Features

The cult of 'mindfulness'

Separating meditation from faith is a dubious business, morally and sometimes in its effects

1 November 2014

9:00 AM

1 November 2014

9:00 AM

The chances are that by now either you or someone you know well has begun to practise ‘mindfulness’ — a form of Buddhism lite, that focuses on meditation and ‘being in the now’. In the past year or so it’s gone from being an eccentric but harmless hobby practised by contemporary hippies to a new and wildly popular pseudo–religion; a religion tailor-made for the secular West.

Think how hostile an awful lot of companies are to organised religion; to any talk of ‘faith’. Now consider that in both America and the UK, it’s probably easier to count on your fingers the number of institutions that aren’t engaging in ‘mindfulness’ than those that are; giving ‘mindfulness’ teachers special spaces to have classes and encouraging staff to take part.

The mindful include Google, Kensington and Chelsea council, the European Central Bank and the US Marines. The NHS is funding mindfulness sessions for depression as an alternative to pharmaceutical interventions. There’s an all-party mindfulness group in parliament, which Ruby Wax helped launch. Richard Layard, Britain’s ‘happiness guru’, is all for it. Madeleine Bunting has suggested in the Guardian that it should be mandatory in schools. Indeed, if you find yourself on a train with a fellow traveller gazing at you benevolently, it’s possible that they’re not insane but just radiating mindful compassion.

It’s been touted as a cure for pretty well everything, from depression, stress, anxiety and chronic pain to eczema. And for those who can’t manage the group sessions, there’s a handy app called HeadSpace which enables you to do mindfulness on the go from your smartphone and now offers a bespoke service. The app was invented by Andy Puddicombe, a fortysomething former Buddhist monk with a degree in circus arts. According to the New York Times,‘Puddicombe is doing for meditation what Jamie Oliver has done for food.’ Certainly mindfulness is doing for Puddicombe what food has done for Jamie Oliver, because he’s now worth about £25 million.

So what exactly is mindfulness? On the back of a week of sessions, I can assert with some confidence that it’s about being very much in the present moment. You’re encouraged to become aware of your breathing, your body and your surroundings. Plus you’re meant to view people and things in a compassionate, non-judgmental spirit. Think meditation, think Buddhism, and you’re there, so long as you don’t forget the breathing.

It’s ubiquitous, non-invasive and involves sitting quietly and not judging anyone. Guided, communal meditation, let’s say. Anyway, you may be thinking, what do you actually do when you’re being mindful? What actually happens? Well, normally you sit in a semi-circle in a group — anything from five or so to a couple of dozen of you, though some sessions led by the gurus of the movement can muster hundreds. It’ll be a nice quiet place, possibly with candles. Most sessions start off with an exploration of how stressed we all are. The teacher fills a chart with examples — your Tube journey? Your week at work? — and invites participants to stick up their hands if they’re stressed. Everyone does. Then there may be a bit of neurology with diagrams on the chart, showing how we’re all using the fight-or-flight bit of our brain inappropriately, as opposed to the new neurological pathways we can make by reprogramming our brains to chill out through meditation. Then there’s the conscious breathing. It may be preceded by contemplating a leaf or a glass of water before you start focusing on your breath coming in and going out. At which point, as Dorothy Parker would say, you find me and Morpheus in the corner, necking. But the routine varies. At one session, one girl, invited to imagine herself as a tree, plaintively cried: ‘Please can I not be a tree? I was dreading on the way here that I’d have to be a tree.’

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Then we share our experiences. Finally we get round to compassion. In one slightly unsettling session, we were invited to pick a person to project compassion at. I selected the Turkish lady opposite; she looked a little uneasy. At another class we were invited to recite: ‘May I/you be well; be happy; be free from suffering’ — and we concluded by saying it for someone we dislike. I would have been fine, in a love-your-enemy way, if the teacher hadn’t declared that the person she really hated was Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary. Which was a bit rich in a practice meant to teach you to go easy on judgmentalism.

That’s the format, then, and the heart of it is sitting in silence, thinking about your breath going in and out. I must say I’m not very good at this sort of thing. I’m the most judgmental person I know. My mind hops about like a flea. I dropped off during every single one of my mindful breathing sessions. But that’s fine; apparently it just shows how tired we all are. As for the distracting thoughts, they’re fine too, so long as you let them go, possibly like little clouds.

And for some people, all this is to the good. It makes them less stressed, more usefully focused on the here and now. Dr Anthony Seldon has made mindfulness part of the way of life at Wellington College, where he is headmaster. ‘Properly done,’ he observes, ‘it’s the opposite of mindlessness. It helps people to be self-aware, to collect themselves, to be thoughtful before they decide what to do.’ So obviously handy during exams, though he says the benefits go way beyond that.

The evidence seems strong that mindfulness helps with depression, although some dissident psychiatrists suggest the method-ology behind the positive studies hasn’t been as rigorous as it might be. ‘Many of the studies are small, are pilot studies and are carried on those who are not very ill,’ says Professor Patricia Casey of University College Dublin. ‘So they would be at the mild end of the spectrum. Studies have not sufficiently frequently investigated how mindfulness compares with other therapies including pharmacological interventions. Neither have researchers paid much attention to what the active ingredient is — is it being looked after, or looking after oneself?’

I would suggest also that if mindfulness helps with mental health, then let’s not forget that so does organised religion. This ‘active ingredient’ isn’t some new miracle cure: it’s the same grounding effect that Christianity has, or Judaism, or any prayerful religion. We’ve all, over the years, seen studies show that religious people are happier, and that both meditation and prayer are beneficial to the brain. Mindfulness can join the queue. Seldon’s 21st-century boys may find it beneficial to meditate, but their 20th-century counterparts may have found it just as calming to sit in the chapel for morning prayers and just as bonding to sing hymns together. Mind you, at Wellington, they do both.

One of the difficulties mindfulness will face as it sweeps across the globe is that it quite clearly in fact is a religion, however much it might shy away from the word. It’s remarkable the number of classes advertised with the caveat ‘No religious content’, which of course makes it palatable to the growing number who shy away from religion. It’s ritual for those who don’t pray; communal practice for the individualist. It’s non–doctrinal, non-prescriptive, non-demanding in terms of conduct apart from an insistence on not being judgmental. It seems to be the perfect religion for a Britain which is in full flight from its state church. Most other religion substitutes — the Sunday Assembly gatherings for atheists, for example, which Andrew Watts wrote about in this magazine back in February — are self-consciously modelled on Christian services. But mindfulness is squarely based on Buddhism. In fact, from the focus on breathing to the insistence on compassion, it really is Buddhism. At one interesting class I attended in a Buddhist temple — gold images galore — the teacher declared cheerfully that this mindfulness session was going to be a cut above the rest because it got you to the fons et origo of the thing, viz. Buddhist teaching.

Taking an established religion — Buddhism in this case — and picking bits from it piecemeal can be a more dangerous business than it might seem. However much people may dislike the idea, the major world religions have developed incrementally over time to be a comfort and support for humans in their quest for meaning. Even the seemingly eccentric bits can serve a vital purpose, hidden from non-believers. One rejects ‘the boring bits’ of an established religion at one’s peril. Mindfulness, based as it is on meditation, is not simply a path that leads nowhere in particular. It can lead you to that dangerous place, the heart of yourself. And there you may find a great, scary emptiness, or worse, your own personal demons.

Not everyone is strong enough to confront their inner self: in that case, meditation can be an affliction, not a therapy. That phenomenon is being studied at the so-called ‘Dark Night Project’ at Brown University Medical School, where Dr Willoughby Britton deals with the psychic disturbance that meditation can sometimes cause. And that’s of a piece with Buddhist as well as Christian understanding of contemplation; that you can undergo what St John of the Cross called the Dark Night of the Soul. The contemplative life, in Christianity, isn’t for everyone. It is understood that only a few, those with a vocation for it, have the strength to take it on.

There are other aspects of mindfulness which strike me as problematic, not to say unchristian. An important element of the practice is to eschew judgmentalism; to observe and accept ourselves and our surroundings with compassion. Which sounds dandy, except that there are some things about ourselves and our situation which we jolly well shouldn’t be non-judgmental about, which we should be trying to change. One of the best things about the collective culture is that we have a strong moral sense; we consider selfish behaviour unacceptable and hold others to account. Where Buddhism causes us to go within ourselves, to meditate inwardly, Christianity takes you out of yourself — to God and from there to others. Would a ‘mindful’ Britain have the same emphasis on helping others?

This brings me to what really annoys me about being mindful, which is that as far as I can gather, it’s Mostly About Me. Sitting concentrating on your breathing is a good way to chill out and de-stress, but it’s not a particularly good end in itself. Radiating compassion is fine, but it doesn’t obviously translate into action. Where’s the bit about feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoner, all the virtues that Christianity extols? Where in fact is your neighbour in this practice of self-obsession? Given a toss up between going to church, where you rub shoulders with the old, the lonely, the poor, and anyone who cares to pitch up, and a mindfulness session where, for about 25 quid a pop, you can mingle silently with congenial souls in flight from stress, I know which seems more good and human to me. Mindfulness may be the new religion — but it’s no substitute for the old one.

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Show comments
  • John Smith

    Mindfulness, or simply living in the present, has been hijacked by the commercial wing of the happy clappy brigade.

    Living in the present, or mindful of what you have got & how lucky you & your family are, is nothing new.
    Some would call it common sense . It can help with negative thoughts & depression, by focussing on having a half full glass

    You do not need any expensive training, just focus on the positive

    • davidofkent

      You mean that ‘being alive and getting on with things’ has been hijacked by the usual idiots.

      • pdhan

        It means far more than just ‘being alive’ though.

        • Fred Stalker

          I have to disagree with most of you here. I never understood why people are depressed. Do they feel good that way?

          If you really want to feel better, why don’t you stop pretending you are depressed, huh? Even this website owner realised that depression isn’t that difficult to overcome, if you change your mindset from self pity to target pursuit.

          He attributed his success to a book called Destroy Depression System http://www.mydepressionreview.com/a-review-of-destroy-depression-by-james-gordon/ , and this guy even has written a review of it! How fabulous!

          • jy4112

            It isn’t as simple as that

          • Emma Jane

            Well, Fred, you never do understand a thing till you’re in it over your head.

            A day in your shoes would probably teach me a thing. Or two.

            Mind the step. It’s crooked.

          • Bird

            Oh, you’re selling stuff, got it.

          • Skynet

            If you really want to feel better, why don’t you stop pretending you are depressed, huh?

            Today’s science has proofs that depression is not something that people pretend to have, it’s a mental disorder , which one can not solve it that easily. The chemicals/hormones in the brains of the affected are not well balanced, depression leads to suicides,most of the time, at least most depressed people feel suicidal at times, it’s not THEM, it’s their disease

            You said, you never understood it. Maybe it’s time to actually do some studies.

            -Regards.

    • Geronimo von Huxley

      White man stupid. White believe he beat Geronimo. White man think superior. White man think all Indian the same.
      Now Geronimo take scalp.

      • John Smith

        He has been dead sometime, now that is mindful

    • Sere83

      You clearly haven’t meditated. Your comment shows a fundamental misunderstanding about the practice and lack of understanding about people with mental problems. Many cant just ‘focus on the positive’

    • ferkan

      Mindfulness is not about focussing on the positive. It’s about noticing what’s going on in your brain and around you and noticing your automatic reactions. It’s about watching your inner monologue.

      The essential idea as I understand it, is that having noticed what’s going on, you can decide what to do about it. Nothing about mindfulness stops one focussing on the positive, but that’s not what it’s about.

      As a therapist, I notice that most of the time people are unaware of their internal dialogue, because they are ‘living it’, not observing it. And if we are unaware, we can’t change. I thus use a form of mindful practice to bring people’s awareness to their thoughts, feelings and emotions, before moving on to do more traditional CBT.

    • ferkan

      (I agree you don’t need expensive training, it is often, as it should perhaps be, available for free, or for a donation. It is helpful however, to have a guide of some kind )

  • felixalexander

    Mindfulness is having all of your awareness on what or who is happening now. Nothing else.

    Mindfulness and going to Church are not in any way mutually exclusive. Meditation can be practiced in every act of every day. It means listening to the lonely person next to you and looking in their eyes rather than thinking about the work you have to get back to. Sitting alone is just focused practice so you get better at it, just as you practice your golf swing – probably sensible if you want to improve… and if you genuinely care about the lonely person sitting next to you, you probably do want to improve.

    It’s an interesting question: whether it is better first to look after yourself or others. ‘Do-gooder’ is a term for someone who tries to help others as a way of avoiding dealing with their self, and as a result ends up causing more harm than good because their personal issues which they won’t admit to or face, infect everything they do and they end up doing more harm than good. The world is full of committees of self-righteous people who think they are doing everyone a favour and in fact are getting in the way of everything and everyone. A person who is unwilling to address their own flaws may do more for society by stumping up the courage to face themselves first and removing the distortions on their judgement and values from their own dark unconscious drives before trying to help others. Would you not wash your hands and get over your flu before attending to a patient in hospital?

    Then again, two very messed up people can give each other a lot of comfort and support. Sometimes it’s by helping others that we discover our flaws. They key for it all is mindfulness (also known as honesty with oneself – constantly asking: am I helping?) and I don’t know of any religion that doesn’t practice it when that religion is at its best. But it doesn’t need any religion to be practiced.

