Is Mindfulness A Fad?

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There’s no denying the popularity of mindfulness and meditation is growing. It has it’s own cultural movement now. But what does science have to say about it? What’s the tradition like out in the East? And how can I understand and utilise meditation outside of a timed practice and with the way I currently live my own life?

[00:00] Hey guys! It’s Chiggs! It’s another Losing Stress Podcast. In this episode I want to a cultural topic this time and that is:

Is mindfulness a fad?

[00:12] Now it’s quite clear that mindfulness and meditation is becoming more popular.

If you look at the popularity of meditation-based apps especially, with things such as Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer, you can see that these apps are very popular now. And they’re only becoming more popular.

[00:35] And so in a sense, meditation and mindfulness is becoming more popular.

But what we want to discuss in this episode is:

Is it just a fad?

So it just a fad like a new diet. Or a new exercise regime.

[00:51] And to be honest when most of us look at whether something new has real validity to it we tend to look at it these days from an intellectual or scientific perspective.

Does mindfulness have backed-up scientific evidence to prove that is beneficial?

And what’s interesting when you do actually look into this is that over the past 15-20 years there’s been this explosion of studies into meditation and mindfulness. And I believe there’s been probably around near 2000 studies on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness.

[01:31] And you can look into this.

If you are skeptical. You can go ahead and look into what benefits does meditation and mindfulness provide.

And you’ll find that the general answer is that this meditation or mindfulness timed-practice does provide this attentional benefit, this emotional regulation benefit and this ability to have this meta-awareness etc.

[02:00] However, there’s something that’s very important to realise when it comes to these scientific studies around meditation.

The nature of every scientific study is that it tests some hypothesis. For example: does a certain type of meditation practice improve creative thinking?

And then that’s tested.

And in each of these studies, there’s always one potential benefit tested with regards to timed meditation practice.

[02:33] And when you’re really interested in this and looking at it objectively it raises two questions.

One is whether,

Is meditation simply just a timed practice?

And does looking at meditation with respect to singular benefits really undercover what the underlying nature of what meditation really is?

[02:58] And so that leads us quite nicely to the more traditional approach, say, out in the East. So say with Zen meditation in Japan, with yoga and meditation in India, and with meditation in other countries such as China.  

And, essentially, this different culture where meditation and mindfulness has been more ingrained into the culture. And has, essentially, has been a part of the culture for hundreds and thousands of years.

[03:29] And when you start to explore it in this area or this part of the world you realise that there are so many schools of meditation. There are just many, many gurus, many, many books written etc.

And so you have to ask yourself is meditation like a diet? So, where, everybody has their own opinion on what the right thing is.

[03:53] And when you look at the meditation or mindfulness culture in that way, you realise that it is quite similar. In that everybody has their own approach and own opinion to, “this is the right way to do something.”

I.e. if you practice this method then you will arrive at something that I also have arrived at.

Is meditation like an exercise?

Where if you repeat it over and over again then you gain this wonderful benefit.

[04:28] And that’s what scientists have really looked at when it comes to meditation in general.  

Because they’ve looked at these yogis who have practiced meditation for years and years and years. Essentially, isolating themselves, in this completely different world. Where they simply sit and practice meditation. And they’re not really involved in the world in the way you and I are if you are listening to this.

And what they found was that the more experienced you are with meditation, so the more hours you put into this sitting there and doing nothing practice, from that you gain greater benefits.

[05:08] However, that really begs the question where, I’m living my life where I do not have the opportunity to go ahead and sit there and just simply do nothing.

And one has to ask oneself:

Is meditation separate from living whatsoever?

Or does meditation cover the whole of living?

So that is living our lives in the way that we do. And also our sleep.

[05:37] And before I actually delve into this a bit further, I’ve realised that I haven’t fully cleared up the fact that there are all these different schools of meditation and you have to see where the flaw of their method essentially lies.

And it really is with the fact that they all have a method.

[05:58] And what a method implies is that with time or with an effort or with this controlled way of doing things you can go ahead and arrive at a mind that is different.

