Friday, September 4, 2015
MORE 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. In a previous post of mine I discussed four such myths, namely, that mindfulness is a religion (false), is Buddhist (also false), is a philosophy (not really), and is a method and technique of meditation (no, it’s really the method of no-method).
Here are three more myths concerning mindfulness:
1. Mindfulness means ‘losing control’
Many people fear ‘losing control’. I see evidence of this phenomenon all the time. Some people can’t even close their eyes to relax. These people just can’t get themselves to practise any form of meditation. Now, I, too, like to be in charge of my life but if we constantly impose the will over things we will never be able to relax or gain insight into ourselves and others. Many people have mental health issues because they are victims of their own ‘self-will run riot’, to borrow a phrase from the ‘Big Book’ of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Mindfulness means staying awake. It is the very opposite of losing control. Mindfulness means becoming more aware. It is not losing control, going into some trance, or otherwise lose contacting with external or internal reality.
2. Mindfulness can be harmful
If mindfulness is staying awake, and being aware of one’s awareness and even one’s non-awareness, it is hard to see that as being harmful. I have not seen any cases of people being damaged by practising mindfulness. All I see is people becoming empowered, gaining insight into themselves, and living happier and more fulfilled lives.
Having said that, some people---mainly persons outside the mental health field---have expressed concern that some people with certain types of mental health issues (eg schizophrenia) may experience a worsening of their condition (that is, exacerbation of psychotic symptoms) as a result of practising mindfulness. However, the preponderance of medical evidence suggests otherwise. In one study published in The American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation---one of several on the matter I could mention---fifteen individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorders participated in a pilot study testing a mindfulness-based intervention to reduce anxiety. The results suggested that mindfulness meditation training was acceptable to all participants; no one reported a worsening of psychotic or other symptoms while meditating.
In another study published last year in The British Journal of Psychiatry it was stated that there is now ‘emerging evidence that mindfulness for psychosis - when used in an adapted form - is safe and therapeutic’. (The ‘adapted form’ is essentially more guidance---and reassuring guidance---during the meditation itself.)
As with all matters pertaining to one’s health each person should seek and rely upon the advice of a suitably qualified health care professional.
3. Mindfulness is non-Christian
To some extent I have already dealt with matter when I explained in my previous post that mindfulness was neither a religion nor Buddhist. However, some evangelical Christians assert that mindfulness is an Eastern meditative practice that is non-Christian.
The truth is any Christian---indeed, any person---who is paying attention on purpose and choicelessly to the content of the present moment is practising mindfulness. We all practise mindfulness to some extent. It’s simply the case that some people do it better than others.
One more thing. The Christian tradition is rich in tools for meditation and mindfulness. Examples include contemplative prayer, the practice of the presence of God, and lectio divina.
Any person can practice mindfulness regardless of their religion or lack of religion. The Christian can use mindfulness as a means of hearing God’s voice speak through the pages of Scripture as well as through the events of day-to-day life.
So, what’s holding you back?