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.
A Sartrean Analysis
In this article, I reconsider the question of how best to understand Sartre's concept of bad faith by investigating it through the Derridean lens of deconstruction. I argue that Sartre's discussion of bad faith in Being and Nothingness mirrors Derrida's criticisms of structuralism in 'Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences'. Examining their distinctive discussions of 'play', I claim that Derrida's unique deconstructive interpretation of this notion operates within Sartre's criticisms of the 'spirit of seriousness'. I reinterpret bad faith as the attempt to solidify a permanent structure of one's personality, in order to avoid or escape from the 'play' or 'freedom' built into structures and our existential condition, and conclude that embracing 'play' is an essential characteristic of authenticity.