    • Steve Law

      Well said. It doesn’t do to be too inward-looking and self-obsessed, neither does it do to be overtly judgemental about what others are up to. It’s all a matter of moderation and degree. In a therapeutic context mindfulness is typically used to address those whose anxiety is out of control and whose manic over-thinking needs reining in, and for that mindfulness is a fantastic tool.
      I’ve read a few mindfulness books and I practise at home, and it is nothing more than a practical method for calming one’s thoughts and learning to relax both physically and mentally. As a cure for the maddening pace and constant distractions of modern work and play it works really well. My understanding is that mindfulness leads to much less ‘inwardness’ and self-analysis and more engagement with the real world. Anxiety and depression lead to constant self-analysis and endless internal mulling over of old mistakes and re-evaluations of one’s self-worth – mindfulness is a way of turning down all that useless crap and putting that mental energy to better use. I’ve found that once the mind is quietened (and it’s not easy and I’m not very good at it!) one has a clearer view both internally and externally.

  • Hazel

    Because you don’t have the basic ability to sit still for more than a few seconds does not mean the whole thing is pointless. It is not a religion. You don’t need to go to special classes. And if you feel that you’re facing yourself as you are, then that’s probably a very good thing.

  • fundamentallyflawed

    Poor from the the Spectator.. they ran a very similar article a few months back – must have run out of ideas again.

    This is basically seems to be an article to rubbish an idea and push religion as the original therapy.

  • John Matthews

    I guess like religion there are quite a few forms of mindfulness out there. Ive taken no training classes jut watched a couple of vid on youtube.

    My mental health has improved since starting a couple of years a go, that may be for other reasons, i’ll never know.

    Reading the article I get the impression you went in wanting it to fail and never gave it a fair chance.

  • davidofkent

    Another word for being normal. The chattering classes are so self-obsessed, it’s a wonder they can get up in the morning.

  • Rowland Nelken

    I like some aspects of religion, particularly those which seem to overlap with mindfulness – the communal silence, the music and very often the beautiful buildings. It is a pity that these features have to be accompanied by something as ridiculous, and often as damaging, as faith. The best definition of faith I have read is that of Peter Boghossian:’ Claiming to know things you do not know.’

    As to being picky about aspects of a religion, most practitioners, fortunately, do that all that all the time. St. Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, predicted a rapture of the righteous to the skies. Most Christians find the idea ridiculous, and many Christian women ignore St. Paul and go hatless to church, and sometimes even speak from the lectern or pulpit.

    Mahomet, under God’s direction, set about converting the world to the Law of God, by violence if necessary, in time for Judgement Day. Most Muslims, fortunately, seem to have redefined JIhad as some sort of personal struggle, and in common with most Christians, have plonked the apocalypse on a burner so far back it is out of sight. And how many Jews actually want to live by the Torah in all its crude barbarity?

    And the last sentence is the most ridiculous of all. ‘No substitute for the old one’ ONE? There have been thousands of incompatible, and often mutually hostile, sects in Christendom alone.

    .

    • Richard

      Sorry, but this is all a bit mixed-up. Christianity and Judaism have both undergone reformation, Islam never has. The old one – perhaps he means old way – means engaging with others, not simply oneself. That was pretty clear from the article. People in the West – and I am not originally from the West per se – don’t seem to understand that their civilisation is founded upon Christian teachings. Why is it that it was only in the West that slavery was approached head-on, and finally abandoned, for example? Faith is not always literalist, but some sort of home for ideas and impulses that find no home elsewhere in the human world. Think about it as a sort of spiritual version of the same societal forces that form the modern Labour Party: it helps keeps otherwise potentially dangerous and useless miscreants off the street.

      • Rowland Nelken

        Mixed up? What is anyone to make of ‘ideas and impulses that have no home elsewhere’? Please name such an impulse or idea. Slavery seemed wrong, even to those who had it dinned into their heads from infancy that the slavery advocating bible was the infallible Word of God. Yes, I am aware that so much of our civilisation is based upon the ever changing values of Christianity. We are where we are because of a past that cannot be undone, whether that past is glorious or foul. That is no reason for redundant notions and practices from our past to continue. Astrologers, for example, no longer play a part in political decision making. Heredity is not considered a reliable criterion for any sort of office. The arts of war are no longer core curriculum for every young male. Faith is an irrelevance, and, allegorical or literalist, sacred text based or otherwise, can be very dangerous.

        • Richard

          The impulse toward aggression can be housed in militarism, the impulse towards motherhood and caring in parenthood, the impulse towards informing the young of the practices of their elders in teaching, curiosity in academia, and so on. However, where is the impulse we have to look beyond the veil to be housed? Fears of death? Meaning of living? Suffering? Psychiatry and psychology were tried as substitutes during Soviet Times, but with no success. In other words, there is a raft of human activity and pursuit that has to be housed somewhere, and that tends to be within the umbrella of religion, at least, in the West. In the Arab lands, and their assimilated territories, religion is these things, and also social control, with juridical elements. Whether one likes it or not, there is a persistent human predilection for believing that what we see in front of us is not the totality of existence. This impulse – that separates us from other animals – is apparently housed in the temporal lobe, so has a physiological basis. It is not possible simply to outlaw it, or make fun of it. They tried that with homosexuality, which is also an impulse, though located in a different portion of the brain.

          Luckily, in the West, we have the faculty of reason sufficient to render religion a colour-wash to the oil-painting of our lives, rather than being the central focus, as it is in most other parts of the world. If the religious impulse in the West can be harnessed to the end of helping those in distress, or charity, or other beneficent results, I have no beef with it. Mindfulness removes that end, and so is selfish, if pursued as the only impulse. This is not to say that those who are sceptical – such as yourself – have to abide by these religious tenets, although you probably do, since they have become general cultural norms.

          • Rowland Nelken

            I agree that humanity appears unique in the living world, in that we try to understand our origins and our surroundings. Religion was a method of doing that. It has, however, outlived its usefulness.

            Where do you get the idea that mindfulness leads only to navel gazing and an indifference to the world beyond? Understanding how the mind works, i.e. psychiatry and psychology, can, like any disciplines, be used to malign ends. Dismissing those who challenge your authority as mentally unbalanced has been a corrupt tool used by a range of dictators, be they controllers of nation states or leaders of cults, religious or otherwise. Psychiatry and psychology can, however, have fine, construtive and uplifting roles when soundly based on objective science.

            Religions which preach of an unevidenced afterlife can lead to an indifference towards the problems of the here and now. It can lead to terrible complacency that concludes that efforts to improve our lot are futile, as a divine magic wand will sort it all for us so long as we go through certain arcane rituals.

            There is not a single human impulse that is now best served by religion.

            It may be comforting for Christian apologists to imagine that the wider, secular society is unwittingly dependent on its Christian heritage. Accepting gays and women as equals, however, has taken (or rather, is still taking) too long. This is partly due to the brake on progress provided by religions. As late as the 1850s, in the US, Southern States slave owners were quoting the Bible in support of the morality of slavery. Jesus is recorded as urging his disciples to forsake, indeed hate, their families and anyone who cared not to listen to his message. Fortunately that bit of Jesus’ reported teaching has only ever taken root in Christendom’s worsr fringes.

            Case for faith not dismissed. No adequate claims for its use, however, have yet been advanced.

          • tolpuddle1

            Religious faith keeps people sane.

            Secular ideologies don’t – secular people turn to addictions; thus the West is knee-deep in these, in pleasantly (or unpleasantly) crazy people kept going only by an addiction to money, bling, gizmos, booze, chocolate, astrology, TV, sexual permutations, drugs, shopping, property porn, sexual porn, vampires, zombies, the paranormal, foreign travel, dance and drama, AND SO ON.

            Religions teach that you’re happy in the next world IF you’ve been compassionate in this world – so today’s secular West isn’t a noticeably kind place, and most of the compassion there is comes from faith-groups.

          • StupidWhiningMen

            Give the compassionate East a whirl.

          • tolpuddle1

            The East isn’t compassionate and never was compassionate.

            But if you want reincarnation – the Wheel of Sorrow – to give you a whirl, don’t let me stop you.

          • Guest

            Your comment about ‘today’s secular West’ and its supposed lack of compassion is just tendentious and wrong. Not particularly kind — compared with what? To the contrary, today’s West is the least callous civilization the world has ever seen. What you really want to be blaming is the Left and the freedom-haters of the 20th century (Communists, Fascists, and N-zis had that in common: the term ‘statist’ will do as a catch-all).

          • tolpuddle1

            Only the sheltered and prosperous can imagine today’s West to be compassionate. Its smooth and pleasant surface conceals widespread brutality.
            What will happen when the money runs out ?
            And what about the foundation stone of our secular way of life ? – the Abortion Holocaust is as terrible as anything done by Hitler or Stalin.

          • Amir Flesher

            . You are confusing authoritarianism with social democracy. The Scandinavia of 2014–with a robust social safety net and robust democratic political institutions– has almost nothing in common with the death camp fascist, imperialist German Reich of 1944. Or am I missing something?

          • Guest

            And the evidence for this ‘next world’ is…?

          • tolpuddle1

            The supernatural – spiritual good and spiritual evil – manifestly exists.
            Therefore it’s reasonable to assume that there are spiritual realms of good and evil.
            There is also a longing in the human heart for Paradise; one reason why, when religious beliefs crumble, utopian political religions take their place.
            I don’t believe that longing for unending happiness to be a cheat or sick joke.

          • tolpuddle1

            Like many secular people, you seem to think that Religion originates in a wish to “understand our origins and surroundings”, i.e. it is proto-science, now replaced by real science.

            But Religion originates in a Scream for Help or a Scream for Meaning, a Scream at the Sky, a Scream of Unbearable Grief or Sadness or Despair.

            Which is why science can’t replace it. Still less can psychiatry or psychology – they offer talk and chemicals; no cure.

            Homo sapiens is the unhappiest animal, the only one with a need for purpose and meaning, the only one which asks the question “Why bother ?”

            And the only animal constantly aware of, over-shadowed by, the inevitability of Death (and related to death, the transience and death of all things – football clubs, civilisations, science, culture, species, universes). Thus all “efforts to improve our lot” are very largely futile, mere bits of sticking plaster.

            Only religious faith can conquer Death.

          • Fenton!

            Homo sapiens is the unhappiest animal, the only one with a need for purpose and meaning, the only one which asks the question “Why bother ?”

            What a fascinating insight. I’d never thought of H. sapiens as ‘the unhappiest animal’, but that’s probably true. On the other hand, the other animals may be ‘happier’ only to the extent that they’re not capable of happiness.

            As for death, I don’t want to conquer it, myself (any more than I want to conquer sleep or the fact that I wasn’t born sooner in time). I only want to conquer unhappiness, and religion would be no use to me in that. Not least because it makes no sense to me — whatever the creed — and I cannot believe it.

    • tolpuddle1

      “Thousand of sects in Christendom” – yes, since the Reformation.

      • Rowland Nelken

        And pre Reformation there were a range of Eastern churches, Nestorian and Arians as well as Gnostics, Bogomils and Albigensians. The Bible God does not give comfort. Fortunately the Bible gods, in all their ghastly manifestations, the one who issued the barbaric Torah, the sword waving Jesus of Revelation presiding over an orgy of mass destruction, are purely imaginary.

        Even if the Bible God is drastically pared down, to the Love and Peace Gospel Jesus or the inspiration behind the poetry of homesickness in the Psalms, faith in a fictional character as real gives no comfort whatever.

        I get the impression, Tolpuddle 1, that you are a Roman Catholic. Your unevidenced desperate screeds however, make you sound like the mags produced by the church of my childhood, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were keen to paint a ghastly fictional world that lay beyond their control, stuffed full of selfish violent junkies.

        One area where there has been definitive research on the relative decency and contentment of the Christian and the secular, is the USA. The Southern Bible belt has the worst record for crime of all sorts, as well as addictions and mistreated children.

        Is that simply because they are, largely, the wrong sort of Christian?

        • tolpuddle1

          Some points:
          1. The Eastern Orthodox churches are proud to call themselves Catholic; their separation from us Romanists is cultural and political, not doctrinal.
          2. Gnosticism had a tiny following and disappeared a long time ago before being dug up by trendy wendies.
          3. Bogomils and Albigensians were Manicheans, not Christians.
          4. The book of Revelation is about spiritual, not literal, warfare.
          5. The American Belt is bigoted at best, dishonest at worst, a cult area worshipping the USA and right-wing politics, not Christ. This is partly for anti-Christian cultural reasons, partly it’s a dreary version of the Reformation’s many terrible mistakes on points of belief.
          6. God is “the Love that moves the sun and moon and other stars.” (Dante, Paradiso) – and since the Universe functions, God is real; otherwise we wouldn’t exist.

          • Rowland Nelken

            So our only hope is to submit to the Pope? A bastion of unchanging eternal and everlasting God issued Truth. Like limbo, a married priesthood and purgatory, The current Pope seems a decent guy, but the pretence to being the heir to St. Peter and thus God’s exclusive earthly rep is ridiculous. Hans Kung, a student mate of Benedict the recently retired has written that the Petrine succession is full of fiction.

            God, if he/she/it is God, being omniscient, must have known that the shamblic, albeit often poetic collection of writings known as the Bioble, coupled with all the other factors that have made up what we know as Christendom, would lead to Inquisitions, Crusades, witch and heretic burnings and the Wars of the Reformation.

