The Revolution Will Not Be Blonde

Posted: January 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 49 Comments »

The Mindful Revolution, Time Magazine Cover, Time Magazine Mindful Revolution, Slavoj Zizek, Ethan Nichtern, mindfulness, Twin Peaks Buddhism, Zizek BuddhismThe next cover for Time magazine is getting a lot of attention—and a ton of heat—from the mindfulness community. It is actually the second time that they have run a cover about meditation with a beautiful blond Caucasian woman on the cover. The first was Heather Graham in 2003. I must admit that my biggest personal bias against Heather will always be her performance in Twin Peaks, not her Time cover.

These covers have created an interesting uproar over what motivates a mainstream media outlet to cover meditation and Buddhism. There is a lot of concern in the Buddhist communities in which I am involved—but maybe sometimes not enough concern—that Buddhism may just turn into a folk spirituality for elite middle-class and upper middle-class white people in wealthy countries, allowing us privileged folks the tools to remain calm and balanced while the world goes to deeper into a state of suffering and torment. This argument was most famously forwarded by the cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek in his critique of Western Buddhism. I tried to respond in this article to Zizek a few years ago in Huffington post.

The thing that immediately strikes me about both covers—beyond what’s already been critiqued—is that both models seem (in their expression and closed-eye, chin-tilted distance) to be tuning out the world for the sake of comfort. From the standpoint of the Shambhala tradition, the entire purpose for practicing mindfulness is to tune into the world and engage with reality and society more deeply. Both cover models seem like they are simply somewhere else, not here with us.

Meanwhile, there have been lots of interesting responses to this  cover in the online world this week, each worth reading.

On the Interdependence Project Blog, Nancy Thompson shared her concerns about the selling of mindfulness in this way.

At Huffington Post, Joanna Piacenza of Tricycle Magazine critiqued the choice in her own words.

Meanwhile, relatedly, my friend Susan Piver had some thoughts on using sexuality to sell meditation.

It’s been a busy few days on this topic.

What do you think of the cover(s)? I’d be happy to share more thoughts if you share yours.

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49 Comments on “The Revolution Will Not Be Blonde”

  1. 1 Cameron said at 2:32 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    I think some of these “mindfulness” fundamentalists need to chill. You can’t harm the real with the superficial.

    Look, if spirituality could be killed with superficiality and pop marketing, Christianity would have long since ceased to exist. The authentic core always abides… while the waves of “pop” rise and fall on the surface.

  2. 2 Michael J. said at 2:46 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    “There is a lot of concern in the Buddhist communities in which I am involved—but maybe sometimes not enough concern—that Buddhism may just turn into a folk spirituality for elite middle-class and upper middle-class white people in wealthy countries, allowing us privileged folks the tools to remain calm and balanced while the world goes to deeper into a state of suffering and torment. This argument was most famously forwarded by the cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek in his critique of Western Buddhism.”

    It’s strange Ethan but I think you’re on to something here. I actually just retired from pastoring churches for almost 30 years. One of my deepest concerns was that the “faith” has been completely co-opted by the same group of persons, ‘elite middle-class and upper middle-class white people in wealthy countries (burbs), allowing us privileged folks the tools to remain calm and balanced while the world goes to deeper into a state of suffering and torment,’ instead of the deep spiritual practices of “following” the sandaled one from Galilee who was always running into trouble in his own day with the elites. I think you should be concerned as all spiritual practices appear on their way to being co-opted for the express purpose of a “numbing” effect that allows utter disconnect from the pain of the world. Teaching on mountain tops was always followed with an encounter with real people in real situations by the Galilean. Some disciplined their lives for such encounters and became disciples of the “way.” After almost 30 years it has become clear in the landscapes I have ventured that such spirituality is neither lived nor desired, what is desired appears to be another narcotic. escape.

  3. 3 C.T. Tamura said at 2:50 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    I appreciate your calling attention to the rather stereotypical depiction of meditation on the cover of Time. This is something worth noting– the mildly bilssed out expression, the posture that looks like “she’s smelling hot dogs cooking”, etc. I, probably like many meditators, deal with the new-agey stereotypes, and ignorant assumptions of often nice and intelligent people who just don’t really understand what meditation is.

