Welcome to my blog---an eyes-open, no-holds-barred exploration of Western and Eastern spirituality, mindfulness, philosophy and literature. A member of the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association, I lectured at the NSW Institute of Psychiatry to mental health workers for 14 years. I also work as a lawyer and minister. My interests include the psychology of religion, transformative ritual, mythology, addiction recovery and the teachings of J. Krishnamurti and Vernon Howard.
Sunday, November 30, 2014
FOUR MYTHS ABOUT MINDFULNESS
Despite all the information there
is concerning mindfulness, many misconceptions remain concerning the 'thing' known as mindfulness. Let’s call these misconceptions myths,
for that is what in truth they are.
Myth No. 1: Mindfulness is a religion
Incorrect. Mindfulness is not
a religion. A religion ordinarily involves a system of beliefs or statement of
doctrine, a code of conduct, prescribed forms of ritual or religious
observances, and both ‘faith’ and’ worship.’ A religion is also ordinarily accompanied
by a system of moral philosophy, particular doctrines of faith, and a religious
community which supports the faith as well as its organization and practices.
Mindfulness does not involve or require any faith at all---certainly no faith
in a supernatural ‘Being,’ ‘Thing,’ or ‘Principle’---nor does mindfulness
involve any worship or impose any system of beliefs or statement of doctrine,
code of conduct or prescribed forms of ritual or religious observances. For more information on exactly what is a religion, or if you simply can't sleep at night, you may wish to read my doctoral thesis on the subject.
Myth No. 2:
Mindfulness is Buddhist
Incorrect. Many people mistakenly believe that
mindfulness is Buddhist. By the way, Buddhism is only a religion in some of its
forms and manifestations. Now, true it is that the word ‘mindfulness’ can refer
to a specific type or practice of meditationused as a psychological and educational tool
Buddhism---a naturalistic form of Buddhism of which there are several schools---known
as vipassanā(or insight) meditation. However,
mindfulness is not restricted to Buddhism, Buddhists or Buddhist
meditation. Indeed, there are several types or forms of Buddhist meditation,
and Buddhists do not claim to ‘own’ or have a monopoly on mindfulness and
mindfulness meditation. In short, any
person can practise mindfulness, irrespective of their religion or lack of
No. 3: Mindfulness is a philosophy
Again, incorrect. Mindfulness is not a philosophy.A philosophy ordinarily consists of
numerous teachings, ideas or principles which collectively provide an overall
coherent view of the purpose or meaning of life. There certainly are certain
teachings associated with the subject of mindfulness, but mindfulness as such does
not seek to explain the purpose or meaning of life.
No. 4: Mindfulness is a method and technique of meditation
Now, we must be careful here. Mindfulness is
meditation but in a very special, indeed unique, sense. You see, mindfulness differs
from all other types of meditation. Other
forms of meditation involve the 'method' or ‘technique’---oh, how I hate those
words---of concentration upon some image (be it physical or mental) or sound,
and are designed primarily to calm the mind. As such, other forms of meditation
provide little or no insight into the action of the present moment including
one’s consciousness and external surroundings. Mindfulness does involve attention but not concentration as
that word is ordinarily understood, although some amount of concentration in
the form of a 'watchful' physical and psychological presence is certainly included in attention. Mindfulness
is a means by which we can gain
understanding and insight into ourselves and our behaviour. Mindfulness
requires no 'method' or ‘technique’ as such, but is simply the direct,
immediate, and unmediated experience of life as it unfolds from one moment to the
next. Mindfulness is something which happens, all day long, as soon as we
remove the barriers to its happening. Mindfulness has been described as a natural---naturalistic
might be a better word---practice which ‘takes’ meditation and then applies it in
a direct and most practical way to one’s whole day, indeed one’s entire life.
Whenever I mention that I'm
into mindfulness some people immediately think of yellow robes, gurus,
transcendental states of consciousness, mind-altering drugs, alternative
medicine, alternative spirituality, out-of-body experiences, escapism, and just
plain wackiness. Mindfulness is none of those things. Mindfulness is simply
going about your daily, everyday life---with your eyes wide open and your mind
open, curious and engaged. Got that? Then please never forget it---and pass the
All you need to practise
mindfulness is a purposively open mind---and, most
importantly, a mind that is curious and receptive to
whatever is happening in your moment-to-moment experience of daily life. And,
after all, is it not self-evident that it helps to be purposefully alert,
receptive, and attentive to what is going on in and about us?
So, what then is mindfulness? My short answer is this. Mindfulness is self-education. It's a school for life, where the learning is in the living.
The photos in this post were
taken by the author on his
recent trip to France and are of various scenes in the city of Nantes.