            God is a terrible communicator. Were God any good there would be consensus on what constitutes the divine message and likewise on its interpretation.

            I do not know whether you are a cradle Catholic. I understand the power of childhood imprinting. It took me many years of thought and study to rid my mind of Jehovah’s Witness poison.

            You have an uphill struggle trying to convince any outsders that yours is the one true Christian faith, and that Christianity anyway, is itself true.

          • tolpuddle1

            I’m a Catholic despite having been brought up as one. Our difficulties in evangelising are (1) our own lukewarmness, hence our laziness and cowardice, (2) the fact that the Catholic Church only preaches and teaches, whereas the Jehovahs brainwash,(3) the sheer indifference of an affluent population – prosperity, security and comfort kill religion stone dead (though they’re very transient).

            God is a libertarian – He doesn’t force us to believe in Christianity or anything else; though the Gospel is a very clear and straightforward message, in fact. In a chaotic and confused world like our own (like that, precisely because God has given us free will), it’s not going to be universally accepted, of course; free choice = no consensus.

            And Jesus said that “the sin of the world” was that it wouldn’t believe in Him – what we would call THE sin of the world (injustice, cruelty, fanaticism, hedonism or whatever) all stem from this fact.

          • Rowland Nelken

            Your difficulties in evangelising arise from the fact that you believe in a patchwork of things utterly ridculous, that unless they are fed to you during infancy (or you are as wacky as Tony Blair) simply do not make sense.

            Certainly the Catholic Church, compared to the mind control cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses, is a bastion of openness, free thought and dialogue. Compared to the Jehovah’s Witness Governing Body, your most athoritarian Popes are wishy washy liberals.

            I know the verse about Peter the Rock. That is not, however, evidence that all the Popes, in Rome, Avignon or even Egypt are the true successors. It makes as much sense as the JW bosses pretending to be ‘The Faithful and Discreet Slave’ as referred to by Jesus in Matthew 24.

            I love life, but an eternity as envisioned in Revelation sounds ghastly. Nowt to do all day but sit about and sing praises. I love singing, I sang for many years in a Cathedral choir, but no thanks; the peace of death sounds a better option.

            JWs, like you, Tolpuddle, like to paint the world beyond their control, as greedy thoughtless and depraved. Both personal experience and objective research have taught me that the moral values and behaviour of the God believers are in no way superior to those of us not saddled by the absurdity of religious faith.

          • AugustineThomas

            Oh give me a break you fool. You believe in some New Age nonsense or else you’re an atheist who believes that everything comes from nothing for no reason–and yet you still feel compelled to spew your nonsense. Secularists have the most absurd beliefs in history.
            Christian beliefs are the most rational because Christianity is the truth. And, by the way, you would be living as a pagan heathen in a brutal, backward society if not for Christianity you ignorant ingrate.

          • Jim H

            I don’t think he is going to respond to you. He hasn’t posted anything on discus in 7 months.
            I see you have dropped the thin veneer of civility you once used. You now start a conversation calling people names like “fool” and end it with “ignorant ingrate”. In between those is your usual babble about atheists, secularists, pagan and heathens.
            Is that your style now? You apparently had not been engaging with him since his post was from 7 months ago, so there is no history between you two. What’s the story? Just that time of month?

          • tolpuddle1

            On one or two points regarding Catholicism
            – limbo and priestly celibacy aren’t doctrine

            – the Petrine succession is mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel (“You are Peter and on this rock I shall build my Church”), a better guide than an anti-Catholic “Catholic” like Hans Kung.
            – it’s reasonable to assume that God would appoint an earthly representative; without one, you get the 33,000 sects of Protestantism.

            – God foresaw the dark side of Christian history, as He did the dark side of secular history (two world wars, dictators committing mass-murder, the abortion holocaust, etc); but He has delegated some of His freedom to us (“Ye are as gods”, Psalm 8) and we’ve misused it.

          • http://breitbart.com smartypup

            You are the bigoted and dishonest one. God bless America!

          • tolpuddle1

            Dishonest ? – no, my post was sincere.

            Bigoted ? – no, accurate.

            When people like you exclaim “God Bless America”, this is not a prayerful petition TO the Almighty, but a demand ON the Almighty.

            In any case, why should God say yes to it ?

    • Fenton!

      Claiming to know things you do not know.’
      And as such it is boastful, and being a boast, it’s embarrassing. It’s also the antithesis of being philosophic — which is about acknowledging that which you don’t know (beginning with Socrates, of course).

  • Vlaams

    I have heard the phrase, “For Buddhism to remain Buddhist it has to stop being Buddhist” which to me fits in with this article. Meditation is at the heart of Buddhism and the spread of Mindfulness is how Buddhism is manifesting in the West, that is without the golden statues, incense etc. As people’s practice develops they will find that Buddhist thought is a great help, after all when it comes to the investigation of mind, Buddhists have done a lot of work on the topic for centuries.

  • foxoles

    The key to mindfulness is you have to actually *do* it, rather than just talking about it or trying to analyse it or write reports on it.

    The writer thinks she is being very clever and intellectual, but she is just displaying a very typical beginner’s response – what the Buddhists call the ‘monkey mind’: the hyper-active, self-referential, compulsive over-thinking, jumping from topic to topic, that mindfulness (or meditation) is designed to help with.

    Although often described as ‘contemplation’, another way of describing it could be ‘the ability to concentrate’ – something we are losing in our fractured, soundbite-led world, where attention spans have plummeted.

    • https://medium.com/@I_am_Orpheus Anthony Halliwell

      I agree

    • http://europa-antiqua-arca.blogspot.com/ arcadius

      So it is Buddhism then? Wasn’t that the point?

      • pbasch

        I don’t think mindfulness equals buddhism, though it probably descends from buddhism. I was interested in zen buddhism when much younger—I think what I derived from it is that simply sitting still, being aware of your thoughts, and striving for quiet is, simply, a practice that is good for mental health. In my experience, it made me a bit more effective at reading, thinking, solving problems, and accomplishing daily tasks. It helped me be calmer and less moody. It helped me notice things more, rather than being focused on my internal monolog. In fact, maybe the most useful effect was a general quieting of my internal monolog.
        If you just focus on the word ‘mindfulness’, it needn’t have anything to do with goofy meetings or shallow gurus, with sitting in a circle or in rows. It certainly needn’t have anything to do with the supernatural, or with any “faith” (whatever that means absent the supernatural). I believe it emphasizes active awareness while minimizing mental verbal activity.
        I suspect that much of what makes us nutty and respond to things out of proportion to their reality (what makes our “ouch” bigger than the “pinch”) is our internal monolog, and the continual story we tell about our heroism—the opera, or epic poem, or comic book in which we cast ourselves as the hero, and which lends meaning to the world and our lives.
        Having a practice of enhancing mindfulness might have the effect of allowing us to see the world as it is more, and less as we storytell it.

        • post_x_it

          I like the word “monolog”. Is it a composite – perhaps a monologue in Tagalog?

          • pbasch

            I saw a travelog in Tagalog once…

          • pbasch

            But, seriously… It’s always interesting to me, the continual low-level panic with which certain Christians respond to anything from any other culture, however lightly foreign. I suppose (trying to be sympathetic here…) that if you really believe in the literal existence of demons and so on, then you would be in perpetual imminent danger. And taking a yoga class or sitting quietly meditating could open up a hellmouth. So you’d better keep saying jesusjesusjesus… to keep the transdimensional portal through which a clawed hand will reach and grab you (as Scalia believes… but I paraphrase) closed.

          • ExiledOnMainStreet

            ” (as Scalia believes… but I paraphrase)”
            No, that’s not what Scalia believes. You’ve invented that silliness out of a need to feel superior to Scalia.
            Actually, I don’t see a great of “low level panic” among Christians to anything foreign; in fact, I have seen Christians here in the States bending over backwards to be inclusive, which has led to foolishness like Indian drum beating at Mass and other assorted idiocies.
            But Christians, of course, are an easy target – any tepid criticism they might offer up of a non-Western religion is quickly lampooned as intolerance. In the meantime, the Muslim response to non-Islamic faiths is a bit more, emphatic, shall we say?

          • pbasch

            From an interview:

            NYMag: Can we talk about your drafting process—
            Scalia: I even believe in the Devil.
            NYMag: You do?
            Scalia: Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.
            NYMag: Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …
            Scalia: If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.

    • scottruplin

      I don’t agree – that you fail to engage the author on her substantive points, and choose instead to disparage “over-thinking” makes her point. This is a newspaper/web article, not an intensive retreat. The point of an essay is to make an analysis, something Buddhism does not eschew (there are thousands of years of teachings and texts, all of which are analytical in assessing ethics, meditation practices, rules of the monastic and lay orders, etc). A common error about Buddha Dharma is that thoughts and thinking are in themselves bad, or delusional. But even in tradtions like zen there is a respect for poetry, art, and teaching exegesis.

      At certain points in one’s practice it might be very helpful to set aside words and letters – this can be true. This is usually for fairly brief times in intensive retreat or at early stages of the practice, when students are first learning to work with mental chatter and aversive mind states. But the author’s points about the risks of separating mindfulness from its ethical moorings in Buddhism, and the gross commodification of it, are well made.

  • UncleTits

    I’m no expert but I thought that mindfulness entailed passively noticing. Thoughts, sensations, whatever is the case. Not doing anything. Noticing, even our reactions to noticing are noticed. Not sure how that makes it ‘mostly about me’. If you’d actually ‘got’ mindfulness then wouldn’t you have noticed that you were annoyed about your thought about it – and moved on? Maybe real mindfulness doesn’t sell many articles for you.

    • Mondfleck

      In mindfulness therapy, noticing thoughts involves three key aspects: 1. Notice a thought 2. Place the thought in a cateory (“worrying,” “wishing”). 3. Politely (“non-judgementally”) wait for the thought to drift away.

      The process seeks to reduce levels of thinking, especially (but by no means exclusively) negative thinking. Critical reasoning skills are invalidated and weakened, especially anything that challenges mindfulness beliefs (“resisting change”). Williams and Penman’s best-selling mindfulness guide (with a forward by key guru Jon Kabat-Zinn) states that thoughts and memories “are like propaganda, they are not real”. Once this is grasped and you sit back and watch unwanted thoughts evaporate, “a profound sense of peace and happiness fills the void”.

      Meanwhile the consumer’s mind – increasingly purged of the habit of thought – is open to the calm and well-being that mindfulness can offer.

  • Catherine Waterman

    My goodness, this takes me back. At one time I did yoga, meditation, chanting, positive thinking, being non-judgemental, being part of the peace movement, being vegan, the lot. For a while, I even taught meditation and relaxation techniques. Then one day, I realised that everything I believed was nothing but a fantasy. It was an unrealistic magical worldview. Devotees of such ideas are encouraged to think pretty pink thoughts in the belief that the big bad world will come to its senses and evolve into a Love-In.

    Passive magical thinking doesn’t change the world, it only changes the way we perceive it. Which, I suppose, is a good thing if it better equips us to navigate the ups and downs of life.

    As far as I see it, however, not everyone is the same; some are born more equal than others. A few are born to make life as difficult as possible for themselves and everyone else around.

    Life is innately unfair – that is, unless we believe that inequity and all suffering stems from past life negative karma, and such like. Of course, this is no longer my own worldview. I’ve come to a profound understanding that I know nothing at all…Apologies for this indulgence and for digressing somewhat from the subject of mindfulness and meditation!

  • Ne11y

    I went to mindfulness classes at a Buddhist centre. Someone who had been sexually abused as a child was berated for not being willing or able to meditate on feelings of loving kindness for her abuser. She was traumatised by this. I tried for years to get benefit from mindfulness without success. It’s very difficult to clear your mind, it’s not the mind’s natural state. I have returned to traditional prayer and feel much better. I heard something about the journalist James Foley saying the Rosary when he was in captivity helped him stay calm, and even serene in the face of extreme adversity. I now do this, especially when I’m out walking with the dogs, and it’s had more effect in a few weeks than trying to do mindfulness did in years.

    • Catherine Waterman

      Yes, there are dangers in Buddhist mindfulness and the related idea that we must always forgive in order to free ourselves from pain. For some people who have been abused, the ability to hold back from forgiving their abuser is the only thing that keeps them from cracking up.

    • ChadCMulligan

      “I have returned to traditional prayer”.

      If this works for you, that’s great. One of the good things about Mindfulness is that it’s completely optional. Please just be aware that what works for you may not work for others.

      • post_x_it

        I was thinking this throughout the article. Surely a lot depends on the individual, in terms of how they approach it, what they put in and what they get out. The influence of traditional, organised religion on society is hardly the unmitigated boon portrayed in the article. While it inspires some to find peace, contentment, love and kindness, it drives others to righteous and sometimes bloody fanaticism. It also (especially in authoritarian faiths such as Catholicism and Islam) provides the powerful with a cloak of moral authority to justify oppression of the weak and deeply immoral behaviour. Even Buddhism is not immune to this (viz the persecution of minorities in Burma).

  • Diggery Whiggery

    The trouble with logic and reason is that by themselves they just turn our mind round and round as we question and try to make sense of everything. When we can’t, we get depressed, or stressed or angry and this is essentially why humans need saving from themselves.

    Religion, Psychology, Mindfulness or any other ‘life development strategy’ are just different ways of achieving one or both of the same two things.

