Answer: yes and yes
Yes, meditation works
It’s incredible (and I don’t use the word lightly) how much some people are helped through daily meditation, whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour. Participants in my training have seen effects like a hollow back straightening and realizing that their bike was best parked differently in their shed.
Statistically mindfulness (MBCT) works as well in helping people with recurrent depression as medication. However, neither work for everybody.
Brainscans show that meditation changes the brain. In general, people who have meditation experience, respond differently to stress than people who don’t.
There is also research on the effect of mindfulness on concentration, creativity, work productivity and more.
Yes, Mindfulness has become a hype:
Mindfulness does not work for everybody, nor for everything. It also has risks.
Meditation has a different effect on different people. It works on your brain and that means that individual history, habits, intelligence, and self-reflective ability all impact the path you start on when meditating.
In some cases this can be a very intense path, that triggers emotions that had been buried. In trauma cases, this can be disruptive to relationships, short term mental health as well as productivity. Long term, especially with qualified help, it may turn out to be a blessing. However – if you can’t afford a psychiatrist, or don’t have spare time to deal with what’s coming up, you may be better off not opening Pandora’s Box.
Meditation costs time. Don’t count on the exercises to bring inner peace right away. Yes, for some people this happens, but many people experience boredom and impatience. In fact: it’s learning a new way of dealing with boredom, distraction and impatience that is probably a central part of what makes mindfulness so effective for many people.
Don’t get discouraged: even 10 minutes of focusing on the breath is a long time at first. In fact – after 5 years I’m still not very good at it.
The point is: it only works if you do invest that time.
Meditation works best when you don’t have a burning goal in mind. If you need a solution to problems NOW, meditation is not the best method. Try bullet journaling instead 😉 Mindfulness training is a bit like making a parachute: you only have the time to do so when you don’t need it yet.
Like with many things: you only get what you put in.
It’s essential to go into the process any kind of meditation training with an open mind, without counting on results.
So does Mindfulness deserve the hype?
I would say that it does. I’ve seen some pretty spectacular changes in people’s lives through doing the 8-week program.
However, like any powerful technique, it has limitations and risks. The first lesson in mindfulness is listening to yourself and you are the only one who can decide whether it is right for you.
One thought on “Does mindfulness work, or is it a hype?”
One of the most significant experiences I had with mindfulness was realizing what a lot of ‘teachers’ were pointing to as ‘there is no separation’ between the observer and the observed. There’s that quote, “Tvat Tvam Asi” (thou art that) which describes it. It happened after years of studying Zen, Krishnamurti, etc. It was morning, I just woke up, opened my eyes and suddenly, as I looked across my dark bedroom, there was no separation. There was just seeing going on. The wooden floor, the old broken radio, the dark wooden walls, they were seen, but they weren’t seen from a viewpoint — as if there was a person seeing the room. Instead, there was just the seeing and the room. It lasted for only a few seconds but I instantly got “it” that this was what the ‘teachers’ were referring to when they say “the observer is the observed.” I was gone and there was just seeing. Like in that Zen poem:
“Suffering alone exists, none who suffer;
The deed there is, but no doer thereof;
Nirvana is, but no one is seeking it;
The Path there is, but none who travel it.”
That glimpse allowed me to distinguish when it was and wasn’t happening. Since then, it’s happened many more times and to the point that it seemed natural: as in it’s our natural state actually and separating ourselves from reality is what’s actually needed to be learned. The problem is, of course, we’ve learned this artificial way of viewing things so thoroughly it is very difficult to shake ourselves out of it.
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