    But I think you are getting wrapped up in a discomfort with the Time image(s), maybe more because of personal socio-politcal biases rather than a real problem with having an attractive white blond girl representing meditators. The vast majority of Americans in my experience are still very suspicious and religiously insecure about Buddhism and meditation and if we are going to be practical about spreading the word about the benefits of meditation, then Time is very smart to choose an attractive white girl to represent it.

    We don’t need to make a point of making meditation as intimidating as possible by introducing it to the masses with folks like Noah Levine of Dharma Punx and his neck tattoos. Don’t get me wrong, Noah is great and I have no problem with tattoos whatsoever. But lets be pragmatic about it. If we can reach more people by having Giselle meditating on the cover of Time, then great.

    My hope is that next time Time features meditation, that they have an attractive 30 somethings mom and dad, and two kids with blond hair and blue eyes all smiling blissfully and wearing shirts with American flags on them because the only people an image like the current one is going to upset are people like us writing and responding to this article, who don’t need to be reached by Time in the first place.

  4. 4 Mattthew said at 2:52 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    Or it will be blonde, at least for those with that color of hair… I agree, that as Western Buddhists, we need to examine the causes and forces that continue a trend of mindfulness communities being largely white and middle class, and often able to remain removed from the very real issues of social inequality that many of us inspired to engage in the world are called to face.

    What is most helpful in this moment where mindfulness and meditation are receiving larger acceptance? Hopefully, it means that more people will be inspired to practice, and that this will have a positive impact on their lives.

    But how can Western Buddhism have a (shared) diverse experience? I believe that this starts with the actively including and fostering teachers of color, both young and old as well as women teachers, and those from LGBT communities. With a diversity of voices, a more diverse sangha will come to be.

  5. 5 Ethan said at 2:55 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    Thanks CT – again, that isn’t exactly my critique, although I do understand why others have made that critique strongly against the attractive blonde white woman on the cover. I also know that you need to catch peoples eyes in any world, ours or any other, to get them to see a message.

    My critique, or what stood out to me more, was this sense of practice as an escape or distancing element of life, a way to get away from the world, which seems to be emphasized in the way they posed for the cover.

    I participate in the mainstream media world around dharma as much as anybody else, so I know the drill, so to speak.

    However, I do think it’s funny that they chose to blonde women with very similar expressions and very similar looks for their two covers on mindfulness, 10 years apart. It just doesn’t seem very creative from either a marketing, or an aesthetic standpoint.

    Thanks for commenting! All best to you.

  6. 6 Ethan said at 2:56 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    Yes, exactly Matthew, if I really wanted to be true to the Buddhist tradition, the title of my piece would’ve been “The Revolution will Neither be Blonde nor Not-Blonde.” HAHAHA

  7. 7 Kyle said at 3:04 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    I see this article being about the mindfulness revolution describing MBSR and Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn more than a link to a blonde white girl being the Buddhist representative in the West. I admit that I have studied MBSR and read Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s books and watched many hours of his talks on the internet. That is what interests me and pulls my attention on this cover. However, the majority of Time’s readers don’t practice meditation or mindfulness training. The editor at Time, like so many other publications has this idea that the readers will be more likely to purchase this issue if there is an attractive model on the cover. I don’t see it as a statement about Buddhism as much as it is a magazine company trying to sell some magazines and make some money. I could see how some people in the Buddhist community may take it personally or to mean something else. Obviously, that has a lot to do with a matter of perspective. I think the best thing to do is to lose this idea of this superficial spreading of Buddhism to a certain demographic in the West. If it ceases to be talked about, it will be forgotten within a week. News changes so quickly in the modern times. Next week it will be something else entirely.

  8. 8 Magdalena said at 3:11 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    I understand people’s reservation about these, but what SHOULD the ideal cover page meditator look like in terms of age, gender presentation and race? What characteristics would make up this ideal non-objectionable person?

  9. 9 BJ said at 3:18 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    I agree that these are the silliest covers I have seen. Meditation is hard, gritty at times, stuff. Not some ethereal place you go to chill. Certainly I don’t look like a blond beautiful woman.