    1. To encourage us not to think about stuff we cannot control or explain.

    2. Give absolute unquestionable meaning to stuff that we cannot control or explain so that we no longer have to waste time and energy thinking about them.

    It’s good to question things and try to understand things, but sometimes it’s also good not to.

    The trouble that we have in today’s society is that there is so much choice available that everyone chooses differently which in itself makes it harder to understand those around them. Everyone can essentially create their own little society today, with its own culture, politics, world view, history, faith etc. You can no longer take it for granted that you will have something in common with your neighbour.

    In societies that are still founded on roughly the same culture, history, religion etc, they don’t have the same problem. There is automatically a certain commonality between neighbours and so people find it much easier to make sense of their surrounding human environment. In fact they don’t even have to think about it.

  • Gridfire

    When I see pseudoscientific fad movements like this gaining traction with such a large group of people, I start to wonder whether I’m actually the insane one. Maybe some mindfulness classes will help me out.

    • William_Brown

      Well it’s either that, or bloody Russell Brand!!!

    • Samson

      The media portray it as some mystical nonsense but at its basic level it’s just about being able to think straight. I didn’t start having problems with anxiety until well into adulthood, but when I did my mind was constantly racing, which affected my work, sleep and health generally. Mindfulness techniques chipped away at that until I was normal again. I haven’t started wearing tie-dye, haven’t been to any group sessions, haven’t become one with the universe, and until today have barely spoken about it. It’s just very easy to fall into chaotic patterns of thought, grinding yourself down with worry and anxiety, and taking things one step at a time, keeping your thoughts in order, is a good way to deal with it. A lot of mystical waffle has been attached to it, but the key techniques themselves are just pragmatic steps towards keeping yourself on track.

  • EricHobsbawmtwit

    But organised religion has a load of pseudo-metaphysical rubbish associated with it, a power structure or hierarchy, political instrumentalism, journalists writing great piles of bilge about how wonderful it is (Catholic Herald, Jewish Chronicle, etc.) and people cut other people’s heads off for not doing it right.

    I’ll take harmless and banal `mindfulness’ over that any day.

  • UnionJihack

    I have personally witnessed and been party to many such events. Me and my family and many of my friends have invited Buddhist monks to speak and then meditate in group events in my and many of my friends’ homes. The monk is a house guest and stays with the family he comes to visit for the term of his stay.
    Offering treatments in Energy Medicine not yet available on the NHS can go hand in hand with such events, also good food tutorials, on occasion even highly skilled and educated Muslim women are invited to apply temporary Henna tattoos for an all female clientele only. That gets everyone talking – face to face.

    • Gridfire

      Maybe energy medicine isn’t available on the NHS because channelling ‘healing energy’ into a patient probably doesn’t have demonstrable outcomes for patients of cancer, Alzheimer’s and in fact almost every single disease bad enough to warrant a medical check-up.

      • UnionJihack

        Hmmm … you speak as if you knew about the subject.

        • Gridfire

          You don’t need to know much about the subject to see that
          it’s nonsense; it doesn’t matter how much logic has been built if the fundamental principle it is based on is flawed. In this case, the fundamental principle being that some kind of healing energy exists. Has anyone actually detected this healing energy? If not, the only possible effect ‘energy medicine’ could have is a placebo. Scientific medicine isn’t always 100% effective, but its results are quantifiable and tangible. This has nothing to do with belief, in fact this is effectively the foundation of modern medicine and our remarkably long lifespans.

          • UnionJihack

            Studies and clinical trials are currently conducted on this subject.
            You will hear about it when you are ready for that market or because the NHS failed you.
            Your choice.

          • Gridfire

            To my knowledge the failure of the NHS is in being underfunded and unable to offer some highly effective but extremely expensive and difficult treatments, unless it’s simply an incurable disease. It’s good that studies and clinical trials are being conducted but their conclusions are independent of your opinions on the matter. In fact studies have already been done and have, of course, found no evidence of efficacy.

          • UnionJihack

            You comment on an issue you claim you had little knowledge of, and then you prove it. Which such studies have been conducted? Who conducted them?

            Clinical trials in the UK on this particular subject matter have so far only been conducted by the pharmaceutical industry, often backed by outsourced CROs which are solely funded by the former. Are you surprised or encouraged by their findings?

          • Gridfire

            What, do you think there’s a conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies to cover it up or something? Look, take it from a Physicist, THERE IS NO PARTICLE WITH MAGICAL HEALING PROPERTIES. There is absolutely no theoretical scientific basis on which magic healing energies can be transported between humans, so unlike any other medical proposal there is no physical mechanism by with energy medicine could plausibly have an effect. The research reviews are linked to on the wikipedia article if you want to look at them, but quite frankly it’s just a bookkeeping exercise to study this. The only thing I could think of is it might have a placebo or positive mental effects on particularly credulous patients, but there’s no way it can make a physical difference to diseases. Sorry to seem patronising but quite frankly pseudoscientific ideas like this are extremely dangerous. Particularly in medicine we might see patients refusing radiotherapy (physical mechanism: radiation destroying cells) in favour of quack medicine like this. I also know for a fact there have been measles outbreaks in various communities in west due to anti-vaccers who are convinced that MMR causes autism despite respectable scientists telling them again and again that there is no demonstrable link. Often it’s good to question authority and challenge ideas and granted a lot of research that gets put out there, and some widely used medical treatments, aren’t quite up to scratch, but quite frankly the people best positioned to decide what works are the actual experts in the field.

          • UnionJihack

            No.

          • http://paullawleyjon.es/ Paul Lawley-Jones

            There is no scientific evidence to support the efficacy of energy medicine beyond the placebo effect.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_medicine – 2nd paragraph

          • RadioJockhadistan

            I am puzzled – a plain wikipedia reference is thrown at us BY A SECOND TROLL WITH NO POSTING HISTORY as ‘proof’ that (a) an alternative treatment does not work (by implication), and that (b) no current trials in that subject matter are currently undertaken.

            What have you got to lose?

          • http://paullawleyjon.es/ Paul Lawley-Jones

            “…WITH NO POSTING HISTORY…”

            Irrelevant.

            “…as ‘proof’ that…”

            There are no ‘proofs’ in science, just evidence in support of a hypothesis/theory, or not.

            “…an alternative treatment does not work( by implecation)…”

            I did not make this assertion.

            “…no current trials in that subject matter are currently undertaken…”

            The references in the Wikipedia article link to studies which show no efficacy for this particular treatment.

          • lesley jefferson

            Check out the power of placebo

          • http://breitbart.com smartypup

            Underfunded or hamstrung by bureaucracy and incompetence?

  • JSC

    “Mindfullness” strikes me as entryism for cults and quackery, the thin edge of the wedge for all-round soft-headedness. I respectfully suggest that people who need to find drive, motivation and relaxation in their life do it in the time honoured fashion, and find it at the bottom of a cup of tea* or coffee*.

    *Delete as appropriate.

  • JC

    Oh, how superficial, how ill-informed, with silly misrepresentations and distortions at every step… the author clearly has her own religious axe to grind, and is distorting what mindfulness is and what it has to offer. Very poor quality – sorry to see it in a magazine that makes claims to high standards.

    • https://medium.com/@I_am_Orpheus Anthony Halliwell

      Totally agree with you

    • Phil T Tipp

      Are you really Jesus Christ, c’mon, we need to know!

  • Samson

    I do mindfulness techniques on my own, it put a complete end to some issues with anxiety. I don’t go around thinking of my self all the time.

  • Mrs.JosephineHydeHartley

    The reference to visiting people in prison, feeding the poor and healing the sick etc is ok but it doesn’t quite hit the right mark in this article, in my view..

    Better to use “pray without ceasing” i think. When one manages to remember to do it ( I prefer to take on the Lord’s prayer itself any time, anyplace anywhere), prayer as mindfulness can be quite amazing and will fit into any secular activity or religious endeavour, I’m sure.

  • pdhan

    So if it’s “non–doctrinal, non-prescriptive, non-demanding in terms of conduct apart from an insistence on not being judgmental” what makes it a religion?!

    • RichardBaranov

      It isn’t religion. Problem derives from Westerners seeing something going on that resembles nothing in their culture but looks to them like religion and then refusing to let go of the misconception because the books in Western languages say it’s a religion so it MUST be religion.
      For religion, Buddhist usually fall back on their native traditions. Buddhism regards these things as superstition but it is entirely your business if you want to worship an imaginary being or two, if it floats your boat. Often, at Buddhist temples, there is a shrine for the local pre Buddhist deities. The monks tolerate such things because it is more important for people to be happy than to knuckle under what is so called, right. Not everyone wants to be on the Buddhist path and, indeed, why should they? An attitude in marked contrast to: “Everyone must be saved, like it or not.” The intolerance of Monotheism.

  • Retired Nurse

    I’ve produced a megamix of Paul McKennas self-hypnosis tapes and samples of pre-recorded ‘Ohmmms’ for the busy Buddhist who just wants to give up generally, but hasn’t got the time …

  • Bill_der_Berg

    If the US marines are being taught mindfulness, surely the intention is to make them better at killing people?

    • http://londonmindfulness.org.uk/ Robert Mitchell

      The intention is to improve their decision making and reduce PTSD.

      • RichardBaranov

        Actually Bill is right, Mindfulness is a neutral activity it can be used just as well for becoming an efficient killer or a saint. That is why in practice it is always insisted that a person observe the 5 precepts (look them up if you wish) if they practice Mindfulness.

  • Roberto Pagnotta

    i wrote a long comment that could have been very helpful for people who are struggling with meditation side effects, but this outrageous website deleted it when i clicked on ‘post it’. no way i will write it again. Blame this bloody website, not me. sorry. And i hope nobody here is struggling with that ‘dark night of the soul’.

    • Fenton!

      Roberto, always copy what you’ve just written (Command + C on my keyboard) before you post anything. Even if you forget to do this, I often find that supposedly lost or deleted comments are still on my computer, somehow. Have a look.

      • John Hawkins Totnes

        Ctrl + c

        • Fenton!

          Headslap. And I even tested it to be sure (it’s one of those things you do without thinking and then can’t remember so as to tell someone else). But now I see the confusion: it’s Control + C and then Command + V to paste.

    • Damaris Tighe

      An immediate delete when you post is down to disqus. It probably means you used words that are automatically put in moderation. A word as innocuous as ‘h*ll’ can do this.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        So bitch and whore would get you excommunicated. But racial slurs, no worries.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      UK MSM; what would you do with it!

  • Fenton!

    Where in fact is your neighbour in this
    Considering that I can’t stand my neighbours, I’m happy to say that whatever I do to enjoy the present doesn’t involve them. The best neighbours are the ones I’m not aware of!

    Anyway, I find Buddhism appealing in many ways but ultimately and fatally incoherent, since it doesn’t allow us to distinguish between our neighbours (urggg), our loved ones, and our enemies.

  • Ashley Williams

    If you are suffering from depression, I recommend the http://destroydepression.com system.
    Written by a former sufferer of depression, it teaches a simple 7-step process to eliminate depression from your life

  • AndresFossas

    This article was clearly written by a novice. In the author’s words, “I dropped off during every single one of my mindful breathing sessions.” The more accurate understanding of mindfulness comes after, and not before, fully engaging with the practice… and that doesn’t happen if you drop off during every single session. I wrote a blog a few weeks back on this – our tendency to spread half-baked understandings of mindfulness: http://www.rsablogs.org.uk/2014/socialbrain/cloudy-chance-mindfulness/

  • Teacher

    Being shallow and selfish and immensely irritated by pretentious narcissists I have already decided to give this nonsense a miss. I find Champagne does it for me.

  • KellerCC

    I’ve lived in Thailand for decades, never studied Buddhism formally, but see Buddhism in the people around me every day. Most Thais probably wouldn’t be able to give you much of an answer as to what Buddhist mindfulness is because they’re so soaked in it and know no other way of being. It starts in junior school at the latest, even for those who never go to a temple. Children who misbehave are not punished as such but are told to silently sit in a corner with their eyes closed for a certain amount of time. What’s most amazing is that the children do it too, without complaint. I can’t imagine it would be quite so easy if you tried the same in England. Westerners are too fidgety and restless and we unconsciously teach that to our kids the way Thais unconsciously model ways for their kids to be calm. (In this sense, it’s very hard to reproduce the same effects elsewhere. It works here because everyone else is doing it too and it’s so deeply ingrained across the board.) Mindfulness here is also seen as being connected to gracefulness, and not being clumsy. Clumsiness is viewed as a childish thing which you should have grown out of by your teens, because it means you’re being thoughtless, careless of others; you’re not considering your actions and their effect on the outside world. Hence Thai people are usually very graceful in their movements. They even seem to have a much better sense of physical balance.

    Your comments contrasting Buddhist concentration on the self with Christian focus on others were very interesting to me because it’s something I’ve pondered on for a long time. The welfare state here is minimal compared to that in Britain and the poor, the disabled, etc have a harder time of it. Also, If you ever hear Thais talk about a car-crash or natural disaster they at first don’t seem to have as much empathy as westerners. They seem nonchalant about such things. But on a day-to-day basis I think Thais actually have more empathy, because politeness is empathy. Basic courtesy may seem like a small thing – it’s undervalued in the west these days – but in a way its the most important thing of all, because its something we all experience, or notice the lack of, 100 times a day.

