It has come to my attention that the backlash against mindfulness and meditation has begun. If you want my opinion – with very good reason. Recent articles have appeared in the Guardian , and apparently it was written about in the New Scientist this weekend.
It would seem that in the western world we wish for sticking plasters. We want to feel better immediately. We want the quick fix. So when people become stressed or depressed, mentally ill, we sell them something – medication or maybe mindfulness. But where is the acknowledgement that something may have caused this situation in the first place? Yes , some people are lucky enough to be offered counselling to deal with those causes. If you’re super lucky you get 6 weeks on the NHS. Six weeks to solve all of your problems. Or six weeks to learn how to think differently , and learn how your negative thought patterns may have been damaging.
This is a very positive thing. I am fully aware that the NHS can only do so much, and I’m aware that they do a lot more than that in serious cases. But again I ask – what about the original causes? Surely not dealing with them properly merely masks the causes of a lot of the many mental health issues. Part of this backlash is about how mindfulness doesn’t suit all (and I agree. There is a difference between suiting all, and being suitable for all.) But also the “side effects” of meditation. That is, the problems that come to the surface with the mental expansion that meditation brings. The things we had so neatly locked away deep inside float up to the top, and we really didn’t want to see them again.
This should ultimately be a good thing in the long term for many. Things buried deep are far better dealt with, and will effect our health long-term if left ignored. But we shouldn’t have to face them alone, or with someone who isn’t qualified to help steer us through those possibly traumatic emotions – or simply refer us to a different professional. Maybe even at a time that isn’t appropriate for an individual and their personal development. This is where the problems begin in my eyes.
Mindfulness is being spoken of as the cure all, the suits everyone, the perfect thing. On the Mental Health Awareness website, I had to check that I hadn’t been sent to another site, it was being spoken of so much. Its being used by corporations to help workers increase productivity. In a recent article I read about its use in schools , it spoke mainly of higher grades. Now I’m in no way belittling the raised self esteem that these things can bring, and the positive feelings of self worth that reaching your full potential can accomplish, but how about feeling comfortable within yourself without exterior validation? How about the calmness it allows you feel, giving you appropriate perspective on your problems? The inner peace?
Meditation should always be a spiritual practice. This doesn’t however, need to mean religious, even though its roots lie deep within the Hindu religion. Its about feeling that connection with Spirit in all its forms – the leaves on the trees and the breeze in the grass, the web of life of which we are all part. It is about learning about yourself, and your interaction with others and your place in the Universe. It is not about meeting deadlines and higher grades. It is about being calm within yourself, that you can focus easily and achieve your best- whatever part of your life that falls in. And that connection is so much stronger if the pain deep inside has been faced, the anger that you can’t articulate has dissipated as you understand your reactions to emotions, yours and others. If you can face life’s adversities then life itself is enhanced. But for some these must not be faced alone and without support, and people should not be lead into a meditation practice without the full facts of the changes that will come.
I am always very careful in my meditation group that during a meditation people only face the things that they, and I , can deal with. Path workings are gentle and comforting, and I regularly remind them how safe they are – wherever I take them. Lets hope that the care for meditation students can become as self-aware as we wish our students to be – a truly holistic approach. Recommend a style of care that will suit each person, and cater for their needs as a whole , rather than simply hand them the cure all sticking plaster of deep breathing and send them on their way.