Monday, August 22, 2016

One Minute Mindfulness

The most recent acquisition in my household sits, a darkly unobtrusive cylinder in our living room.   It's an Amazon Echo, a remarkable little gadget that automates your home life.  Like the computer in Star Trek, it'll do almost anything in your home.  It'll adjust the thermostat, lock your doors, turn your lights on and off, answer your questions, order your pizzas.  And, of course, let you buy things from Amazon from the convenience of your sofa without even needing to lift a finger.

Which is, of course, The Plan.

I talked about it a bit during my sermon yesterday, but in playing around with its expanding functionalities, I was struck by a "skill" it can learn: being your mindfulness guide.

You ask the machine in your living room to guide you through a quick meditation.  "Alexa," you say, because Alexa is the name that triggers it to listen.  "One Minute Mindfulness."

A synthetic voice, generically female, counsels you to sit, attend to your breathing, and not worry about your thoughts.  Gentle white-noise music plays, usually of a burbling brook underlaid with New Age synthesizers.  You breathe in and out, and the minute passes.  "Enjoy your day," chirrups the mindfulness machine.

Mindfulness has loose roots in Eastern practice, and can be an excellent way of centering yourself.  But it is increasingly turned into nothing more than corporatized meditation, meditation for the explicit purpose of increasing productivity.   Not enlightenment.  Not awakening or the loss of self or transcendence.  But productivity.

Which is why One Minute Mindfulness is categorized as a "productivity" tool.

"Feeling stressed and frayed by endless scattering inputs and demands?  HR strongly encourages mindfulness!  It kinda works, and it impacts the costs of our prescription plan considerably less than the Xanax/Ritalin cocktail you'd otherwise need to endure contemporary suburban existence."

It's so peculiar, living in what was once the dystopian future.