    This connects with the thing I love most about this country: the fact there’s a lot less anger here. If something goes wrong for westerners they tend to think of some abstract ideal of the way things should be. They ignore the feelings of the real human being they’re shouting at because they’re fixated on the idea: “this situation deserves a complaint.” Yet that means blaming someone, who on another occasion will blame someone else for something else, in an endless merry-go-round of grievances and bitching. Doesn’t it make more sense to just admit that none of us is perfect? Thais hold their tongues and control their anger a lot more and that means everyone can lead happier lives because they’re not expecting to be on the receiving end of anyone’s anger. There’s a lot less stress in the air. People here accept that not everything is perfect in the world and it’s not always someone’s fault. This is the real upside of mindful concentration on the self. It’s not selfishness, it’s the very opposite, because it’s something that makes you stop blaming others.

    Some of this may have to do with Thai national culture rather than faith but much of it probably applies to Burma, Laos and Cambodia too…

    • StupidWhiningMen

      But they do have a habit of murdering tourists.

  • Haroon Sheikh

    This article and the writer committed a cardinal sin of mindfulness. They judged mindfulness.

    • John Hawkins Totnes

      Good for Melanie.

  • JohnRedLantern

    Another FAD, soon to go the way of all fad’s!

    • KathyB

      A fad that’s been practiced for 2500 years, that is.

  • AverageGuyInTheStreet

    Perhaps the School of Economic Science has managed to recruit many more politicians and company directors over the years than I’d previously suspected.

  • http://twitter.com/WinstonCDN WinstonCDN

    I hate cults

  • Randal Kay

    Well written, thank you for your insights and for not neglecting the reality that some of that “Good ol’ time religion,” is still “good” and still for our “time.”

  • RichardBaranov

    Apparently Melanie McDonagh is a believing Christian, a religion that demands you believe six impossible things before breakfast. So it’s somewhat ludicrous that she criticises a system based on empiricism. Mindfulness, as the title of her piece
    makes abundantly clear, is something she has no understanding about. After more
    than 2,500 years of experimentation with the technique, don’t you think that if
    there was something wrong with practicing Mindfulness people would have
    cottoned on? M. McDonagh confuses poor teaching by ill trained people who have no clue about what they are doing and who incorporate cringe worthy pop psychology into the proceedings, such as guff about being a tree, pretend compassion for someone in the room, or harassing rape victims and who then con the Melanie’s of this world that this hotch potch of awfulness is authentic Mindfulness.

    Further her subtitle in which she declares: ‘separating meditation
    from faith is dubious business…’, may be true of Christians who do indeed
    meditate and have a Faith and need faith but it is no small thing that there is
    no word for ‘faith’ in Buddhist thought. Mindfulness is not meditation and faith is most definitely a major obstacle in the practice of Mindfulness.

    Simply put Mindfulness is full awareness of what one is doing at any given time via pure observation of the object at hand and, here is a most important point, one practices without relating it to a fictitious self, a crucial aspect of Mindfulness which rather negates her statement that: ‘…what really annoys me about being mindful, which is that as far as I can gather, it’s Mostly About Me.’ Well no Melanie, as my remark concerning a fictitious self should make abundantly clear, it’s very much not about you, that is your Christianity and its egocentric belief that you are somehow special because of a fictitious soul and you’re supposed unique relationship with an imaginary supreme being that make you think it’s all about you, that is what is rearing its head.

    Your Christianity is what Buddhists call ‘a primitive belief about reality’ and it shows in your utter incomprehension of Mindfulness. You cannot make the leap from self-preoccupation to pure experience because it entails that you discard your dogma and, in fact, it entails that you go up several levels in your intellectual comprehension in order to understand. Easy to understand a substantialist belief, such as Christianity, after all substantialist thinking is the common habit of mankind. Hard to understand a system based on a thoroughgoing non substantialism that has a similar mind set as physics. I am not making the claim here that Mindfulness resembles modern physics but that the thinking behind Mindfulness is the same or is a similar attitude of thinking as modern physics, hence the attraction of Buddhism and Mindfulness to quite a few physicists for whom Buddhist thought holds resonance and strong familiarity.

    After 50+ years of teaching Mindfulness and Buddhism I long ago became convinced that Christians derive such comfort from their fictions that rationality or indeed, the ability to understand other systems of thought is well neigh beyond them. Christians carry to much nonsensical baggage to be open enough to understand alternative systems. Christians, in my experience, always drag other systems down to their level of obscurantism and then proceed to trash them as Melanie does with her false summation of Mindfulness in the last two paragraphs of her article, so convinced are Christians that they are right they set up strew dogs, demolish them and then proceed to trumpet their false sense of superiority to all others. I honestly suspect Christians fear understanding because what they believe is based on such ludicrous suppositions that only a wilful resistance against fact can allow them to believe what they believe and remain secure in their spiritual equivalent of lalaland.

    If M. McDonagh had properly practiced Mindfulness and kept
    at it, she would have discovered that Compassion is the natural state of being.
    Humans are, by nature, social beings, and when the attitude ‘its Mostly About
    Me is shattered via Mindfulness, Melanie would have discovered that boundless
    Compassion is the natural state of the human mind when it is not crippled by
    egocentricity.

    Penultimate remark, when the Buddha finally attained Enlightenment, he did so by the practice of Mindfulness. Buddhism is not prior to Mindfulness but rather, is an expression of mindfulness. Simply put Mindfulness is a practice, its intellectual expression is Buddhist thought, a series of techniques and ideas that, in themselves, are of no value, they are a guide, the map is not the territory, experience counts. One no more believes in Buddhism or Mindfulness than one believes that knowing football is the same as playing football. But that is an attitude quite alien to Christianity, which puts dogma and belief before experience and, by doing so, automatically assumes that because you have an ideology about football then you, on faith, are a footballer who already knows all about the game and how to play it without the slightest effort other than some vague thing called ‘faith’. Since Mindfulness is prior to Buddhist thought and is an outcome of that technique, it is rather pointless to pretend that one needs all the accoutrements of Buddhism, as Melanie suggests, in order to bolster Mindfulness practice.

    Lastly. If you think that a technique, in this case, Mindfulness ‘is a religion’, then you truly have the wrong end of the stick and that, coupled with your confession that ‘you are not good at this sort of thing’, hardly qualifies you to criticise does it?

    • Fenton!

      I think that Buddhism itself is subject to criticism: leaving aside that which relates to other lives and Hinduism (which may not be authentic nor original to Buddhism), there is a fundamental problem with being unable to identify those worthy of our affection, tolerance, and help, and those not worthy (i.e. our enemies).

      Also you mean ‘nigh’ not ‘neigh’.

      ‘Six impossible things before breakfast’: yes, it’s in many ways a preposterous religion but billions of people seem not to have noticed.

      • RichardBaranov

        Spelling error corrected, for which thanks.
        I do not understand your remark: ‘there is a fundamental problem with being unable to identify those worthy of our affection, tolerance, and help, and those not worthy (i.e. our enemies).’ Are you suggesting that Buddhism doesn’t know the difference?
        And, although you do not pursue it, Buddhism does not teach ‘other lives’ in the way that Westerners seem to think Buddhism does. The denial that there is a self should indicate that there can’t be much to reincarnate!
        Last, Buddhism is prior to Hinduism, it is a confusion brought about by how Hindu & Buddhist thought were transmitted to the West that gives the impression that Buddhism is derived from Hinduism. It is, in fact, very much the other way round.

        • Fenton!

          Thanks for your reply, Richard. With respect to the question of viewing all with equal distance, are you suggesting that Buddhism does not have that as a major goal?

          • RichardBaranov

            Sorry Fenton, I still don’t know what you mean. ‘Equal distance’, could you elaborate?

          • Fenton!

            I feel that you’re asking me to explain precepts you already understand better than I do! But by way of example, a Buddhist prayer (courtesy of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso):

            This fault I see is not the fault of the person
            But the fault of delusion.
            Realizing this, may I never view others’ faults,
            But see all beings as supreme.

            Combined with the teachings on humility and resistance to ‘self-cherishing’, as well as resistance to what I would call ‘love of one’s own’, this would seem to indicate that we have no moral basis for objecting to, never mind fighting, the monsters of jihad.

            Gyatso writes: ‘We have have someone we regard as especially precious, such as our child, our partner, or our mother. This person seems to be imbued with unique qualities that make him or her stand out from others. We need to learn to regard all living beings in a similar way, recognizing each and every one as special and uniquely valuable’. This is fine as far as it goes; the uniquely valuable comment is a problematic perspectival judgement in a call to jettison perspectival judgement! But then it goes on:

            ‘Although we already cherish our family and close friends, we do not love strangers, and we certainly do not love our enemies. For us the vast majority of living beings are of no particular significance. By practicing the instructions on cherishing others, we can remove this bias and come to treasure each and every living being, just as a mother regards her dearest child’. And so on.

            This wish to regard all with equal care and veneration is not only impossible, it seems to me, but it’s not even desirable. One may not wish to harm a grizzly or polar bear, but to view such carnivores with the same equanimity as one would view a dormouse is self-deluding and unwise. When it comes to those with moral agency — i.e. other humans — it’s even more self-deluding and unwise. Again, what is the Buddhist response to Islamic terrorism? What was their response to Stalinism and the Third Reich? Moral action and self-defence do not reside in shrugging and saying that brutes are just as cherishable as anyone else!

          • RichardBaranov

            In Buddhist thought there are different levels of discourse and, traditionally, one learns them one after the other because the more advanced forms of thinking are dependent on an understanding of what came before. The quote you give, in italics, by Geshe Kalsang concerns the emptiness (sunya) of persons and false attribution of action to that metaphysical entity of selfhood that, on examination can’t be found. It’s about what is going on rather than what we think is going on. All this is not very helpful. Tibetans need to realize that most Westerners do not have the training, the cultural context, the linguistic awareness,
            or the philosophical background to understand what Tibetans see as matters of fact, and indeed if you do understand the thread of the argument you would
            understand that it does depict a matter of fact despite its apparent abstraction.

            But all the things you describe are, in fact, matters of
            practice and your confusion arises from taking them literally rather than as adescription of a methodology. A very important point, Buddhism is methodology,
            the truth, whatever that is, unfolds from the methodology. Buddhism is not the truth. Again, map is not the territory, never confuse the two. But this is hard for Westerners. Philosophy is argumentation not testable propositions via
            existential experience. We are like dogs, we look at the finger pointing and not at the object pointed at. Buddhism is simply the pointing finger + methodology. The Western mental set is that a system must be logically consistent,
            well yes if it is intellectual argument. But Buddhism isn’t structured that way; it is primarily existential and phenomenological. The consistency is in experience not in argumentation although Buddhism can be highly philosophical, try Madhyamika for a good slog through the grey matter!

            Of course Buddhists have no difficulty in distinguishing
            friend from foe and of course they will fight if left with no alternative. The idea that Buddhism is pacifist is a projection of the West trying to find its idea of perfection, the grass is always greener etc. It is, of course fantasy. Buddhist cultures have usually had armies and all the other mundane
            accoutrements for doing violence. The difference between the West and Buddhist cultures is that the West will go to war in the name of Christianity. Buddhist cultures will go to war in the knowledge that war is an abject failure to
            communicate and will not pretend to false righteousness by claiming the trappingsof Buddhism as they go off to slaughter.

            The problem, as I see it, is that the West is learning a
            grossly distorted image of Buddhism, even the word Buddhism is wrong and thatis no small matter, that the West can’t even get the name right!!!

            Westerners are being given teachings that are essentially
            the teachings for monastic’s and very serious lay practitioners. The vast majority of Buddhists do not deal with this sort of stuff anymore than your average Christian deals with the Via Negativa, to which your average Christian
            response is: ‘The What!?’ In short when you read the likes of Geshe Kalsang, the complex in which his remarks are made is missing; it is out of context and thereby confusion.

            Older Tibetan teachers often assume that because we are
            well educated in the West we understand. However our education makes us very badly equipped to grasp what is actually being said. The younger Tibetans are far savvier, speak English and have a good idea of the obstacles. Some have been highly critical of how Westerners are learning Buddhism and so they should be. I am of the opinion that people should not be taught the sort of things Geshe Kalsang is teaching unless they have learnt the basics and have a good understanding of terminology. But that is perceived as boring and we all like to be entertained by novelty! A firm grasp of basics is essential because an understanding of Buddhism is based on understanding that it is a structure of experience and, if you do not
            understand what a teaching is based on, if you lack the experience of what wentbefore, then confusion results. People should learn Theravada/Hinayana first
            and not, what they think of as Tibetan Buddhism. In fact even Tibetan monks learn Hinayana first. You don’t learn math before you learn Arithmetic, as it were.
            Although I am a Tibetan Buddhist I do not teach it in general, always Theravada, and, by the way, before practicing insight meditation they get a three month exhaustive study of the pertinent Sutra, The Sattipatana. Melanie would not have written here article if she had been taught by me, in fact she would have run seeming from the room, I do not deal with dilatants.

          • Fenton!

            I haven’t read all you’ve written yet.

            Buddhism is not the truth. Again, map is not the territory, never confuse the two.

            No, I understand that. But the map does take you somewhere — and what we believe does have consequences within the realm of politics, not just our own minds.

            Back to reading.

          • RichardBaranov

            This particular map will only take you as far as crossing the border, then no more Buddhist concepts, after that you are on your own! See Buddha’s teaching on the Dharma being a raft.