    I think it sends the wrong impression that somehow you can sit and your problems disappear. When many times the opposite happens. You are confronted with them in a more profound way.

    At the least this cover makes meditation look like a elitist practice. One that only rich white people can do. When in reality many programs are showing promise that meditation can help children where they have been in abuse situations. Also, there are schools in Thailand that have shown when mindfulness is introduced at a early age children are more focused and productive. When did Time decide that white women got the market cornered on nirvana? BTW I am a white woman.

  10. 10 C.T. Tamura said at 3:26 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    Ethan! I appreciate your reply to my comment, and in my desire to make my point, I forgot to mention that I totally agree with your assessment of the of the photos. Unfortunately, i don’t think creativity is really one of Time’s strong suits these days.

  11. 11 Phylseg said at 3:31 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    There is a firewall up for this article in Time so beyond the model on the cover it’s a blank page and blank article. What bothers me more than the blonde women on the covers is selling mindfulness as a commodity. The blonde women have also sold themselves as a commodity. Mindfulness is a tool. A hammer is a tool. Doubt you will learn how to use a hammer from learning mindfulness, though you might be mindful of not hitting your finger. That kind of mindful is not the same as mindfulness. So essentially you are saying that the people at Time were not mindful in using a blond woman on the cover. Undoubtedly, it was a mindless act. But mindless acts often sell magazines. If you want develop mindfulness find a good teacher, keep your eyes open, and stay in the present; that’s now, not later. It is good be become aware. First there is mindfulness then there is awareness. Just don’t buy the magazine.

  12. 12 Alison said at 3:45 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    It’s an interesting discussion, for sure, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be worth while to widen our view a little.

    To me, this seems to be a symptom of a larger problem and that is the power and control that a few corporations (including Time Warner) have on the American (and possibly world) public. Here’s a bit on Time Warner here:
    http://www.freepress.net/ownership/chart

    As long as the media remains controlled by a handful of very powerful corporations I’m not optimistic about the quality of content.

    For me, the bigger question is, how do we cut this many tentacled beast down?

  13. 13 Ethan said at 3:56 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    Totally agree Alison. For-profit media consolidation in the US and elsewhere is a huge problem for everyone. The gatekeepers of sharing information about fields of interest that everyone might be into are getting fewer and fewer, and their bottom line is getting higher and higher, meaning they will only report something if it fits a profit agenda, in a way that fits. That obviously doesn’t bode well for reporting on more subtle or more long-term pursuits like Dharma.

    But seriously, did anyone see Heather Graham in Twin Peaks? :)

  14. 14 Lisa said at 4:29 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    I’m a blonde, white, middle class. I don’t label myself Buddhist and don’t pretend to be one. I do know that I’ve been drawn to practice yoga and to meditate and to soak up whatever is available in Shambhala Sun, Tricycle, Thich Nhat Hahn, Charlotte Joko Beck, and many others. More recently I found Robert Aiken’s, Mind of Clover profoundly insightful. I guess all of this would go under an umbrella of a “mindfulness practice” that I’ve found enormously helpful. I’m less anxious, a better parent, a better member of my community, and it’s helped me deal with very difficult situations in a way that my Catholic upbringing never could. I understand that the model in the magazine is beautiful and her head is tilted oddly but isn’t it good if it brings in even one person to this practice of developing peace, calm, and compassion within themselves that they can then spread into the world? If people don’t grow up in this, what is their entry into this gold mine of wisdom passed down from the ages? Where do they start? Time Magazine isn’t such a bad place to reach a lot of people. So many people need this. Ethan, I’ve appreciated following you on Facebook and feel like you are someone making this body of wisdom accessible. Thank you for that.

  15. 15 Rose said at 4:33 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    In a way it is a good thing. Bring that knowledge to the caucasions who are stressed out and having anxiety problems, but better yet,choose an ethic group who could benefit also from meditation. I would love to see people of color and how about a man of color. People are intrigued by visuals. My thoughts.

  16. 16 A. Jesse Jiryu Davis said at 4:35 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    Thanks for writing this, Ethan.

