Sunday, 27 September 2015

Mindfulness and bureaucracy

Several of the big British bureaucracies - the National Health Service, and the State education department - have got hold of a notion they called 'mindfulness' (which they claim comes from Buddhism) which is now is being officially promoted... by the usual network of committees, recommendations, protocols and quality-monitoring methods.

(If only the ancient Buddhist monks had known about modern Managerial and accountancy methods... If only they could have recognized that modern officials would be able to reduce mindfulness to a set of processes... Think how much they might have achieved!) 

For example, mindfulness has been added to the compulsory school curriculum in some places, 'taught' by advisers and experts, evaluated by the same kind of systems as evaluate the teaching of mathematics and history...

This has happened before with 'Quality'.

In other words, we can see here a precisely analogous process of getting a complex concept, making it into a word, then making that word into... well, pretty much whatever the bureaucracy happens to want at that particular time.

As always, we must ignore the high minded introductory spiel (always ignore what managers say), and the assertions that mindfulness is a good thing... and see what it boils down to in practice.

Are there bullet points about doing mindfulness? Checklists? Who is telling us to do mindfulness - are they the kind of people who might know something - or anything - about the subject?

Do they in the slightest degree behave mind-fully or show any evidence of actually caring about actual mindfulness?

(How would the mindfulness-managers react if someone began being mindful while attending (or giving) a lecture or committee on the subject? - or mindfully filled in a form being used for external evaluations? - or became mindful instead of preparing a Power Point Presentation for the clients? - or experienced an intense and prolonged episode of mindfulness during a Personal Review and Staff Development session?)