          • Fenton!

            OK. Interesting. I suppose you know about Socrates and his ‘second sailing’? The one in which, of course, he did not know where he would end up….

          • guest

            “Buddhism is prior to Hinduism” – can you please explain how this might be the case when Prince Siddhartha, who became the Buddha (from whom originates “Buddhism”) was born a Hindu prince?

          • Fenton!

            Philosophy is argumentation not testable propositions viaexistential experience. I’m not sure that Socrates would agree with that. Yes, you can’t ‘prove’ the findings of philosophy with mathematical proofs, but that doesn’t mean that genuine philosophy is unscientific. Socrates in the dialogues is always grounding his dialectic in real-life examples. Otherwise you lose your way and can end up arguing madness, as the poor late Donald Crowhurst did.

          • RichardBaranov

            I understand your point concerning Greek philosophy, I was rather thinking of modern philosophy which seems to be about concepts and words rather than living.

          • Fenton!

            Yes, the words often seem to be a substitute for the evidence of living.

          • Fenton!

            Buddhist cultures have usually had armies and all the other mundane accoutrements for doing violence.
            OK, but you wouldn’t know that from reading the book written by a Tibetan monk for Westerners.

          • RichardBaranov

            No you wouldn’t. There are movies around of Tibetan monks surrendering their guns to the Communist Chinese. When all else fails, then you fight. I knew one of these monks, he had disrobed and did a special service for those he had killed every singe day of his life. He regarded his actions as something truly awful because he had killed in anger and with hatred. This is the important point, not so much killing but the state of mind behind the action.

          • Fenton!

            Hmm. How interesting. And how difficult for the monks!

          • Fenton!

            war is an abject failure to communicate
            Is it? What if I communicate that I want to invade your country? You communicate by way of reply that you don’t want me to invade your country. I do it anyway. Where is the failure of communication?

          • RichardBaranov

            I would think that the failure comes in getting to that point. Suggest you read about the Emperor Asoka and also the concept of the state in Buddhist thought particularly with reference to Dharma Raja’s.

          • Fenton!

            OK. So Buddhism has a political philosophy of some sort, then.

          • RichardBaranov

            Absolutely! For starters read some essays by Sulak sivaraksa, he has a web site and writes in English. And for a social organization look up Sarvodaya, Sri Lanka.

          • Fenton!

            I grant you the point about not fighting in the name of Buddhism, though.

          • Fenton!

            people should not be taught the sort of things Geshe Kalsang is teaching unless they have learnt the basics
            Mm, but I thought he *was* teaching the basics, and his writing seems quite plain and as direct as it can be, given the highly conceptual nature of the project.

          • RichardBaranov

            Well no, the basics are in practicing Hinayana/Theravada first. Then having experiential insight into that. Then you can go on to Mahayana, which is what Geshe Kalsang is actually teaching.

          • Fenton!

            I’ll have to research all this. Thanks for giving me/us the terms to look for. Cheers.

          • Fenton!

            You don’t learn math before you learn Arithmetic, as it were.
            Yes, I take your point, and philosophy is also a pursuit that has stages or ladders of knowledge, as well.

          • Fenton!

            Your last paragraph: interesting. Your last word: spelled dilettante.
            Thanks very much for all this. I’m glad I read it and have learned from it.

          • RichardBaranov

            Sorry, it’s the spell checker thingy, sometimes I just couldn’t be arsed. My style of writing is to hammer away at keyboard and then check what I have written, errors get though if you can’t touch type.

          • Fenton!

            Understood. I can type 70 wpm accurately at the top of my game. But that plus $2.50 will get me a cup of coffee….

          • Sean L

            Yes it has to be *lived* as distinct from merely being apprehend intellectually. Your *map* corresponds with mathematical science which is regarded as the highest standard of truth in Western philosophy after Plato and Descartes, though this view isis also attacked as ‘scientism’ by those philosophers who strive for a more phenomenonological understanding that is closer to Eastern philosophy, which is not all ‘in the head’. One qualification, no Western government in this century or the last has gone to war *in the name of Christianity*. In the name of such secular pieties as “Freedom” and “Democracy”, rightly or wrongly, yes, but not in the namename of Christianity itself. And no attempt was ever made by any Western state to Christianise any conquered territory, whether Japanese or more recently Iraqi. . .

  • Gentleman Jim Crow

    Sounds like a load of tree hugging hippy crap.

  • Pufferfish

    I’m not sure if what I do is Mindfulness Classic or Mindfulness Lite – I just listen to mindfulness recordings all alone at home. Sometimes I find I have become very aware of my body and breathing when I am exercising – Mindfulness on the Move perhaps. No way I would ‘do’ mindfulness in a group, or spend money on it beyond the recordings.

    I’d disagree that it is has become a religion, as described it just sounds like a whacky fad. Remember Kabala?

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Mindfulness, another middle-class fad. This time next year it will have disappeared without trace. Transplanting one aspect of a culture never works; you end up with sushi on bread.
    Jack, nice neutral Buddhist country anyone?

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  • Elaine Axten

    A week is a contextless package. Reputable courses are usually several weeks long at a couple of hours a week. Calling bullshit on a process which is not doable ‘off the shelf’ is disingenuous. Where it is taught successfully in schools it’s integrated into the programme and is considered a useful tool for learning. Mindfulness can be harnessed to help deal with stress, relationships, and pain management but it is simply not possible to learn meditation in a week. Yes, there are good short retreats, but if you really want to experience meditation you can’t just ‘buy’ it.

  • http://stainsofblue.tumblr.com/ stainsofblue

    Ohhh, i see. It’s “dangerous” to think for yourself and experiment and decide for yourself how you want to take care of your emotional and spiritual health… downright unchristian. Maybe that’s the point: maybe we are done being treated like stupid children by the churches of the world who want to shut down our critical minds. And no, I don’t think running after the mindfulness trends like sheep is the answer, of course not. But it’s certainly not a religion and we certainly don’t need the “old one” (note the bigotted singular here).

  • Lydia Robinson

    Just when we thought we had enough psychobabble for the simple minded, another cult comes along. Meanwhile, there are people making a mint out of other people’s pain and suffering.

  • Lydia Robinson

    A political forum I participated in, in former times, had quite a contingent of mindfulness folk. They were usually the most abusive when it came to debating with people whose views were the opposite of theirs. They weren’t bright enough to recognise the irony, though.

  • ohforheavensake

    Erm… Nope. Can’t see the problem.

  • Amanda

    What a total misunderstanding of meditation, contemplation and mindfulness!

  • Swanky

    Did anyone else find the Ruby Wax talk dire? In every sense of the term. I laughed a couple of times; man, she’s tense! (And what on earth is she wearing, skirtwise?) Then I got to her ‘explanation’ of how the brain works and realized that I had a dog toothbrush to clean.

  • PaulF

    In the 1970s I picked up the idea that you could dabble in Buddhism and remain a Christian. It was a serious mistake, plunging me into a personal crisis that took decades to recover from. I recovered by returning to the Bible and what it teaches, that there is only one good and true God, and he is the one who took flesh in Christ.
    It is my understanding from Scripture that in the spiritual realm there are two kingdoms only, the one headed by Christ, and the one headed by Satan. The latter is recognized by its refusal to accept the Lordship and Divinity of Christ.
    When you are told that yoga is only exercise, and Buddhism is only philosophy, and Qi Gung is only folk wisdom, better not believe it in my opinion. The things that derive from religions cannot be disassociated from the spirits governing those religions. To practise them is to submit one’s spirit to those spirits. In my experience, those spirits offer nothing except destruction.
    When I returned to the biblical way of looking at things, all manner of problems sorted out effortlessly. To take one of the least important examples, I gave up booze and tobacco without any effort; I simply lost the desire to self destruct. I believe St Paul got it spot on in 2 Corinthians 6:7 – ‘Do not touch the unclean thing.’

    • StupidWhiningMen

      So Satan is as powerful as God? I thought she was omnipotent?

      • PaulF

        The first two chapters of the Book of Job tell us how Satan and God interact in regard to us humans. God sets the limits in allowing Satan to come against us. You are right, there is no equality of power.

        • StupidWhiningMen

          But they have one kingdom each.

          God allows evil?

          • PaulF

            He does. The two kingdoms grow together in the present age. At the end of the age they will be separated forever. Please see the parable of the darnel in Matthew 13:24-30.
            In the conflict between good and evil in the present age, the good become much more good and the evil (who do not repent) become much more evil. God has very creative ways of doing things. When he creates us free he accepts the possibility of evil choices, but he uses them to build a kingdom for himself, even if it means Satan wins a kingdom too.

  • ChadCMulligan

    There is much wrong with this article, but I’ll focus on just this: “it quite clearly in fact is a religion,”

    No, it really is not. Mindfulness can be practised by the religious and irreligious alike. Where Mindfulness differs from a religion is that it is evidence-based (and the evidence is growing all the time). There are no myths about people with supernatural abilities such as the ability to cure leprosy, blindness or even death by touch, for example. This is why it appeals to modern educated people in ways that religions do not.

    Oh, and you can learn Mindfulness from a book. No need to attend any of these sessions the author finds so offensive, or spend more than ten pounds in total.

    • Swanky

      Perhaps what it really is is competition for religions that would rather have the field of ministration to themselves.

    • EnosBurrows

      “Mindfulness can be practised by the religious and irreligious alike.”

      Both groups of people can also go to evensong, say the rosary, or chant Hare Krishna.

  • Kate c

    Interesting thoughts. Thank you. However, I think perhaps that the idealism of ‘quiet contemplation’ within the evangelical world is not what it might be. How often are we silent in churches? How much opportunity does the evangelical world offer to ‘be still’. Very little in my experience.

    Simply ‘resting’ the mind in mindfulness can have a great impact on how we are when opening God’s word, how we interact with those around us, where our focus lies as we sing hymns or take in the beauty of creation. it helps focus our intolerably cluttered minds in our saturated world and I have found great use from that.

    Laying aside the element of compassion, I would say Use with caution and biblical wisdom – yes. Simply because something derived from a different culture or religion does not make it in itself wrong or unbiblical. In fact, it’s not so far removed from our Christian heritage and it’s arguable that mindfulness and contemplation is something which the church may have lost as well as the culture around us! Perhaps the evangelical world has some thinking to do here which is counter cultural.

  • Bonkim

    Utter Rubbish – just be yourself and don’t take new fads that come and go. All religions are superstitions – these fads are the same. Some make money from the seminars and practice sessions.

    • Swanky

      Incidentally, someone asked me whether I was endeavouring to ‘censor’ you the other day (or night — it was late). I’m sorry for calling you some sort of worm. We all know you’re just a bonkim and that’s that.

      • Bonkim

        Haven’t you anything to comment on the report rather than pick on some others’ comments? Calling someone worm does not alter the fact that you have no brains. No need to apologize – those without brains say an awful lot of rubbish. Heard all that before.

        • Guest

          I do and I have; you just haven’t bothered to read my posts.

          • Bonkim

            Different topic. Difficult to read all and in any case what is the point of commenting on others’ comments?

          • Swanky

            Says the person that continues to comment on mine! I view the comment section as a debating society, as a meeting of minds. I don’t just plonk my thoughts like a whoopsie and then go off. I like talking to people and, if the need arises, arguing with them. Also I post using two different avatars.

          • Bonkim

            The comment based on the topic under discussion – yes I am guilty but don’t cross reference from other unrelated topics. Also don’t expect minds to always meet. Divergence more interesting in debates than convergence. Keep on. I love arguments and we have much in common. Posting as two beings may be confusing to readers.

          • Swanky

            Indeed. That’s why I said a ‘meeting of minds’ not a ‘meeting of like minds’. I’ve got a thicker skin now because of all these threads: it was a shock when I was first rudely insulted, years ago. Now I just give back as good as I got — or move on.

          • Bonkim

            Keep it up, my motto – never give up. Did I say we have common vibrations. An argument a day keeps the brain alive I suppose. I only love arguing with those that don’t always agree with me – unlike Poles attract and like poles repel. Now I am degenrating into meaningless chat – look what you have done!

          • Swanky

            Heh heh heh. I love The Spectator and enjoy nearly all that sail in her, one way or another. Just wish they would do something about that apparently American spam (long posts about ‘how I was saved’ or something — you must have seen them). If you’re in England you’ll probably be asleep by now. Goodnight, then.

          • Bonkim

            Have a nice evening. Freedom has to be created and nourished – it is lost when people get complacent –

          • Swanky

            Agreed!

  • ilPugliese

    A second pro-religion article in this week’s Spectator. Of course people are interested in themselves (“it’s mostly about me). They’re looking for an understanding of themselves and the world. Feeding the hungry and prison visiting is for governments and charities and not for religion. The days when religion covered education and politics are over. Re mindfulness, doing things to rote never works. Add in watching your breathing and this provides a recipe for boredom. As far as not being judgmental when you have an emotional urge to judge, the article misses the point. If you want to be more effective, you have to be detached and analytical. And you don’t have to be non-judgmental all the time.

  • tomgreaves

    This is a very poor piece of journalism. For a start one week is not enough to experience the effects of a practice that requires time to be familiar with. The criticisms she levels towards the end of the article about the practice being about ‘me’, are simply wrong, as is her view about the non judgemental aspect of the practice. She has not understood and it’s as simple as that. It is not a license to accept immorality or inappropriate behaviour but about creating conditions that help us reflect with clarity and awareness on how we create suffering. And the most destructive way we do that is through unskilful or unethical selfish behaviour.