  17. 17 Richard said at 4:40 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    I can certainly understand and do agree with your concerns, though I feel that ultimately (and relatively, for that matter) it’s much ado about nothing. Certainly worth noting and comment but what sort of person would be the ideal for such a cover? I have listened to and noted for many years the entirely legitimate argument that Western Buddhism is associated more with the white middle and upper classes and how measures should be taken to expand outreach to others. There is abundant evidence that this outreach has been underway for some time, though Buddhists generally are not a proselytizing bunch in any case, and I have personally observed a welcome if slow change in direction. Nonetheless the Caucasian, middle class does indeed appear to dominate any casual assessment of current “membership” and involvement. So is this pretty young woman representative of Western Buddhism as it is, and is it just politically incorrect to say so? Would it be helpful if she were not as pretty? Not blonde? Is the membership predominately made up of Boomers or 20-somethings? Male? That she may appear to be merely blissed-out and aloof is another matter but, as others have suggested, few are likely to remember the cover girl next month but perhaps they may hold onto some of the content.

  18. 18 David Coney said at 4:46 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    Could it be that the lesson here is to let go of being concerned with an image and someones perception of that image? What are we wanting “someone” to “get”/”grasp”. If no one knows you meditate then are you really meditating? Do we need a validation via “accuracy of portrayal” to justify our own participation and the manner in which we participate?

  19. 19 Ethan said at 5:05 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    Hey all, Lisa, Richard, David I agree with your balanced approach and various points. There is nothing wrong with people reading TIME Magazine to learn about meditation. I have also been interviewed by major mainstream outlets about meditation and Dharma. I am nothing but happy that this coverage is happening and the message and possibly teachings and practices are spreading this way.

    My main concern is that the image of meditation be about one of engagement with the world, not escape, as stated above. I also just wanted to bring attention on this site to the controversy that is going on around these covers and the portrayal of meditators in the mainstream media. Best, e

  20. 20 Richard said at 5:19 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    David, you are fabulous. Really! – just sayin.

  21. 21 Heather B said at 5:25 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    PR and marketing products related to Buddhism are everywhere. What rouses my curiosity about this photo is not that she is “tuning out” the world through “meditation” but that she is emblematic of the angelic, “pure,” whiteness propagated in American media. See WHITE:Essays on Race and Culture by Richard Dyer. Dyer quite elegantly discusses the “invisibility” of whiteness as a method of maintaining racial standardization of style, class, culture, and status.

  22. 22 BJ said at 6:46 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    Ethan I did see Heather in Twin Peaks. I vaguely remember it. What is remember was not good. Does this date me?

  23. 23 Jenny said at 6:48 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    Sadly, once a cover story has been determined, every magazine ever is charged with designing a cover that will ultimately sell the most issues off the stand. Time has decades of trial and error in this department in which to draw upon, and I’m guesssing if they didn’t want to go with a controversial cover (remember the “Are you Mom Enough” cover? The OJ Cover? Or that one time when they happened to name Hitler man of the Year?) I would suspect the default is a pretty lady on a cover.
    Its the photo editor who determines the types of shots that are taken for the cover shoot, and sadly this particular photo editor displayed only a laypersons knowledge of what meditation actually looks like.
    The upside: Well, maybe this cover will sell more issues, and though the article may not be perfect, it might bring people to consider mediation as an option for their own personal lives.

    Personal upside to this discussion: I clearly have to watch Twin Peaks all over again… and any Lynch is a good thing in my world.

  24. 24 BJ said at 7:05 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    I amend my comment, I meant lynch was good Heather Graham not so much.

  25. 25 Lisa said at 8:14 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    Thanks Ethan. I think this is an interesting issue. Very much enjoy your blog posts and provoking thoughts. I’m trying to set up FB to ping me with inputs that I want to flow through my consciousness and yours are wonderful.

  26. 26 David M said at 8:30 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    I first thought the cover was a good thing because it looks like this women isn’t so serious like other Time covers and that she is tuning into her sense of smell. Whatever, her body maybe. It looks pleasing which might draw some readers in. But I see what you’re saying Ethan. I now think that it gives an image that meditation is something that will get you away from the problems in life. This is okay but it’s a cheap view of meditation. Like meditation has been around throughout the ages and many people around the world do it that are tough and intelligent. This image just seems like it does give the impression that meditation is for upper middle class white people that have this luxury to tune out the world. I’m sure wider family has this image of meditation when I mention it and they think I’m just doing it to make myself feel blissed out and even reject them. I’ve used meditation in this way on my own but it doesn’t feel right. This image is something that people can get caught up in and think that something is wrong with them if they don’t look and feel perfect like this image portrays.

