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Liberating Mindfulness: From Billion-Dollar Industry to Engaged Spirituality

Liberating Mindfulness: From Billion-Dollar Industry to Engaged Spirituality

by Gail J. Stearns
Liberating Mindfulness: From Billion-Dollar Industry to Engaged Spirituality

Liberating Mindfulness: From Billion-Dollar Industry to Engaged Spirituality

by Gail J. Stearns


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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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626984714
Publisher: Orbis Books
Publication date: 06/15/2022
Pages: 210
Sales rank: 286,027
Product dimensions: 5.38(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.44(d)

About the Author

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.

Read an Excerpt

The real challenge, one that the mindfulness movement is impaled on, is how do you take the next step from the superficial identity to the deeper identity? 1 How do we take the next step into greater depth as spiritual beings? And further, how do we take the leap into greater depth communally, toward a just society? You may consider yourself secular, spiritual, or religious. You may have dabbled in mindfulness or attended religious prayers or services. Yet, you may still feel your search has not quite been fulfilling—reaching outward, yet leaving you wondering if deeper inner groundedness is possible.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction xv

Uncovering Contemplative Practices xviii

Mindfulness Stumbling Blocks xix

Mindfulness and Spiritual Traditions xx

Chapter Outline xxii

A Spiritual Pilgrimage xxv


1. A Journey into Mindfulness 3

Who Benefits from Mindfulness? 9

Who Teaches Mindfulness? 10 Mindfulness Emerges in the West 12

Mindfulness and Science 13

What Happened to Mindfulness? 14 2.

2. What’s the Use of Mindfulness? 17

The Construction of Mindfulness 20

Mindfulness and Compassion 24

Is Mindfulness Working? 27

3. Mindfulness Will Bring You Happiness 31

What’s the Use of Happiness? 33

Mindfulness as a Happiness Object 36

Mindfulness: Awareness or Social Control? 38

May You Be Happy 42

4. What’s the Use of Stress? 48

What Is Stress, Anyway? 51

Who’s Got the Most Stress? 54

Alleviating Stress with Gratitude 55

Is Stress Inevitable? 58 5.

5. Emotion: Gendered and Racialized 63

Collective Emotion 63

COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter

65 Tracking Emotion 67

Mindfulness Claims 69

Embedding Mindfulness in Justice Making 70

Terrence 71

Justice 73

Justin 74

Are We Being Mindful about Mindfulness? 76


6. Liberating Mindfulness and Religion 81

Compulsory Secularization for Mindfulness 85

Liberating Religion with Mindfulness 86

The Practices of RAIN and RAINN 90

RAINN: Clairre’s Backstory 93

7. What Can We Learn from Buddhism? 96

The Four Noble Truths 99

Mindfulness Arises from Buddhism 101

Mindfulness in Vipassana Practice 104

Buddhist Meditation and Social Change 108

What Do We Learn from Buddhism? 111

8. Radical, Revolutionary Love: Contemplative Religious Practice 115

The Path of Radical Love—An Islamic Sufi Way 115

Revolutionary Love—A Pathway Born from Sikhism 121

Love and Justice in Jewish Mindfulness 126

Intertwining Mindfulness and Religion toward Liberation 129

9. Centering Prayer in Christianity 131

What Is Centering Prayer? 133

Insight Meditation and Centering Prayer 136

Contemplative Prayer and Mindfulness Tools 140

Characteristics of Centering Prayer 142

Intention 142

Devotion 143

Transparency 145

A Story of “Oneing” 146

10. Is Christianity Inconvenient to Empire? 150

Questioning “Surrender” 157

Contemplative Practice for the Dismantling of Empire 160

The Brothers of Taizé 160 The Sisters of St. Gertrude 161

Mindfulness and Christian Practice 163 Conclusion 169

One Final Story 173

Index 176

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