Written by:

Updated on:

July 30, 2015

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The 12 Myths of the Mindfulness Movement, by Diana Winston:

So, I’ve had the pleasure of many, many years practicing mindfulness, and then being ultimately involved in the exploration of mindfulness as it becomes a larger part of our culture, and turns into a movement in the West. And so, because of that, I thought that I was in a unique position to talk about what I’m going to call the 12 Myths of the Mindfulness Movement. Keep in mind that I just made it up, okay? And this is something that I understand when you’re developing a curriculum for instance, you just make it up, and then you try it out, see if it lands, see what happens, and then if it works, you keep going with it, and before you knew it, everybody’s going to be saying, “The 12 Myths of Mindfulness,” right? There it is.

Okay, so number 1—oh, sorry, I’m going to start backwards, just like David Letterman or something. So, NUMBER 12—Science __, undeniably proves that mindfulness is effective. Alright. I think we learned enough last night with Cliff, or Cliff helped us to see how Science is so young. How it’s still in exploration phase on the Science of Mindfulness. How the Science of Mindfulness has not been replicated a lot. Some of the studies that they haven’t ___, that they haven’t done effective control groups. All of these things that we know are important for really good research. What he didn’t say is that there’s probably about 1500 studies in mindfulness currently existing, which is amazing if you think about it, because 10 years ago, there were maybe 70 studies, then went up to 700, close to double at this point. It’s just extraordinary. It’s just, however, if you were to look at how many studies there are about heart disease and exercise, you would find 43,000 studies. So, mindfulness research is in its infancy, it’s wonderful, it’s exciting, because of mindfulness research, the movement in the field is moving along in the way it is, because of mindfulness research, we’re getting mindfulness into schools, into hospitals, and it’s fantastic, and it’s still in the early phase. You already knew this, right?

My colleague, at ___, he said something interesting. He said, even if somebody proved that mindfulness was terrible for your health, that it led to more anxiety, that it led to lack of attention, and changed your brain for the worse, he said, even if that were the case, I’d still do it. And I think that’s something to really consider, because Science can be quite motivating and exciting, but for those of us who practice, we know that it’s good. We don’t need Science to tell us that. And at the same time, we can skillfully use Scientists, Science, the Science of Mindfulness as facilitators in a way that can really help move things along as I’ve said. So, just to give a few guidelines about thinking about it. But the first is not overselling it, not telling everyone, the Science of Mindfulness has proven that it’s absolutely, 100% sure your anxiety will go away if you practice.

It’s useful that what you can also do is find out your relationship to the Science. So, some of you will be really, are really interested in that, some of you are Scientists, researchers, and so, you’ll find your relationship, and some of you don’t even, you know, have no relationship. I’m from the field of Neuroscience in college, just so you know. Now I work at the ___ Institute for Neuroscience. And, ___, oh, I just forgot the name. Anyway, Neuroscience.

So, what we see is that you have to find your relationship so you will, and it can be helpful to learn a few studies that you find to be supportive and then you can talk about that when you teach, and it’s nice to interweave them through your teaching. And so just an encouragement to use Science, but use it wisely. And don’t be afraid. If you’re afraid of it, it’s fine. You don’t have to use it. You do not have to teach Mindfulness in this kind of secular context by teaching about the Science. You don’t have to. Go to where you’re comfortable. Really important.

Okay, so, that was number 12. Just touching on it since we dealt with it last night.

NUMBER 11 of the next myth of mindfulness movement. John ___ invented mindfulness in 1979. That one speaks for itself. That is not true. However, I believe there are people who believed this. That it just appeared out of thin air, and he invented or some other people invented it, but of course, we know it’s linked to 2500 year old tradition, and so just to remind you that one. Also, keep in mind that MBSR is not the only mindfulness out there. We’re so lucky to have Bob here with us, because he’s one of the people who’s been doing the groundbreaking work of teaching MBSR in so many contexts over these years, training people. And what happened in the last number of years is mindfulness began to flourish in all sorts of way, and so people, in a very creative, bottom up, grassroots way, developing mindfulness program and bringing it to schools, in hospitals, and ___, and businesses, and you’re all part of that movement, and some of you, many of you here are doing MBSR, but there are also many other things. So just to know that the field is huge and getting bigger by the day. And this lists the problems too, which will talk about in a bit.

MYTH NUMBER 10 – Mindfulness is for everyone. Do you think it’s for everyone? Yeah. It really is—I mean, nothing is for everyone. I guess food is for everyone. Death is for everyone. I mean there are some things that are for everyone, but in terms of practices and philosophies and things like that, there is nothing for everyone, and it’s really important to not assume that mindfulness is everybody’s cup of tea.

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About the author 

Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]