  27. 27 MJ Fuentes said at 9:18 pm on January 29th, 2014:

    I believe we must not see it so superficial. Point is that mindfulness gladly is becoming slowly a household name and that is in my view wonderful. Every person and child that is reached in such way and maybe helped is a step closer to themselfs.
    Don’t judge no matter which class demographic you belong to. We are all Buddha and carry him with us. No matter which social class or country you belong.
    Peace.

  28. 28 Ruby said at 7:44 am on January 30th, 2014:

    Ethan, maybe it’s not so much the inability of Time to get it right that bothers everyone but the reality that Western meditation is lacking in outreach in prisons, protests and in making any type of waves. Sure, the message is personal, one of going inward so that an individual might engage more positively and fully with society afterward. Sure, mindfulness is all about this reduction in suffering. The issue is, that part of the message has been left in an apolitical nowhere land where just being nicer to one’s friends and colleagues seem to be a measure of change. Inner revolution isn’t easy and very few of us are prepared for the implications of revolutionizing our world. Increasing our interactions with an inhumane and opaque power structure, finding ways to reform that structure so that peaceful and comfortable surroundings become the norm and not the new gold, that’s a the challenge. However unintended the ruckus of the Time cover might have been, it might be the perfect thorn to contemplate.

    lots of love to you,
    Ruby

  29. 29 Alison said at 8:16 am on January 30th, 2014:

    On the New Yorker this morning

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2014/01/an-antidote-for-mindlessness.html?utm_source=tny&utm_campaign=generalsocial&utm_medium=facebook

    Again, owned by Conde Nast another gatekeeper of information.

  30. 30 Peter Fraterdeus said at 8:51 am on January 30th, 2014:

    Wonder what Time’s cover for the rest if the planet looks like. It’s certainly not this willowy waif…

    Much of this discussion seems a bit, dare I say it, navel gazing.

    You can’t pull the skin off a snake, folks.
    There are plenty of socio-economic and cultural reasons for the demographic trends in Dharma practice & awareness.
    But is it mindful or just politically correct (God I hate that phrase) to pay too much attention to your neighbor’s skin surface?

    I agree whole heartedly Ethan.
    Meditation in Action is necessary.
    Blonde and not-blonde are both illusion.

    But meditation for every preschooler? , now that’s where a little lever will make enormous mountains move.

    Peace
    Peter
    fraterdeus.com
    Google+ : j.mp/pfraterdeus

  31. 31 Ethan said at 8:55 am on January 30th, 2014:

    Yes, Peter, whatever makes mindfulness spread to early childhood education will REALLY change the world. Best, e

  32. 32 Jo Chern said at 8:55 am on January 30th, 2014:

    I think that I, like Ruby, wonder whether mindfulness shouldn’t spur activism rather than just being “nicer.” I always tell people when they ask whether I’ve “become” Buddhist that I could never be because I’m not nice enough. But what I think I’m really telling them is: Buddhism, Taoism, mindfulness, etc., needs to grow beyond the individual practice. Besides meditating, may I suggest listening to Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs: all nice white guys who felt spurred to act, not just to sing.

  33. 33 Noah Lampert said at 9:06 am on January 30th, 2014:

    If putting an attractive woman on a magazine cover creates a wider touchpoint for more people to get into meditation and mindfulness what’s the harm?

    It’s best not have a reaction one way or the other. Be happy the dharma is reaching more people.

    Also, let’s remember that the women on these covers are people too. Seeing a lot of ironic negativity in the comments here about their physical appearances.

    Much Metta to all.

  34. 34 Deanna Burkett said at 9:30 am on January 30th, 2014:

    ” . . . that Buddhism may just turn into a folk spirituality for elite middle-class and upper middle-class white people in wealthy countries, allowing us privileged folks the tools to remain calm and balanced while the world goes to deeper into a state of suffering and torment.”

