The Mindful Elite - Jaime Kucinskas

The Mindful Elite - Mobilizing from the Inside Out by Assistant Professor of Sociology Jaime Kucinskas is a sociological account of the spread of mindfulness in science, healthcare, education, business, and the military. The book details how meditation was introduced into new areas by a group of elites and presents the benefits teachers and practitioners have experienced from its practice. It also reviews some of the limitations of mindful interventions in the organizations they inhabit, according to Kucinskas.

The publisher, Oxford University Press (OUP), described the book as revealing “who is behind the mindfulness movement and the engine they built to propel mindfulness into public consciousness.” In researching those questions, Kucinskas conducted 100 first-hand accounts with top scientists, religious leaders, educators, business people and investors about their mindfulness practices. Through those interviews, she shows how powerful embodied cultural and spiritual practices can be in anchoring movements and in training activists.

Delving into the history of mindfulness from the 1960s to the present, Kucinskas reveals how mindful meditation is now embraced in virtually all corners of society today, from K-12 schools to Fortune 100 companies, and its virtues are extolled by national and international media almost daily. It is viewed as benefiting health and overall well-being, to counter stress, to help children pay attention, and to foster creativity, productivity and emotional intelligence. She notes, however, that, in the 1960s and 1970s, meditation was viewed as a marginal, counter-cultural practice, or a religious ritual for Asian immigrants. Her book examines how mindfulness became mainstream, how the movement moved from “from hippydom to corporate settings.” 

Broadly, The Mindful Elite explores how elite movements can spread and draws larger lessons for other social, cultural, and religious movements across institutions and organizations. Kucinskas emphasizes that mindfulness is not going to solve the world’s problems, but it may help people learn about themselves and engage in more thoughtful processes of decision-making and action. Yet, in reflecting on one of the original goals of the mindfulness movement, Kucinskas writes, “These individual benefits are a far cry from solving the world’s problems, especially given the serious collective problems humanity currently faces.” 

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