Mindfulness is all over the place at the moment; in schools, the army, the work place and has found it’s way into everyday language and politicians speech. In it’s true form it is a Buddhist practice which has found it’s way into western disciplines through the work of Jon Kabbat Zin and others. There is a danger in this that once it is pushed through by scientists, the media, Gyms and the NHS that it can become a fad and the deeper meaning and practice of Buddhist Mindfulness is diluted. It seems to be happening already, as if it is a panacea for all ills, and an escape route; frustrated with the ills of society and inequality, don’t go on a march, don’t face your emotions, just breathe…..Could mindfulness, the way it is now taught actually be a distraction and turn us into Zombies? Is it an escape route, can it in fact become an addiction that drives us away from trying to make changes that really affect our stress levels and instead make us rather thoughtless?
I think there is a real possibility of this, as with any practice which becomes popular. It is the same for meditation, Yoga, Pilates. It is the way they are promoted, taught and used; as if they hold the answer to our problems. That’s media and marketing and most people are more intelligent than that and will in fact approach it as one part of a wider practice; as a tool that is worth investigating and may or may not work for them.
Mindfulness is not so special. We are mindful when we walk, when we drink a glass of wine, mindful when we immerse ourselves in a creative act: gardening, writing, painting, pottery, cooking and as I said in my previous Blog, Pilates is mindful in itself as is running, going to the gym, it depends on your approach. It is not in itself an answer to our stresses, it will not create the change we need and certainly not turn us all into Buddhists.
There have been many studies that mindfulness works for stress and depression. I am not surprised as counselling and psychoanalysis also works and has many elements of mindfulness within it. The person hearing, listening to us helps us to sort out the chatter and thoughts which can be destructive and repetitive but also helps us find ways forward and change behaviour and situations.
I, as you can probably tell by now, am not a great fan of new fads, but this is often the way practices are presented and then grabbed on to. Personally I have been practising mindfulness through walking, Pilates, writing and Yoga for many years, though I may have never truly named it. It is not something to be learnt on an eight week course as the only way; this is always the danger and happens with many techniques; it is taken over by franchisers wanting to claim it in order to make money and keep people who have been practising and studying in organic ways, out of the frame.
I personally have found it a useful tool in my daily life. It has helped me to breath and pay attention to the chatter and thoughts in my mind and observe my emotions. It has without doubt lowered my blood pressure as part of my meditation practice. It also helps me be creative and find some clarity in my thoughts and actions and without doubt it helps me sometimes accept the things I cannot change until I can change them. My practice, though is not that this is the only way or the answer. I simply find it helpful, it means I don’t just react, I can calm my self to then say what I need to say rather than shout out my anger in a way that may hurt and in a way that nobody will be able to hear.
It does help me deal with frustration, I see it as a tool of change, but only as part of a whole, just as for me Boal work and Forum theatre is a great way of working for social change.
It is not all of me, it is not the only way but I do believe it is useful and it does no harm to practice breathing, accepting out thoughts and emotions and getting distance from them; it is not about pushing them away; it is about seeing them and welcoming them and being more aware of our actions, in life in movement and for me and my clients that’s helpful.