    I get a strange feeling reading this statement. I see fear driving this statement, which makes the experience of reading this statement (on a page inhabited by mindfulness practitioners who presumably work with fear and the appearance of people and their wealth situations in a very different context than most of the world) very destabilizing. It’s like the statement is hiding a wisdom it possesses and using the dominant culture’s assumptions of individuality in order to make a point.

    A few years ago I was told I couldn’t return to a meditation center because I wouldn’t commit to practicing only their style of meditation. They were trying to protect the dharma, they said. They wanted to keep the dharma pure. Protect the dharma? I wondered. From me? I was reminded of a quote from the Princess Bride. “You keep using that word. I do not think that word means what you think it means.” :~)

  35. 35 Shane R. Spencer said at 9:30 am on January 30th, 2014:

    As for trendy spirituality… It appears people can find time.. or afford the time.. or even budget the time to work on themselves as long as they accept the motivation required to do so. It doesn’t even need to be a wonderful motivation as long as it leads to a truer meaning of life and spirit. Who are we to be so concerned about who it effects when the answer to that question is almost a fundamental truth in itself. Everybody makes a choice.

    Everybody who puts time into creating magazines like Time (no pun intended) all the way to the other end of the spectrum to gossip magazines are meant to make things interesting for the people that have a connection with the information or are looking for that connection.

    If there were an honest and unbiased mission to raising the spirituality and self awareness of the entire earth… that would be truly interesting to everybody. I don’t believe there is. Until then small efforts or articles related to being more in touch with your mind, spirit and body are going to spread as more people become actively interested in sharing their experience, often indirectly, by finding people that have become remarkable in some way to potentially help address a wider market as their job.

  36. 36 Barnaby Spring said at 9:59 am on January 30th, 2014:

    The practice of meditation itself will, in time, thoroughly exhaust the obscurations generated by the magazine cover, the discursiveness around the cover itself, and a whole lot more.

  37. 37 Nancy said at 12:55 pm on January 30th, 2014:

    Peter, this actually is the worldwide cover,

    I read this today on the Kripalu blog, and it’s close to what I see in leading meditation:

    “When I’m sitting with a group of people who are brand-new to meditation, I ask them to close their eyes and call out words that come to mind when they think of meditating. Often they come up with words like bliss, ecstasy, no thoughts. And then there’s one person in the back of the room, with a little smile on his or her face, who’s actually meditated, and that person will say words like obsessive thinking, pain, humiliation. A lot of people have a concept of what meditation is, but when they actually engage in the practice, they recognize the real challenges of what it means to be present.”

    People expect meditation to take them away, not to bring them face to face with their own neuroses. Maybe because I lead meditation at a yoga studio, they expect a lot of guidance and visualizing pretty, peaceful places. I tell them that learning to work with their mind will help them find peace outside of meditation. Eventually.

  38. 38 Paul Kiefer said at 12:57 pm on January 30th, 2014:

    So meditation makes the cover of Time magazine in America but this is still not good enough for some because the cover girl is blonde. And she looks like she just had a bite of chocolate. So, let’s say the picture was instead of an Asian bald man and he was frowning. Is that the right picture or is that just an insulting stereotype of a meditator? How about a white man with black curly hair and a mustache? Too 70′s? I mean really, attempt if you will to pick the picture that doesn’t paint an incorrect picture of the situation.

  39. 39 pauline skeates said at 6:27 pm on January 30th, 2014:

    We don’t need to adhere to a specific religion to avail ourselves of the health benefits of mindfulness practice.

    Mindfulness may be an ancient tradition, but its recent notoriety and biological credibility has been gained through extensive research within the fields of neuroscience and medicine, funded largely within and by the Western world.

  40. 40 Lenny Wang said at 11:52 pm on January 30th, 2014:

    (1) Don’t judge a person by her/his appearance. Don’t judge an article by its cover.
    (2) Spiritual materialism might arise while meditation/mindfulness is overly promoted. This is not a concern for me because I realize some people need more or less motivation or goal to taste any new practice even though the goal seems ego-oriented. It’s better than nothing!

