Articles mental health philosophy

Mindfulness Myth Will Make You Miserable

Mindfulness has gone mainstream. From education to healthcare, the corporate world to criminal justice, parliament to the military, this ancient Buddhist tradition has been reignited in the Western conscience as the old cure for modern ills. The practice encourages, mostly through meditation, the observation of present thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations in a non-judgemental way. By being more mindful, advocates argue we can develop life-changing skills to temper the stresses of the modern world and begin the journey to enlightened, healthy and happy existence. 

But critics argue the evidence for the efficacy of mindfulness is not strong. In a recent academic article, a number of psychologists and cognitive scientists warn that despite the hype, ‘misinformation and poor methodology associated with past studies of mindfulness may lead the public to be harmed, misled, and disappointed.’

There are no doubt certain benefits to meditation and being aware of one’s emotional state. But the mindfulness industry has co-opted these tools and over-promised their utility to sell us more stuff, from ‘mindful eating’ to wellness apps.

Far from making us happier, modern mindfulness is actually inhibiting us from tackling the real issues causing stress in our lives by trying to sell us internal solutions to external problems. If we are overworked and underpaid the problem isn’t our internal wrangling but the external conditions of our unfulfilling work life. Mindfulness tells us our problems are all in our head. But no amount of meditating can conceal the fact we may just need a new job. 

 

Sources & further reading:

The Problem With Mindfulness:

https://theconversation.com/the-problem-with-mindfulness-115648

The Mindfulness Conspiracy:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jun/14/the-mindfulness-conspiracy-capitalist-spirituality

 

4 comments on “Mindfulness Myth Will Make You Miserable

  1. Based on your blog post, I’m not sure if I’ve been reading too much or too little into the idea of mindfulness. I think of it simply as “keeping your eyes on the ball,” i.e., paying attention to what you’re doing: if you’re driving, you shouldn’t be texting. But I suppose that any idea can be taken to absurd and occasionally horrific extremes — and at least some people probably will.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the out-of-the-box, contra-mainstream thinking on this post. Like anything, though, we have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Anything done poorly will have poor results; it doesn’t necessarily damn the concept though.

    In addition, this is not just a Buddhist notion; the same idea exists in Christian traditions (see, for example, the Jesus Prayer).

    I will look forward to your future posts.

    http://www.christianity2020.com

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In this life we can take one of two paths. We can be embedded in our thoughts and feelings, carried along by the winds of events, never reflecting and using drugs such as alcohol when any disturbing thoughts from the subconscious threaten our equanimity. Or we can follow the path of growth and evolution, which involves becoming aware, reflecting and changing based on our experience. We can tease out the unconscious forces driving us and maybe even become better human beings. Meditation and mindfulness are simply tools to help us along this path, as discovered by the Buddha more than two millennia ago. I would maintain that they are as relevant today as they were then, even more so with our increasingly complex lives.

    Of course, we still have to live in the real world. But maybe ‘any job’ is not the right answer – it has to be the job that is right for us. And of course we should beware of any commercial interests that try to build on the bandwagon of what may appear to be a current fad, even if it is based on true wisdom.

    And, yay, of course you’re right to be sceptical of mainstream thinking.

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  4. This is an interesting take. Like others have said above me – anything done poorly yields poor results. Yet there is undeniable truth in the fact that mindfulness has been commodified. People are often too convinced that this is something they can buy. or pay for. Or there is some obscure product (herbal tea or something) that will aid you in your guide to mindfulness.

    I think this is a lot like the commercialization of fitness and exercise. Of course you can buy things to ‘augment’ your experience. But really the only way is to have a routine, day in and day out, that allows you to grow stronger. This is of course true with mindfulness. If mindfulness is misleading you, you’re practicing the wrong way.

    Finally, I would counter that a healthy practice of mindfulness would aid an individual who is in a bad situation with work. It would have given them the ability to self reflect and self empower themselves – which would allow them to have the energy and courage to step out of an unhealthy situation and seek out an alternative one.

    Liked by 1 person

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