What does yoga postures, acupuncture, mindfulness and pizza have in common? At the Copenhagen Business School, scholars and managers met to discuss the role of Mindfulness Meditation in high performing organizations. Revisitng my former role as an academic scholar i presented a historical reflexion of the corporate mindfulness boom.
See the video of the lecture here
“Mind the Gap” is an academic meditation on the recent mindfulness-boom and its entry into corporate enviroments. What actually happens when esoteric practices take the leap across the east/west gap? Are gaps between tectonic plates spaces where things get lost or are they spaces where things get created? The presentation compares the global mindfulness boom with three other “indegenous” practices, who in recent history became global transnational phenomena. Looking at the way Transnational Chinese Medicine (TCM), Yoga Posture Practice and Italian pizza(!) spread across the planet, the very idea of a gap between the pure, historical original and a hyped contemporary copy begins to melts down.
In all three cases authenticity seems to be a performative mixture-effect appearing as practices travel across gaps rather than an innocent pre existing state to be corrupted or protected. For yoga and TCM especially, it seems that a mix of estern esoteric authenticity and western scientific credibility is what has enrsured its global mobilization.
So, what does this mean for our analysis of the present mindfulness boom? Is mindfulneess just excotic food with the edge taken off so the tourist can swallow, but still get a sense of having travelled? Is the transition from buddhist self enquiry into corporate self improvement really just a counterproductive distortion pushing us deeper into suffering? What are the political and ethical implications when modern knowledge workers begin to close their eyes and count to ten?
The presentation draws heavily on scolarly work by Peter Elsass, Mei Zhan, Mark Singleton, Bruno Latour, Marilyn Strathern and my earlier work in the field of science, technology and society. The distinction between self improvement and self enquiry and their respective implications for human suffering is borrowed from Godfrey Devereux.