  41. 41 Jen said at 5:42 am on January 31st, 2014:

    I started meditating when I was 30, so I appreciate the presence of younger people depicted in the meditation world. More so than meditation and Buddhism being the practice of upper middle-class white people, to me the concern is that it’s the past time of retiring empty-nesters with lots of time on their hands. If Buddhism is for the rich and elite, we should take another look at the cost of retreats and famous people dharma talks. As the the mother of a young child, it’s a big deal to pull together the time to go on retreat, and very rarely do local sanghas have program for families or childcare during gatherings so that parents can sit together. The whole set up needs to change for these practices to appeal to a wider swath of American culture.

    While I agree that the woman in the picture doesn’t seem to be meditating, perhaps instead she is appreciating the beautiful scent of a fresh rose. Mindfulness of the Present Moment, rather than formal sitting.

  42. 42 Ethan said at 6:12 am on January 31st, 2014:

    Hi Pauline,

    I’m confused about how you think religion comes into the current discussion. Can you say more?

  43. 43 jagger said at 8:39 am on January 31st, 2014:

    I left this reply to a friend on FAcebook as they left the article on their news feed so figured I would leave it her for others to read as well. Here is what I wrote ( I am sure there need to be edits too!): Having meditated and reading books on topics of Buddhism, Self Empowerment and Spirituality for over 15, I can say I have learned tons which I am forever grateful for. here are my thoughts as they relate to what I have learned from my own desire to find peace. 1) when I read “elite and middle class white people be calm while rest of the world goes into a deeper state of suffering” – I was some what surprised by this, specially coming from a Buddhist Teacher. And here is reason why … Michael Jackson wrote “Man in the Mirror” and this symbolizes starting with yourself. Meditating allows people to find their own peace. Every time we give a moment to meditate, we open our hearts to the Universe, we spark a flame on our soul which has been clouded by years and years of fear, doubts and insecurities led by our Ego. Every time we meditate, we add more spark to this flame and in time we reach a point where we feel more free, happier, more loving, caring, respecting, accepting, considerate and kinder to one another. All these things occur as a result of meditating because our Soul is activated and has new life which gives us new direction. When our Soul is activated, our true essence of Love & Light can be revealed and when one reaches this place they will be inspired and driven to do what makes sense in the world, to do the right thing, to live out our purpose – which is to Make A Difference in the World! Having said this, although I honesty dont believe TIME is this “smart” but if you really get what I spoke of above, from a Marketing perspective, “targeting” the “elite middle class and upper middle class” communities is GREAT mission as these communities are the ones who have MONEY, POWER and RESOURCES. As Someone who worked with Marginalized people half my life, I looked to the Business Community to support my guys and help them become more integrated into society. We need the Elite Middle class and Upper Middle Class to have more of a heart and embrace the notion of Service to others and this can be taught to them through the act of Meditation, as the more we Meditate, the more our souls are giving light and strength which results in people wanting to Make A difference. 2) I never had any thought of “Blonde” or “white” when I saw the covers and I believe the reason why is because my mind wasnt in a place of JUDGING. i saw the cover for what it was … A PERSON whom looks like they are meditating and are at peace. let me repeat this, I saw A PERSON, not “A BLONDE” and not “AN ELITE CLASS” every Human being we look at is exactly this, A PERSON. If we look at someone and JUDGE them or CLASSIFY them, we lose sight of this, we are not present with our Soul, we are present with our EGO as only our Ego JUDGES and LABELS. Our Soul doesnt not know the language of “Elite Middle Class”. The write even mentioned “BOTH MODELS” vs saying “Both PEOPLE used on the Cover” – again, using the MODEL, we set ourselves up for JUDGING and CLASSIFYING. 3) the Writer wrote of both looked like they were Turning out when whole purpose is to turn in and he also says “SEEMS LIKE THEY ARE NOT HERE WITH US” – my thoughts here are: they are meditating and because they dont APPEAR to be doing the art “correctly” – who am I do say anything “negative?” the fact that they are meditating is beautiful thing! meditation is an Art which takes time and Practice. Its a Journey, its a lifestyle, its a matter of Planting Seeds for the Future. Again, in this writers own words, I heard words of JUDGEMENT, even to say they SEEM not to be here with us. This is the writers JUDGEMENT. We do not now where that person was in that moment. And Whom am I do say what it looks like because one thing Buddhism hs taught me is to embrace INDIVIDUALITY. every PERSON, not MODEL, not ACTOR, of ELITE UPPER CLASS, not WHITE, every PERSON has had their own individual journey in life and how they look when THEY meditate is going to be different from person to person as they are going through their own PERSONAL experience and expression when they Meditate. 4) when I read “there is Concern” i sense “FEAR” and fear is an element of our Ego. I didnt read any notion of FAITH or TRUST, which are elements of our Soul. I read ” a lot of concern that Buddhism may become a Folk Spirituality for Elite…” We have all been taught the WORDS CREATE OUR REALITIES have we forgotten this my dear Writer. the mere fact that you wrote this concern, you planted the seed for every reader to absorb your notion of concern and even more unfortunate, because you mention this concern with connection that this concern is directly from “Buddhist Communities” you give this concern VALIDATION to all those who read. Now all your readers will carry this “concern” and some will even speak of this concern to others, write about this concern and ultimately spread this concern around the world. Now that as a result of this writers word choices, this concern has been given greater strength and we all know WORDS CREATE REALITIES. Everything Buddhism and Spirituality has taught me does not coincide with the values I embrace as a result of what I have learned. The 8 Path Fold of Buddhism (I tell people are like the “10 Commandments”) as follows: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration. Understanding the 8 Path Fold to Buddhism, I personally would have written something different to embody these 8 Eight Principles so I could in turn create an Inspiring, Empowering, and Educational read for others where they would be more impelled to learn more about the art of Mediation and the Wisdom of Buddhism. This took a lot longer for me to write so I hope what I wrote, inspires somebody:)