    Rather than be about ‘me’ the entire process of mindfulness leads to the experience of there being no self that we can identify. It teaches selflessness through the personal experience of way in which an unenlightened view of the self leads to the world of suffering. Melanie really has not done her homework, has certainly not practiced sufficiently to be taken in any way seriously.

    And finally, her cynical tone does not go unnoticed. It almost feels to me like she yabooing, poking her tongue out and jibbing. The only truly accurate observation she makes is that mindfulness has been extracted from Buddhism and in being removed from its context the supports that are required to practice safely are not provided by mindfulness teachers who are not very experienced Buddhist practitioners. Yes, it’s been hijacked by the consumer culture, reduced to what they see as money making product and then paraded as a modern discovery. How cynical, just like Melanie, who is herself making money for writing old rope.

  • PointlesFightingOverTheDetails

    The key experience for me in practicing mindfulness was having the judgemental thoughts toward myself fall away. I think I tend to treat others as I treat myself. The golden rule???? So once I found compassion for myself I also found compassion for everyone else. Aren’t we all God’s children. There is a tradition of contemplation in Christianity as well. You sit and be in the presence of the spirit. Your will not mine lord. I where my thinking diverges with the author is that compassionate action like visiting prisoners and charity need ro be taught. I think those are godly actions that we are born practicing and that are taught out of us. By sitting in meditation or practicing contemplation we discover the endless source of compassionate action. Regardless of what you want to name the source: God, unverse, Christ, Atman, Brahma, etc.

  • PointlessFightingOverTheDetail

    The key experience for me in practicing mindfulness was having the judgemental thoughts toward myself fall away. I think I tend to treat others as I treat myself. The golden rule???? So once I found compassion for myself, I also found compassion for everyone else. Aren’t we all God’s children. There is a tradition of contemplation in Christianity as well. You sit and be in the presence of the spirit. Your will, not mine Lord. I think where my thinking diverges with the author is that compassionate action like visiting prisoners and charity need to be taught. I think those are godly actions that we are born practicing and that are taught out of us. By sitting in meditation or practicing contemplation, we discover the endless source of compassionate action. Regardless of what you want to name the source: God, universe, Christ, Atman, Brahma, etc.

  • PointlessFightingOverTheDetail

    So I think where the author and I most massively diverge is in the idea that Godly actions are taught: charity, visiting prisoners, etc. I think we are born practicing Godly actions and they are taught out of us.

    http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2013/may-june-13/the-compassionate-mind.html

    Sitting in medition or contemplation or silent prayer allowed me to let go of acting on the non-compassionate impulses I had learned: First toward myself and then towards others. I think we treat others as we treat ourselves so in finding compassion for myself, I found compassion for others. “Your will Lord, not mine” springs to mind. Regardless of what tradition you hail from, we’re all talking about the same ultimate reality. We may call reality by different names: God, universe, Christ, Brahma, Atman, Allah, etc. But all seem to agree that there is only one. Why do we hate, kill and judge each other for having different ideas about the particulars?

  • http://www.integralherbalist.com Anna Betz

    This thread is an interesting reflection of our culture. Some people think they know it all by believing in ‘science’ and others behaving very patiently, explaining what they are doing and what mindfulness practice does for them. Debate never seems to reveal anything new as everyone just downloads and shares what they already know or wants to get off their chest.
    The art of real listening can be learned with the help of mindfulness practice which doesnt mean it needs to suit everyone as a practice. For those who need a strong focus like prayer to calm their minds other practices may work better. Some people find that involving the body more actively helps to relax the mind. Nothing new will ever come from debating.
    The scientist Albert Einstein described his religion in these words: My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.

    This article by Melanie McDonagh is typical of a cynical western mind and not really surprising. I do agree with these sentences:
    “An important element of the practice is to eschew judgmentalism; to observe and accept ourselves and our surroundings with compassion. Which sounds dandy, except that there are some things about ourselves and our situation which we jolly well shouldn’t be non-judgmental about, which we should be trying to change.”

    “This brings me to what really annoys me about being mindful, which is that as far as I can gather, it’s Mostly About Me. Sitting concentrating on your breathing is a good way to chill out and de-stress, but it’s not a particularly good end in itself. Radiating compassion is fine, but it doesn’t obviously translate into action.”

    These are very much the same points on which George Por has been criticising escapist mindfulness and McMindfulness in many of his posts on Mindful Together and in his blogs at Huffington Post.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/george-par/
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/mindfultogether/

  • Martin Seager

    Brilliant article – couldn’t have expressed it better myself and I have expressed similar views already – this really is a middle class western, secular bandwagon – scientifically it adds nothing to relaxation, meditation and hypnosis which were invented long before and still available – ethically it takes Buddhism without the faith bit which is ultimately dishonest and almost insulting – would we strip Christianity of the faith bit and sell it as a bunch of techniques? In terms of mental health it cannot address the emotional damage that underlies most serious mental health problems – trauma, neglect and abuse of developing children – these need to be addressed through proper caring relationships over time, not gimmicky breathing techniques – these have their place but they were already available so why rebrand them? – it’s a bandwagon and ultimately quite materialistic

  • Tom Jory

    Christianity is significantly worse than ‘mindfulness’ for exactly the reasons you’ve mentioned: that it clains some moral authority and is condemning, or at least condescending, of people who do subscribe to this moral authority.

    Meditation and mindfulness has been demonstrated to significantly improve mental health in a large majority of cases. The ‘Dark Night’ aspect is certainly a reality, but as far as comparisons go, mindfulness has the significant benefit of being non-condemning and statistical support demonstrating broad benefits.

    “I would suggest also that if mindfulness helps with mental health, then let’s not forget that so does organised religion.” This is rich when you consider the mental health of homosexuals who have been raised as Christians or the wives of traditionally subjugatory Catholic marriages.

    There are a lot of fallacial arguments getting chucked around here, and it seems to come from the deep insecurity that religion is becoming (or in my opinion, already is) insignificant, bested by other practices and often detrimental for mental health. How appropriate that you are so condeming of this, for the most part, positive practice. ‘Live and let live’ is rarely the belief of the bitter and irrelevant Christian.

  • treeblopez

    “At another class we were invited to recite: ‘May I/you be well; be happy; be free from suffering”

    The point of this mantra is that you start thinking about yourself, then someone you feel warmly towards, then someone you have difficulty with (not someone you “dislike”), then some collective (eg everyone in the room, everyone in the city, every living being). You missed the important bit out (the bit that contradicts your thesis).

    It’s clearly not an alternative to religion. It’s not in competition with the things you like any more than is sport or music. If it eases stress and depression – and makes people more calm and possibly a little more generous and compassionate – then it can only help people be more moral/engaged with other people.

  • Ben H

    I go along to free meditation and mindfulness sessions every Saturday where I rub shoulders with the old, the poor, and anyone who cares to pitch up, The main difference is that there’s a reading that you can relate to that will be useful for your life. Also these people get a chance to share what’s going on in their life with the group at some point in the service which often includes laughter and sometimes tears, Everyone listens mindfully. After the service people often offer their support. I had to go to Church every Sunday until I was 18 and reciting the same old things and then hearing some parable. Going along to some £25 sessions doesn’t make you an expert in the field and the sessions you say you went to weren’t the sort of things I’ve ever experienced. People who are encouraged to look within themselves ease their suffering and find compassion are much more likely to do good for others than people who do not do this of whatever religion. This is shown by the huge number of people in my group who volunteer for charities and have altruistic jobs. If you want me to write an article about this which reveals the truth I’m very happy to do that. Just leave a comment in reply to this.

  • ExiledOnMainStreet

    I find the idea of Sunday services for atheists amusing. As a child, I hated getting up on Sunday mornings to go to Mass and envied the irreligious who got to laze around. To drag yourself to a service where you sit and affirm a negative for an hour seems quite silly.
    I would argue that Western Civilization suffers from a bit too much “living in the present” which is why we have governments that spend fecklessly with no thought for future generations or anything past the next election.

  • Swanky

    Frankly, I wish that people could be more mindful of the impression they make on others — and of their appearance. I had a man round this morning to discuss some work that he won’t be doing for me, not least because I found him offensive to look at. Tattoo (of course); ragged sleeveless t-shirt with a coarse V at the chest that showed his hair there; aggressive paunch; grubby jeans; and a squint so that one eye was shut and the other bulbous while we were talking. I don’t ask for my contractors to be handsome — the statistical rate of handsomeness in males is not that high — but I do like them to be something other than hideous.

    Why don’t people make an effort? If you’ve got flaws — and we all do, or most of us — then either hide them or correct them or mitigate them the best you can. Humans are an ugly species at the best of times, in my opinion. What would you rather look at, a photo of a randomly selected wild cat or a randomly selected human being? Exactly. I look around me in horrified wonder and think ‘he/she is the product of two people’s passion’. Doesn’t say much for the passion if that’s all you get at the end of it!

  • Fred Yang

    “Not everyone is strong enough to confront their inner self”

    Virtually all beginners find that cobwebs come up – painful experiences, unresolved issues, unfelt emotions. But with practice, one can create the space for these experiences to come up into consciousness and to be held, felt and known and then released.

    “…it’s Mostly About Me”

    That’s not what it is about at all; in Buddhism at least.

    It is not about refining the sense of self, but transcending the sense of ‘permanent’ self which is considered to be a ‘fetter’ which is the cause much suffering.

  • http://amoebadick.blogspot.co.uk Flatulentia Buttox

    Bloody gurus can bog off.

  • lesley jefferson

    Cynical, patronising and often plain wrong.

  • Oppen

    If puppies started farting rainbows tomorrow, the day after tomorrow somebody would write a concern trolling article like this fretting about it.

  • rustywheeler

    “Mindfulness may be the new religion — but it’s no substitute for the old one,” said the practitioner of the old one.

  • http://johnbutters.org John Butters

    1. It is obvious to someone who has experience of meditative practice that the author of this article has no experience of meditative practice.

    2. People are quick to reject mindfulness because it sounds like mumbo-jumbo. There is plenty of mumbo-jumbo in Buddhism, as there is in all religions. There’s an old man who lives in the sky and tells you who you can have sex with? Not very plausible.

    3. If mindfulness sessions are understood as rites, then it is easy to understand how someone with no experience of meditative practice could see them as simply religion without the gods. If “mindfulness” is taught as nothing more than pretending to be a tree and thinking nice thoughts about people whom you dislike, then it is religion without the gods.

    4. However, what mindfulness practitioners are trying to do is to bring people to experience something deeper.

    5. There are mental and emotional experiences that the author has never had. They result from meditation, and they are very good. The mindfulness movement is an attempt to bring a large number of people into the foothills of the climb to these experiences. The reason is that even getting to the foothills appears to have psychological benefits, and the people who know about these benefits want to find a way to share them.

    6. Their task is like trying to explain to someone who has never seen the colour red that there is such a colour. How will he or she respond? First, with extreme scepticism about the existence of red. Second, by calling you a cultist or a fanatic.

    7. And yet, there is a long history of people having these mental and emotional experiences. “Ancient wisdom” is usually the untrammeled speculation of pre-scientific minds: the ancients did not know very much about the physical world. Over the millennia, however, a few people did find some useful and interesting things about how to live life and, having found them, wrote them down. The Roman Stoics are one such example; the practitioners of meditation in various traditions are another.

    8. An excellent (actually, the only good) book on this subject is The Meditative Mind by Dan Goleman. Goleman uses the theoretical framework for meditative practices in the Visuddhimagga, a work of Theravada Buddhism, as a template for understanding Christian, Sufi Muslim, Hindu and other practices. Goleman argues, persuasively, that there is a common set of experiences (and, one presumes, common brain mechanisms) running through these practices.

    9. To the author of this article: there is a set of facts here that you have not appreciated. The facts are simply these: there are practices that have in the past led some people to have experiences and emotions that you have not had; those who experience them generally find them to be positive.

    10. I have followed some of these practices, and I have had some of these experiences and emotions.

    11. To anyone else: a recent book with the rather foolish title “10% Happier” (and an even more cringeworthy subtitle) by Dan Harris is an acerbic, entertaining and very good account of a sceptic’s route to regular mindfulness practice. I recommend it.

  • johnperryb

    Jesus was a perfect example of mindfulness – a man free from his humanity and the distractions of the mind (he overcame the world). The universe or God or purpose or self or intuition, whatever you want to call it, was able to work through him unhindered by his own thoughts of how life ‘should’ be based on the cultural/social conditioning of the time. What came through him was love and compassion.

    India has a rich history of great sages who’ve achieved exactly the same thing as Jesus (who is considered just another enlightened individual not the mythical figure he’s become in the West) although with a less dramatic ending and without their story being hijacked and turned into an organisational hierarchy.

    Quieting the mind is how we let our own self, inner voice, intuition or purpose come to surface (unto thine own self be true) when its not being drowned out by all the things society or whichever conditioning we’ve been exposed to tells us we ‘should’ be doing.

    Blaise Pascal was onto something when he said, ‘All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone’.

