Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mindfulness-Based Greed Reduction

I have been reading the book "Occupy the Moment: A Mindful Path to a New Economy".  It's an online book which you can buy for 99 cents from Amazon here.

The author, Rich Heller, spent time conducting mindfulness meditations at the Occupy Boston encampments.  He writes, "Mindfulness is focusing on the present moment with a curious, friendly attitude and with little in the way of judgment.  The opposite of being mindful is being mindless. The mindless pursuit of economic growth without considering the negative consequences is what has produced the current global crisis."

And in words that stuck in my mind, he goes on to advocate for a path of "mindfulness-based greed reduction".  For example, when I'm greedy for food, I am not really paying attention to it.  When I savor each bite - the flavors, the textures, the experiences that make it up - I eat much less.

Heller cites some experiments with popcorn.  Students watching a movie were given free bags of popcorn.  Unbeknownst to them, some of the popcorn was fresh, and some of it was two weeks old and gross.  Those students who didn't usually eat popcorn noticed the difference and rejected the stale stuff.  But those who usually ate popcorn with their move noticed no difference.  They guzzled the stale popcorn as much as the fresh.  They had stopped being "mindful" of their eating experience.

I like the book because of the practical advice it offers, and also because it understands that the cure for greed is not "just a little bit more" - there is  never any "mroe" that is going to be enough.  The cure is a heart change ("godliness with contentment", to quote St Paul).  I'm a bit nervous though about its trickle-up theory of mindfulness (as "we" the 99% become more mindful maybe the rich  and greedy 1% will become more mindful too).  That may be about as likely as the trickle-down theory of wealth creation...

1 comment:

John Roe said...

Interesting article about "mindful eating" here.