The concept of mindfulness has become well established within mainstream culture – and is increasingly used as a way to improve our experience of work, business and government. Mindfulness is offered to us as an accessible way of coping with the stresses and pressures of modern life.
Rachel Lilley argues that this approach, while often seeming successful at an individual level, is not enough to address “wicked problems” like climate change and social inequality. As currently presented, mindfulness risks masking the systemic problems that threaten our wellbeing, and helps keep us productive and compliant.
Rachel draws upon her extensive research to help us reflect on the contemporary science of cognition, emotion and mind and how this fits with current teaching of individual mindfulness. Only then can we consider more socially effective ways of working with mindfulness. She contrasts the sometimes ‘sticking plaster’ effects of individualised mindfulness with opportunities to improve our shared understanding of how our minds work together to create our world. Rachel reminds us of the effects of bias, and how we might use this knowledge to better relate to each other – and potentially create fundamental change in the way we organise society.
As a behaviour change and mindfulness academic, Rachel’s research centres on mindset and decision-making capacities in leaders. Her recent work with the Welsh Government came in response to its ‘Well-being of Future Generations Act‘. She has recently co-authored a book: Neuroliberalism, Behavioural Government in the 21st Century.
At Meaning, Rachel called on us to consider alternative potential for mindfulness to create shared understanding and compassion in work, and in society. She warned us to be wary of easy remedies that maintain a toxic status quo and fail to address either the roots of our issues, or the many systemic elements that contribute to it.