9th century.
Are these apps just a repackaging of ancient Buddhism in new digital packaging?
Is it Buddhist?
There is no doubt that Buddhist applications reflect genuine social distress. But, in our opinion, mindfulness, when stripped of all of its religious elements, can distort the understanding of Buddhism.
A central aspect of Buddhism is the concept of non-self: the belief that there is no immutable and permanent self, soul or other essence. By promoting an individualistic approach to religion, Buddhist applications may therefore rub shoulders with the very grain of Buddhist practice.
Indeed, our findings show that the applications of Buddhist meditation are not a remedy that alleviates suffering in the world, but rather an opiate that hides the true symptoms of the precarious and stressful state in which many find themselves today. people.
In this case, Buddhist apps, rather than curing the anxiety created by our smartphones, simply make us more dependent and, ultimately, even more stressed.
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This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Gregory Grieve, University of North Carolina – Greensboro and Beverley McGuire, University of North Carolina Wilmington.
The authors do not work, consult, own any stock or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have not disclosed any relevant affiliation beyond their academic appointment.