Who knew that US military personnel were using mindfulness techniques in the field of intelligence work (aka spycraft) and elsewhere?
This article, Global Intelligence Gate: From Confessions of an Economic Hit Man to the Stratfor Corporation from WL Central, which deals with Wikileaks related news appeared recently.
It’s not only for the sake of relieving PTSD or anything quite so compassionate. It’s more like how to keep your shit together when you’re waterboarding someone.
Why would mindfulness be useful in spycraft? One of the leading providers of this type of mindfulness training is The Mind Fitness Training Institute. They provide an 8 week course for “existing groups”. No it’s not your average warm and fuzzy retreat.
From The Mind Fitness Training Institute website:
With mindful attention, we can directly perceive an experience without the filter of biases and judgments that often accompany our thoughts about an experience.
That’s an interesting and accurate statement. To be able to just engage in an experience without filters can be a remarkable experience. Quashing that pesky conscience, home of moral judgments could also be quite remarkable. In some circumstances one might even go so far as to induce psychopathic behavior. Imagine a fighting force trained in that manner. Pretty horrific.
Now consider the context.
Mindfulness as an inoculation against PTSD sounds like a good idea. It might help prevent some of the veteran’s suicides, the numbers of which have increased dramatically in recent years.
The reading list in this program is quite extensive and wide ranging, from
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face
stress, pain, and illness. New York: Delacorte Press.
Begley, S. (2007). Train your mind, change your brain: How a new science reveals our
extraordinary potential to transform ourselves. New York: Ballantine Books.
Asken, M. J. & Grossman, D. (2010). Warrior mindset: Mental toughness skills for a nation’s
peacekeepers. Milstadt, IL: Warrior Science Publications.
Grossman, D. (1995). On killing: The psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society.
Boston: Little, Brown.
Well if the Norwegian mass murderer can use meditation to help him kill better why can’t the US Army use a little mindfulness for the same thing?
I have written a very long rebuttal to the piece that Chris Hedges presented Black Bloc: The Cancer in Occupy. His article is deeply disturbing on many levels, not only because it contains a huge host of inaccuracies and outright mistakes. My response is on my political website Chris Hedges WTF are You Thinking? I contemplated putting it on this blog but instead here’s a preamble and you can go there and read it if you are interested in these topics. Yes it’s really really long.
Here is a special preface to it for Buddhist readers.
Many Buddhists are involved with ecological movements of various kinds, from protesting at nuclear facilities to releasing birds, fish or other animals from captivity. Many Buddhists are also involved in various aspects of the Occupy movement. Many Buddhists also read Truth Out on-line magazine and particularly the work of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges.
My opinion on the use of violence varies between the following:
If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun
14th Dalai Lama
“In the future, this system [Communism] will certainly be forced either from within or without on this land…If, in such an event, we fail to defend our land, the holy lamas…will be eliminated without a trace of their names remaining;…our political system…will be reduced to an empty name; my officials…will be subjugated like slaves to the enemy; and my people, subjected to fear and miseries, will be unable to endure day or night.”
“.…we should make every effort to safeguard ourselves against this impending disaster. Use peaceful means where they are appropriate; but where they are not appropriate, do not hesitate to resort to more forceful means” (emphasis added).
13th Dalai Lama
Generally, of course, non-violence is good, and killing is bad…But each and every thing is judged according to the circumstances of the situation, and, particularly in Buddhism, according to the motivations….In order to save a hundred people, killing one person may be acceptable…Individual, or self, motivation is obviously not allowed….
Jampa Tenzin, a former guerilla and monk
Of course those quotes come from people facing genocide.
I take this quote to heart when considering appropriate courses of action.
Through violence, you may ‘solve’ one problem, but you sow the seeds for another.
14th Dalai Lama
The response piece does not necessarily represent my personal political views. I have found however that it is useful to have a broader knowledge of political philosophy beyond one’s own position. It helps to understand the world. I find the techniques and lines of thought of the radical left to be particularly useful in this regard. That’s why many of them were developed. In this case, since Hedges seems to insinuate that Anarchists, particularly those who employ Black Bloc tactics, are to be blamed for the forthcoming downfall of all that is Occupy, I went to some Anarchist writers and employed some of that perspective and methodology to Hedges piece along with some social science and historical interpretation to some degree.
It is presented as a broad survey of some of the issues that occur with Hedges work and the work of Derrick Jensen who he quotes favorably. To understand the depth of those issues please read the links as well there since many of them elaborate on the points made.
If you haven’t been paying that much attention consider some questions:
Where did Hedges get the Cancer reference?
Why would he quote Derrick Jensen who has threatened to blow up dams and a lot of other things? Hint: They’re old friends and have collaborated together before.
Is the Anarchism mentioned by Hedges real or his own mythological creation?
What does Black Bloc really entail? How does it work in the real world?
I look for answers to these and other questions here: