In this article, I consider the rising interest in mindfulness meditation in the West and submit it to an analysis from a Sartrean phenomenological and ontological perspective. I focus on a common form of Buddhist meditation known as ānāpānasati, which focuses on the breath, in order to draw connections between common obstacles and experiences among meditation practitioners and Sartre’s understanding of consciousness. I argue that first-person reports generally support a Sartrean view of consciousness as spontaneous, free, and intentional, but I also highlight areas where Sartre’s phenomenology and ontology oversimplify the complex relationship between the pre-reflective and reflective modes of consciousness. I contend too that Sartre does not always take seriously enough the distracted, unfocused, and obsessively thought-oriented nature of consciousness.
Dane Sawyer is Senior Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of La Verne. His research focuses on the interconnections between post-structuralism and existentialism, philosophy of mind, and Buddhism. Email: email@example.com