Eight Misconceptions about Mindfulness

There are at least eight misconceptions about mindfulness that I have read or heard about so far. They can also be seen as traps one may fall into when practicing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) without proper guidance. If you don’t practice mindfulness read the list and be aware whether or not one of the misconceptions resonates with you. Ask yourself why this is the case and what personal values inform your thoughts. If you are practicing mindfulness ask yourself kindly and honestly whether or not a particular misconception applies to you right now. Then see if you like your conclusion or not and ask why this is the case. By asking these questions you can actually strengthen and develop mindfulness of your intentions and values.

  1. Just about me? Mindfulness meditation leads to a state of isolated self-absorption that makes you withdraw from social relationships.

  2. Just stay the same? Mindfulness does not require a change of lifestyle and you can keep your practice separate from other spheres of your life.

  3. Just do whatever? Mindfulness is not based on a set of values linked to social ethics that would prevent you from using it to harm others.

  4. Just consume? Mindfulness is a commodity that can be sold and bought just like any other product or service available for modern consumers in a market economy.

  5. Just believe? Mindfulness is a religious practice and cannot be separated from Buddhist believes and rituals.

  6. Just relax? Mindfulness is a technique that makes you feel relaxed rather than leading to personal transformation that would make you become kinder with yourself and others.

  7. Just escape? Mindfulness is a way to escape from the stressors of everyday life and enables you to cope for some time without having to deal with the real problems.

  8. Just adapt? Mindfulness makes you accept everything uncritically. It is a way to adapt to untenable social relationships, oppressive cultural or religious norms.

Take some time to reflect upon the questions you posed and answered. They can help you become more aware of your values and intentions as they relate to mindfulness meditation.

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The eight misconceptions help me to evaluate my practice in an ongoing manner. They can serve as a wake up call. When I start to agree with any one of them at the moment, I know it’s time steer into a different direction. If you are aware of other misconceptions, critiques, or concerns about mindfulness feel free to share them.

Three Things about Mindfulness

Three Things about Mindfulness

Sometimes, it is helpful to break down what’s mindfulness. Mindfulness is about at least three things: our intention, attention, and attitude. First, mindfulness is said to be based on intention or making a conscious choice, a decision to shape one’s experience. This includes the intention to practice, as well as the intentionality one brings to directing, sustaining or switching attention. The intention to consciously focus attention on a object such as the breath is the basis of mindfulness.

Second, focused attention itself is a defining feature of mindfulness. It includes focused, broad and sustained attention, and skills in switching attention from one stimulus to another. Attention is tied to the ability to pay close attention to details in tasks or activities and not to be overwhlemed by extraneous stimuli. Attention can be considered a form of self-regulation and can help us to deal with difficult emotions. Evidently, sensations, emotions, and thoughts can never be kept from coming up. This brings us to the next dimension.

Third, mindfulness is not merely about focusing attention but about a focus in a particular way. It is grounded in particular attitudes that allow for acceptance of whatever arises in the mind. These attittudes commonly include non-judgment, acceptance, trust, patience, non-striving, curiosity, and kindness. They are developed by intentionally sustaining attention to internal and external stimuli without immediately evaluating them as either “good” or “bad” through an awareness of their transitional and changing nature. It involves a stepping back from mostly unconscious habits that shape what we do, feel, and think in everyday life. This does not mean that we have to just accept everything that happens to us or other people. But more about that later.