  44. 44 Hal said at 9:33 am on January 31st, 2014:

    This pretty much sums it up:
    http://tuttejiorg.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/tutte-wachtmeister-how-to-monetize-the-dharma/

  45. 45 Roger Hyam said at 5:17 am on February 1st, 2014:

    1) This is why I increasingly opt out of mainstream media and I think the figures show that newspapers and magazines are in decline. Certainly in the UK.

    2) My main worry (beyond the objectification of women etc) is that it teaches really bad meditation posture! After people have been bombarded by images like this it is really tough to get them to think about sitting in ways that helps focus. Look at that chin – tuck it in!

  46. 46 Diane Holcomb said at 5:40 pm on February 3rd, 2014:

    Can we be mindful of the cover without being judgmental?

  47. 47 James J Walker said at 3:50 pm on February 4th, 2014:

    “If you think Vaudville is dead, just look at the spiritual community in America.” – Zen Master Don Golbert (Ta Hui, Great Monk) Il Bung Ch’an Buddhist Order.

  48. 48 Georgina Hollifield said at 5:12 pm on February 4th, 2014:

    This is so unfair. There’s nothing wrong with the imagery, the way people are viewing the imagery is wrong. They’ve been so brainwashed by sexual objectification that this is deemed as “superficial” because a young blonde woman could never be anything but an object for marketing. Have a real think, is there anything really that out of place with the image or is it your perception of the image? Why does a blonde haired attractive woman bare no place for publicising meditation? Why can’t she be the face for this cover?

  49. 49 Ethan said at 2:23 pm on February 5th, 2014:

    Georgina, in all of the criticisms in the various articles I couldn’t see anyone denouncing the woman herself or her right to be a mindfulness practitioner. Again, my main criticism is that the look on her face says nothing to me about the presence and engagement with the world that mindfulness actually brings. It feels escapist at best.

    I’m not sure personally why you think it is so unfair. I think the points that the other articles, like the Huffington Post article, were bringing out was the fact that the two times that Time magazine has put this issue on the cover, it has given a beautiful blonde white woman the cover space. I think it’s the repetition that other criticisms picked up on. Anyways, as a white male, of course I agree there is a place for everyone in the Dharma and in the so-called mindful revolution. I do Think it’s going a little far to claim that criticisms of this cover are an attack on the cover model personally. I’m sorry that’s how they came across to you. best, ethan


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