A friend shared this article about mindfulness meditation and its potential to harm on Facebook, and while its content flies in the face of what is the popular view of what mindfulness meditation can do for us, I feel that it is the important discussion that is not had most of the time when mindfulness meditation is talked about.
First, I have grown a bit tired of mindfulness because of the way it is bandied about nowadays. You are supposed to eat your food mindfully, taking time to really feel and experience every mouthful, and every thought and feeling attached to the experience. You are supposed to brush your teeth mindfully, make love mindfully, think mindfully, work mindfully and mindfully be mindful of your mindfulness in the most possibly mindful way you can mindfully do it. If you are not being mindful you are a jerk and an emotional neanderthal.
It has become a bit crazy. Even teachers are telling little school kids that they should be mindful. However, as a meditation teacher I stopped telling people to be mindful a long time ago.
Taking a concept and going overboard with it without much thought, we do that a lot us Westerners. We take concepts that are completely foreign to us and instead of slowly applying it, and thinking (being mindful!) about how it applies to us and our way of living, we jump right into it trying to achieve full guru status a.s.a.p. thinking that if we just follow "the recipe" we are going to find the sweet spot real soon because we are so damned clever and efficient.
Problem is we know how to think and how to be logical but most of us are incredibly out of touch with our emotions and feelings, and the complete lack of logic that is sometimes attached to them. A lot of us are emotional infants really. It can be an emotional minefield. Most of us have no idea of how much crap we have actually suppressed and repressed over time, and how much of what is happened to us have affected us in a big way, and we are incredibly ill-equipped to deal with it.
We fail to realize that "undigested" emotional material is the root of our discord most of the time, and we are really bad at dealing with that, because we think we can "logic" ourselves out of anything, and when that does not work we suppress it again instead.
With mindfulness meditation you are inevitably going to comeup against the raw essence of that, of you, and it is going to happen pretty soon. You are going to come face to face with unstructured, illogical and conflicting thoughts, and that is just scraping the surface still. You are going to come to realise that your mind is a bloody liar and most of the time you are along for the ride, and that while it is a ride you thought you controlled you are seeing you most certainly do not. Holy crap! You are out of control and it can get real ugly real soon depending on where you are at emotionally and intellectually, and what kind of support you have available to you.
When I first started meditating I did it to find peace. I did not find peace and it was really annoying because I was wondering what I was doing wrong. I ended up opting for the holy holy grail of all meditations, mindfulness meditation, and I was really surprised when it forced me to face a range of thoughts, feelings and emotions that I did not actually know were part of me. I am a pretty aware person so this brought me a kind of crisis of its own.
What happened to me though was that I ended up choosing to go back into therapy and as it turned out, I applied my mindfulness meditation "skills" to my therapy, and my therapist was really happy to work with that and with me while I was doing that.
We agreed that me studying my thought patterns, learning about them, and finding out more about my own feelings and emotions without getting attached to them was a great way of starting out on my "healing journey". I was seeing him regularly; I was digesting it by telling him about it. What we were doing though was gathering data and while that worked for me and my therapist it will not work for everyone. The most important part of it was that when he saw we hadgathered "enough data" he told me that now I had to "parent myself" out of the emotional turmoil. In other words, enough of watching the spectacle in the relative comfort of detachment, now you have to feel those emotions and feelings, and you have to be the grown up at the same time in the same way you would when raising a child.
Make no mistake, this was not an easy thing to do.
As the article I linked to in the beginning of this post says, corporations are now regularly giving their employees the opportunity to do mindfulness meditation as a way of reducing stress. As the article also points out they do this rather than dealing with the cause of the stress. The problem with that is that your mindfulness meditator will a lot of the time actually start seeing just how destructive the stressful situation is for them and in order to keep existing in that environment they have to suppress again, I am sure you're seeing where I am going with this, that is right, they are compounding the problem, and this is kind of a best case scenario believe it or not.
I remember years ago when we were offered yoga at work. I would do yoga for an hour at lunch time twice a week, and it soon become abundantly clear to me that I was going to leave those sessions deeply depressed. I talked to the yoga teacher about it, and she was good I may add, but I got no real explanation for it or support from her. She just did not know what was going on and perhaps she should not have either.
I know now that the depression I felt, and it was a deep and dark depression that I would feel until I, you guessed it, managed to suppress it again, was most likely suppressed and repressed emotions that were "stored in my body". It happens a lot when people get massages. They end up bawling their eyes out and a good masseur/masseuse knows what that is all about. If I had known then what I know today I would have hiked off to therapy right away and it is quite likely that I would have actually been able to avoid having a nervous breakdown later on.
I am pretty aware when it comes to myself, at least nowadays, but I will say it again; most of us just do not know ourselves that well. We will not have done the work unless something in our life is not working big time, is causing us real pain and is forcing us to. No one ever jumps on the self-help bandwagon or heads into therapy because they feel happy or even just OK.
We need to become mindful (yes, I went there and I used the word) about how we apply what is essentially self-healing techniques sans aid and support of truly qualified and experienced people. We need to get smarter with it and we need to get more discerning. There is actually such a thing as going through major recovery and healing in a controlled way, over time and with the full knowledge of the process but it requires support. We cannot go this alone; we can never go this alone! This band-aid/"I can do it because I think mentality" is not serving and if you want to meddle in mindfulness you have to do it fully prepared to come face to face with your emotions and be completely aware that some of that shit is going to be real ugly and that for you things are going to get real ugly for a while.
We can save ourselves but it requires an awareness that most of us just do not have. If you are really going to mindfully meditate book an appointment with a reputable therapist first. Just in case. It is in your best interest.