That is a mind that can see things more clearly, that can deal with stress better, that can deal with all emotions and see this all perfectly.

Effectively, arrive at this mind that is say, enlightened. As we would say or probably look at culturally.

Is meditation the product of thought?

[06:33] And when you start to understand thinking and thoughts like we’ve described in this podcast, you understand that all of these methods can simply not be it.

And the reason being or one the reasons how you can see it is that all of these methods are a product of someone’s thoughts. Practice this and you will arrive at something.

But the thing that you’re trying to arrive to is already projected. Which means it’s a product of your own thoughts or somebody else’s thoughts all of which is a product of the past.

You’re trying to arrive at something that is already projected. That is hopefully very clear as it means that it is actually of the past.

[07:24] However, we all really understand, at some level, that meditation is this very different thing. And it hasn’t actually anything to do with thought whatsoever.

And so a method, which means time, time because it means by repeating this over and over again I get to something, also implies a link to thought.

Because thought and time are interlinked. In the fact that thinking is always trying to take you out of this moment.

[07:58] And to really appreciate this, you really have to see this for yourself. In the action of observing your own reactions to things and living.

[08:09] And that really brings us back to that point that or the question of does meditation, in fact, cover the whole of living?

The Tradition of Meditation

[08:17] Because you hear of these stories when you do delve into the culture of meditation and mindfulness; that is the tradition behind it.

Where you hear a story of someone going ahead and isolating themselves in a cave for years. And they come back down. And somebody annoys them and they react by hitting them.   

And so they’ve spent all this time, say meditating, and they’re still not acting ‘perfectly’.

[08:47] And surely, hopefully, quite clearly, all meditation can really be is this attention in the moment.

If the old man coming down from the cave, was really attentive and he could see the reaction of this annoyance coming up in him and not just act it out. And that could only really come about through attention.

Profound Truth Through Direct Experience

[09:09] And it’s this very simple and profound truth that I had to come upon and really realise myself.

Because I was going ahead and trying to learn a lot of the different traditional approaches to meditation. And I effectively built up this quite extensive meditation practice for the mornings. Where I would effectively just block out this time for an hour to go ahead and do this practice, say, would forgive things, would have loving-kindness involved, and would have gratitude involved.

All of these different elements. But this still did not mean I wasn’t going ahead and having to deal with emotional issues that did arise for various contextual reasons say within my relationships, within the work-life etc.   

Meditation and Attention

[10:05] And so what I really fully appreciated and realised is that unless there is attention in the moment to whatever is happening then there is always that danger that I will always have to deal with and become engrossed in some emotional issue or psychological issue.

This is just very, very clear to me now.

Because whatever, emotional issues and psychological issues that do arise are never dealt with fully unless you’re fully attentive.

[10:37] And to be fully attentive means not just to the noise; to the sounds and your own thoughts but also attentive to the space between sounds and thoughts.

Because really we are never attentive to that naturally.

[10:57] And that’s something that’s actually very profound.

And a good place to wind down this podcast. Because I believe we’ve arrived at something that should really be of value to people that are not so familiar with meditation. Or are very heavily involved within this culture with mindfulness meditation.

Or not even heavily involved with doing a timed-practice because someone has said to you in some way that it is good for you.

[11:27] And the thing is this can be a difficult thing to admit if you’ve been practicing meditation for a long time i.e. you’ve developed this attachment to your practice.

[11:37] But what we’ve really arrived at here is that meditation is something that is very simple and wonderful. In that, it is simply just this full attention in the moment.

[11:53] And so really is mindfulness just a fad?

Of course, it isn’t.

Because even if you don’t know what mindfulness really means surely you have some kind of understanding of it being an awareness of the mind. And in that in itself, it cannot possibly be just a fad.

[12:11] And so that’s definitely a good point to leave this podcast.

As always, the best place, if you do wish to reach out to me is on Instagram. I’m @lchiggsl.

Take care guys!