  • Trainee

    Such an uninformed perspective. Mindfulness is a training regimen to exercise and sculpt your mind with a specific intention. People do the same with their bodies every day. They want to weigh less, they eat and exercise one way. They want to increase muscle mass, they do so another way. (Has anyone ever accused working out of being a religion?) The mind is the same. And should one elect to make a change to how and what one’s mind thinks – which is possible – mindfulness is a vehicle for getting one there. I just don’t see this falling within the any of the definitions of religion that I’m familiar with. And so what if mindfulness is “about me?” Is that really so bad if it means making time to clean up the mess inside your own mind, like the untrue stories your mind spins to make yourself feel better about or to rationalize why you hate a particular gender, abuse alcohol, stay on the carousel of dating the same abusive unavailable person, etc.? It’s pretty hard to observe your own endless irrational thoughts while serving at a soup kitchen or tutoring a child in need. But when you do, the cumulative effect over time is that you get your mind under control. You come to understand where the irrational thoughts come from and why and to see the actual truth – not the desired truth. Conflicts in your priorities (being a good person or being a cool person) naturally resolve and actually clear the way for your innate inclination to help others emerge. So it’s not just about chilling out and destressing. It’s about doing serious work on yourself.

  • Amir Flesher

    The author is critiquing something she does not understand. For instance, mindfulness isn’t about being non-judgmental, but rather about noticing when reactivity to afflictive mind states becomes problematic. Likewise, mindfulness isn’t about me. The whole point of the endeavor is to investigate that there is no solid and stable self at the center of experience. Resting in such an understanding quite naturally leads most practitioners towards more engaged service and selflessness in relation to others. In fact, mindfulness, which is a tool for investigating whatever arises in consciousness, allows us to come face to face with the difficult, and to know things as they are. This is really what the act of lvoe is all about.

    She is also seems completely uninformed about just how mindfulness arose and is practiced in a variety of traditional Buddhist contexts, how it is explicated in a variety of Buddhist texts and commentaries, and how this tradition has spread to the West. There has, for instance, been serious work done by people with intensive traditional Buddhist training ( people like Stephen Batchelor and Sam Harris) to shed light on what Buddhist practices can be like without any reference to Buddhist beliefs. Both make a convincing case that the Buddha himself was almost entirely disinterested in religious belief, focusing instead on outlining a path for well being. That work is built on the foundation of Zen and Vipassana teachings widely disseminated in the West, which is almost already, if not entirely devoid of traditional religious belief in the way it is taught and certainly as a matter of emphasis.

    I am rather puzzled about why the author felt moved to write the piece at all given her lack of sincere and sustained interest in actually trying out the practice for herself. If you’re going to write this many words about a subject, it seems prudent to be more informed about it.

  • DrKJ

    From the final paragraph, the writer does not seem to have a clear understanding of mindfulness, as it is most certainly not ‘mostly about me’. In fact, practicising mindulness and compassion allows us to notice how we are feeling and respond in a more helpful way, both for ourselves and others. In Compassion Focused Therapy, a growing area which is allied to mindfulness, there are three flows of compassion: other -> self, self -> other and self -> self so this helps people to develop better relationships with themselves and others.

  • Ruth A. McKowen

    Being in college, I don’t have the time to read this article thoroughly, but suffice it to say, my initial opinion is that to criticize a method that is; a primary part of a therapy that has shown tremendous success in helping people with suicidal ideation to become less suicidal; as well as helping overstressed people and those of us prone to anxiety; to manage emotions; to quiet our minds; etc. etc., is just plain ignorant.

  • dd

    It’s actually really hard to do and take lot of discipline and focus. I would say it’s suited for people who are willing to apply some discipline and focus to know themselves better. “Know thyself” is a good way of describing both the process and the end goal of this practice. But many of us are happily adjusted to our mundane realities, so why bother ? Nothing wrong in that

  • Aly Birmingham Geats

    Those other “Christian virtues” and action steps you are enquiring after are all in the other seven of the eightfold path of which right mindfulness is only one part… that’s the problem with the fadism of the so-called mindfulness businesses we are sadly seeing – really has very little correlation with the original and appear to have $ as the driving force. Cheers, Aly

  • disqus_wtc1tB1I6p

    “This brings me to what really annoys me about being mindful, which is that as far as I can gather, it’s Mostly About Me. Sitting concentrating on your breathing is a good way to chill out and de-stress, but it’s not a particularly good end in itself.”

    Pretty sure that when Chogyam Trungpa was asked “what is ego?” he said, “EGO IS A LIE!” how could this practice be about self if you don’t have an ego?

  • rideforever

    WHO IS BEING MINDFUL?
    Unfortunately the Buddhists don’t seem to ask this question, and so it is the “ego” ends up being very mindful and well behaved so it can remain the ruler of your mind.
    You can now do a University course in “mindfulness”, which is a total joke because Buddha’s effort was to cut down all social constructions in order to reach reality.
    Another point is that under the Bodhi tree the Buddha did not practice Vipassana.
    The uncertainty of what he actually did has given rise to the myriad of totally different techniques from Mahamudra, Zen, Hinayana, Vipassana, Diamond-Wayd etc…
    Normal people are often in a better condition than people who have tried to be too clever.

  • Bob Phillips

    Hi there! Great article you have, I would also want to share my thoughts that Meditation indeed has positive effects not only in the body but also in the mind, a total holistic wellness that brings us to know our inner-self better. It gives us a peace of mind that helps us have a much better perception about our lives.
    Our advocacy is to promote the positive effects of meditation, yoga and inner wellness.
    Help us, visit our website at http://www.iamthechangeiseek.org and also http://www.goodreads.com/kathleensuneja
    Thank you and have a great day!

  • Bob Phillips

    Hi there! Great article you have, I would also want to share my thoughts that Meditation indeed has positive effects not only in the body but also in the mind, a total holistic wellness that brings us to know our inner-self better. It gives us a peace of mind that helps us have a much better perception about our lives.
    Our advocacy is to promote the positive effects of meditation, yoga and inner wellness.
    Help us, visit our website at http://www.iamthechangeiseek.org and also http://www.goodreads.com/kathleensuneja
    Thank you and have a great day!

  • Mike

    This woman has a particularly vitriolic spout about mindfulness. I read as her being annoyed her christian churches are empty. She has little idea of where people who practice mindfulness wind up morally and ethically. It appears a long way past her.

  • Madison Grenier

    I’ll definitely make a note of this. I’ve been obsessed with beating Depression naturally since reading Gordon’s Destroy Depression ( http://snip.ly/9CCl ) So i’ve naturally started to examine my diet and lifestyle and the potential of things like exercise. Honestly, I’m seeing much better results than when I was dependent on medication. I’m taking control of this condition, and I’m going to beat it to a bloody pulp. No more demons for me.

    • Madison Grenier

      I hope you all can see good success!

      The natural methods are the BEST.

  • Carolyn1520

    This sounds to me as though “mindfulness” is threatening to those who practice western religions. How does one learn empathy if they can’t be introspective?
    Being mindful doesn’t have to be a substitute for your religion. UnChristian? You aren’t suddenly a Buddhist because you are mindful.
    It always amuses me how fearful people who profess to be religious are of anything they perceive as new. It’s only new to them.

  • Bob Phillips

    Hi there! Great article you have, I would also want to share my thoughts that Meditation indeed has positive effects not only in the body but also in the mind, a total holistic wellness that brings us to know our inner-self better. It gives us a peace of mind that helps us have a much better perception about our lives.
    Our advocacy is to promote the positive effects of meditation, yoga and inner wellness.
    Help us, visit our website at http://www.iamthechangeiseek.org and also http://www.goodreads.com/kathleensuneja
    Thank you and have a great day.!

  • Shellyk Wein-gart

    Thank you Melanie for posting this article. You seem to be the only person I can find who is willing to write something critical of mindfulness. Have any ideas where I can go for further reading?

  • avi15

    It’s clear she doesn’t actually understand what mindfulness is. That being so, it’s very foolhardy, I would suggest, to write an article about it.

    • aspeckofboggart

      No, she does. The dangers are very real. We have been told from young to be careful with such practices. My mom was worried when I thought meditation would help me through a difficult time. I was referred to a temple and decided not to include myself in the next class after being told the master would only be available in many months’ time because it’s not something to be taken lightly or easily taught.

      • avi15

        I have been practising mindfulness for thirty nine years and I’m still here.

  • Jack Haggerty

    I remember the priest who practised Transcendental Meditation in Brian Moore’s novel ‘Catholics’. Today liberal Catholics and Protestants are interested in Tai Chi or Yoga or Mindfulness. You can read online on why the parish priest at St Edmund’s Church in Southampton banned Yoga as not Christian. Yoga has also been banned at St Michael and All Angels in Bristol as reported online in The Telegraph. In the early 1970s I meditated with a Sri Chinmoy Ghose group before discovering what a fraud and charlatan Ghose really was. A really helpful book at that time was ‘The Dust of Death’ by Os Guinness. The book’s thesis was that Western Christianity was vulnerable for a take-over by Eastern ideas and life styles. Mr Guinness has gone on to write more brilliant books on the dangers of the New Age movement and its impact on Christianity. Melanie McDonagh is right to see the moral vacuum in the Mindfulness movement. As Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, churches exist to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and nothing else. The only viable future for the churches is to win back Europe for the Gospel and that will involve us in a colossal spiritual battle. We should show understanding as to why men and women are drawn to Mindfulness. There is real spiritual hunger. Watch the late Dave Hunt on YouTube who confronted the New Age with Biblical truth. Read ‘Evangelical Holiness’ by Iain H Murray published by the Banner of Truth, a wise and wonderful little book.

  • RaspingJester

    Mindful meditation is certainly changing the world and individuals for the better of all things in this existence while on this rock . However I have come to a space in my life that I absolutely feel that Buddist Monks as a living breathing being creature coexisting with the rest of us is truly a waste of time, human energy and resources . Spending there entire existence living on monastery’s throughout the globe using 3/4 of the day to meditate and just walking around doing chores, eating and also asking for handouts from poor people who actually work hard is frigging disgusting to me . Yes I know there are monks who do great work but I’m talking about the ones who do absolutely nothing for any other human creature all they do is spend time meditating beggining and eating and pooping what a waste of life . Hey look I’m alive and I’m going to be the best creature I can be while I’m alive that means using my mind, hands and energy to build infrastructure , educate myself and be a productive creature within my community not a karma feeding meditating factory trying to make reservations in the after world so I don’t return here . I practice mindful meditation and zazen several times a week thank goodness but with that said I’m moving doing things helping people building learning developing saving reaching out fellow shipping solving problems in my community not walking around in a robe counting my steps and chanting rituals all frigging day sounds like a cult .
    P

  • http://www.MindfulnessExercises.com Sean Fargo

    Great talk by Andy. He’s right: our mind IS our most precious resource! To help others teach these skills of mindfulness, here is a great teacher training program I found: http://mindfulnessexercises.com/store/products/mindfulness-teacher-certification/

  • Geordi Collette

    “This brings me to what really annoys me about being mindful, which is that as far as I can gather, it’s Mostly About Me.

    Sitting concentrating on your breathing is a good way to chill out and de-stress, but it’s not a particularly good end in itself. Radiating compassion is fine, but it doesn’t obviously translate into action.”

    Yes, but it’s mostly about making yourself ready to deal with the stress, and to make yourself more compassionate. In a study it was found that people who engaged in compassion meditation were more likely to assist people in day to day life than those who did not. Guess our impulses (feelings) do translate to action.. But not always, indeed. And of course you should look after yourself too, right? 🙂

    “Where’s the bit about feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoner, all the virtues that Christianity extols?”
    That comes from compassion, it doesn’t teach you to do stuff, it makes you want to do stuff.. And wanting to do it can lead to actually doing it.

    For the rest you are correct 😉

  • Thewizerd2

    You should really study a religion or culture before you start writing about its effects on people. Id rather have selfish Buddhists than bigoted christians.

    • disqus_cWBw65dIjT

      Older religions are “better” how mindful of you, please try to go easy on judgmentalism you bigot.

  • disqus_cWBw65dIjT

    Yoga is just about being selfish, cant have yoga without YOU?

  • Beepool

    What you have to understand here is the fact that like a Chinese Fast Food joint in the west sells the westernized version of Chinese food, mindfulness is a secularized version of Buddhist meditation. In Buddhism it is called “Smriti-Samprajanya” in Sanskrit whose translation into English as mindfulness does not do it full justice. Buddhism is all about taming your mind, reducing mental chatter and negativities at mental level so that manifests at your daily life. And, using such tools by people from any religion or no religion to make their lives better is a good thing isn’t it? If, you think prayer helps you with your life and attain the nature of truth, its pretty darn logical to do it. It is always good to do some research before writing something rather than writing out of prejudice. There are scientific studies to support effects of meditation/mindfulness on health parameters like pressure, cortisol level, serotonin level etc. And yes, even a knife to cut vegetables can cut your finger. So, mindfulness has the risk of making a crazy person aware that he is crazy, which if utilized can lead to improvement.

    • John Stewart

      Thank you. I was just listening to an old Alan Watts talk where he said that he draws on both eastern and western traditions to better understand living.

  • John Stewart

    If you can’t accept the bad aspects of yourself without being judgemental, who will? Being aware of them, via mindfulness or meditation, is a beginning. Whether you will ever not have those aspects is unknown, but at least you can guard against them and avoid situations that aggravate them.

  • Wubbsy

    I somewhat assumed that radiating compassion necessarily required compassionate acts a given. Am I incorrect?

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