Sunday Meditation: Is True Mindfulness Even Meant to Be “Good for You”?

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“Mindfulness has been separated from its roots, stripped of its ethical and spiritual connotations, and sold to us as a therapeutic tool,” write two psychologists in The Conversation.

“Mindfulness is presented as a technique that will have lots of positive effects – and only positive effects,” they write. “But considering that many of us rarely sit alone with our thoughts, it isn’t hard to see how this might lead to difficult thoughts and emotions rising to the surface for some people – which we may, or may not, be equipped to deal with. Yet the potential for emotional and psychological disturbance is rarely talked about by mindfulness researchers, the media, or mentioned in training courses. And here we come to an important point. Buddhist meditation was designed not to make us happier, but to radically change our sense of self and perception of the world. Given this, it is perhaps not surprising that some will experience negative effects such as dissociation, anxiety and depression. However, like the small print on medication, these ‘side-effects’ in some individuals are not what the creators of this pill are concerned with promoting.”

Mindfulness has lost its Buddhist roots, and it may not be doing you good (The Conversation, June 5, 2015)

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10 COMMENTS

  1. “The idea that each of us is unique is a cornerstone of individual-based therapy. But with mindfulness-based approaches there is little space for one’s individuality, …” With this the author shows his lack of insight into mindfulness & Buddhism. Suggest picking up a copy of the Dhammapada – which begins: ” Mind is the forerunner of all actions. All deeds are led by mind, created by mind.”
    Perhaps he should also pick up a copy of Growing the Brain through Meditation, On The Brain: The Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute Letter, Fall 2006, Vol. 12 No. 3.

  2. This is really pretty funny/pathetic. It’s taken Psychiatry almost it’s entire history to realize that sitting quietly might be good for you. They were literally thousands of years behind, but now they want to present themselves as experts on the nuances of meditation.

  3. Sitting quietly for a bit every day might make a person calm.

    Is this not something a reasonable human being could figure out on their own without a psychological study or a thousand year old yogi telling them?

    Common sense is packaged to us as if it comes from some higher plane of wisdom whether it be the yogi swami or the credentialed psychologist.

    Thus far there has been no study with people asked to sit for 10 minutes a day with no instructions for what to think or not think about for 30 days straight and then asked if they feel calm. This needs to be done so we can tell if it is just the regular resting that helps people be calm as opposed to the mindfulless instructions, which incidentally can be delivered in thousands of different ways.

    The psychologists who are worried some people won’t be able to hande their own thoughts and emotions is what they need to tell us for us to keep them in business. Psychology is the field that brings us learned helplessness, a well studied concept. Yet they spend most of their time convincing us we cannot manage our own thoughts and feelings, and that trauma will undo us.

    We are biologically equipped to be really good at being human, and we are equpped to manage a constantly changing and potentally harsh environment, but this fact is obliterated from our ability to know because psychology, self-help, religion, and ram it down our throats that we are not.

    The whole ‘ancient wisdom is better than modern ideologies’ is making a whole lot of people peddling that message a whole lot of money. We are all quite equal to the task of being human regardless of the time period, socioeconomic group, gender, or geographical area we are born into. Religion, psychology, and self help are all groups of people who have figured out how to dominate human thought and behavior. These manipulative groups are responsible for most of our preventable human suffering.

    If we consider our biological requirements as mammals and go from there, we can shed the mind numbing ideologies keeping us down.

  4. The comment above by the two psychologists is one of the most elitist, condescending and scientifically inaccurate statements I have ever heard…”But considering that many of us rarely sit alone with our thoughts, it isn’t hard to see how this might lead to difficult thoughts and emotions rising to the surface for some people – which we may, or may not, be equipped to deal with.”

    How in the world can they speak for what is going on inside the brain’s of people other than themselves. This shows a fundamental lack of understanding of brains. I cannot think the thoughts of anybody else but me, so I cannot speak to the thoughts anyone else is having or not having.

    Our brains exist so we can constantly monitor our environment to figure out what to do next based upon the unique sensory, motor, and nervous system we have. We are each set up to constantly monitor and respond to our internal and external feeds of information. How we “sit with” the thoughts and behaviors is a totally personal and personalized dynamic. And what it means to “sit with one’s thoughts” could mean just about anything and is not a scientific phrase.

  5. This article says Buddhist teachings are meant to “change our sense of self” – this is incorrect.
    If one reads Buddhist texts, mindfulness and meditation practices are a means to “see things as they are.” Also, recent studies indicate that mindfulness meditation contributes to a more coherent and healthy sense of self and identity (see: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10550887.2014.991657 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4310269/
    Also, the article sited here (in “The Conversation”) is a poorly researched article, citing old selected references. There are numerous research studies that have demonstrated the many benefits of meditation (too many to list here). Also, a 2015 systematic review (that included a combined total of 8683 participants) found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs alleviate symptoms of a variety of mental and physical disorders.

  6. While teaching at Naropa University I did run across certain students who were not able to meditate without harmful effects due to either their history or hard wire. They needed more guided progressive relaxation type exercises. Also I have noticed that the military is using mindfulness exercises and positive thinking exercises to build resilience in soldiers. Considering the state of the military being quite dishonest and corrupt, it is very questionable whether these perverted practices are helping a soldier see what is or helping to numb it out critical thoughts and/or rationalize them. A teacher and/or context of practicing mindfulness, including intention, discriminating awareness, skillful means, and practice of kindness to oneself and others is what I see mindfulness as being. Building a more resilient soldier sounds suspect to say the least.