Liberating Mindfulness: From Billion-Dollar Industry to Engaged Spirituality
By: Gail Stearns
“Using feminist critical theory and weaving in her Christian background and other depth practices, Stearns asks hard questions about the mindfulness field: What exactly is its promise of happiness? Can it be divorced from Western consumerist values? Is mindfulness contributing to systems of oppression or freeing us from them? In this thought-provoking book, she invites us to be mindful about mindfulness.” -Diana Winston, director of mindfulness education, UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, and author of The Little Book of Being
“At a time when ‘spirituality’ and ‘mindfulness’ have become buzzwords that can seem indistinguishable from the ‘self-help’ and even ‘business’ sections of bookstores, Stearns calls us to something higher and deeper: a robust model of spiritual life that transforms the self and our relationship with God and community. Highly recommended for all spiritual seekers and those engaged in interfaith work.” –Omid Safi, professor of Islamic studies, Duke University
“Stearns questions conventional assumptions about stress with mindfulness and compassion, addressing the stress-generating role of historical societal injustices and envisioning how mindfulness can contribute to a culture of mutual caring and awakening. A courageous, inclusive, and unique contribution to the field of mindfulness!” –Trudy Goodman, PhD, founder, InsightLA
“Going beyond sappy gratitude journals, ‘calculated compassion,’ and other trendy spiritual virtue-signaling, Stearns provides a careful analysis of how mindfulness has gone awry in service of market and consumerist ends. Liberating Mindfulness uncovers the revolutionary potential of numerous religious traditions, revealing new pathways that can repurpose mindfulness as a positive and disruptive force for social justice and personal healing.” –Ronald E. Purser, author, McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality
In an attempt to reclaim mindfulness from the commercial and corporate juggernaut it has become and to demonstrate its usefulness in spiritual (including Christian) life, the author incorporates insights from retreats she has attended at top meditation/mindfulness centers and from interviews with key leaders in the field.
This is a spiritual manifesto about the perils and promise of the contemporary mindfulness movement, in which Stearns exposes some of the ways in which mindfulness meditation has been coopted in Western culture as a tool for individualism and consumerism, revealing new possibilities as mindfulness tools are interwoven with ethical and spiritual practices. Drawing from stories of her own spiritual journey as a mindfulness teacher, professor, and minister, interviews with mindfulness teachers and practitioners, and critical analysis using gender and race theory, she invites readers into a deeper understanding of mindfulness and its potential for communal liberation.
Gail J. Stearns is a Presbyterian minister, dean of the Wallace All Faiths Chapel, and associate professor of religious studies and peace studies at Chapman University, Orange, CA. A teacher of mindfulness meditation, she is author of several books including Open Your Eyes: Toward Living More Deeply in the Present.