Mindfulness in Western Contexts Perpetuates Oppressive Realities for Minority Cultures The Consequences of Cultural Appropriation

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Maria Ishikawa


This paper examines mindfulness-based practices in North American classrooms as culturally appropriated through the dominantly western modality of individualism and scientific-rationalism. Through investigating MindUP™ and other mindfulness teaching resources, I demonstrate the construed qualities of mindfulness practices in western contexts.  I argue that mindfulness is molded to fit colonial ontologies of values and knowledge and perpetuates oppressive realities for minority cultures. I propose that mindfulness should be reoriented into its Buddhist contexts through required lessons and trainings in Buddhist cultures, ontologies, and knowledges, and creators and supporters of mindfulness-based educational programs should refer to the practices they are promoting as attention-focusing and stress-reduction strategies and not as misconstrued, individualistic qualities of mindfulness. This paper intends to extend awareness to the broader sociopolitical consequences of culturally appropriating mindfulness practices.


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Ishikawa, M. (2018). Mindfulness in Western Contexts Perpetuates Oppressive Realities for Minority Cultures: The Consequences of Cultural Appropriation. SFU Educational Review, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.21810/sfuer.v11i1.757