Today’s blog post was not exactly planned. I didn’t spend days working on it, I didn’t spend hours researching around the topic. I didn’t even know I was going to write it until about an hour ago. And yet, here I am, writing passionately (and hopefully comprehensively) about an issue that is so important to me, that it spurred a middle of the night writing spree.
I know (in person and online) so many wonderful mindfulness and meditation teachers that truly embody mindfulness, through their continued practice, their respect of the origins of mindfulness, and their commitment to personal and professional development. And yet, due to the growing interest in mindfulness and meditation over the last few years, mindfulness has inevitably become muddled, diluted, adjusted, and re-invented to fit our current society. It has been adapted to treat physical and mental illnesses, make office workers more productive, increase students’ grade point average, and presented as a one-size-fits-all self-help tool. When mindfulness is being provided by unqualified individuals, and practiced by novice meditators, it is no wonder that articles keep popping up warning us against the dangers of mindfulness. But this begs the question,
What went wrong?
Today, mindfulness has essentially become an industry. Services ranging from business to weight loss have all grabbed a share of the mindfulness pie, increasing prices of their products and promoting outcomes that can be achieved by us all if we just practice mindfulness. Mindfulness has become a magic pill, rather than a life-long practice. The biggest (but not only) problem that has created the mania that is the mindfulness industry, is the lack of knowledge and understanding of what mindfulness actually is. I have addressed this topic briefly in previous posts, but today I just want to remind the reader of the bottom line of mindfulness, which seems to have been forgotten along the way: Mindfulness and meditation were never intended to solve problems. The Dalai Lama, Shunryu Suzuki, Thich Nhat Hanh, and S.N. Goenka all mention the same reasons for meditating, and none of these reasons are weight loss, enhanced productivity, cured illness, or a quick solution to the myriad of problems that plague human existence. The reasons these teachers do give for practicing mindfulness and meditation are: happiness, insight, and living life to the fullest.
Keep it pure!
So today’s post is simply a request to all mindfulness and meditation teachers out there, as well as anyone involved with mindfulness and meditation. Keep the practice pure. Teachers, take responsibility for how you teach mindfulness and in what light you present it. Researchers, investigate pure mindfulness and meditation practice and publish positive as well as negative results. Meditators, begin your practice by studying with a qualified instructor, going on a retreat, or reading about the origins of mindfulness. Let’s protect mindfulness from becoming a trend, a fad, or a business model, to ensure its longevity and potential benefit to us all.