I recently came across this article exploring the side effects that meditation, and mindfulness in particular can have:
Mindfulness is often touted as a panacea for many of today’s ills, but is it really a cure all?
I posted the link on my Facebook meditation group for us to discuss, and after 2 hours or so we came up with some questions:
- Is there anyone for whom meditation isn’t a good thing and why?
- What is the difference between meditation and mindfulness?
- How important do you think it is to have a well trained teacher when it comes to meditation?
I thought I would share my thoughts on these questions here, with you.
There is never going to be one therapy/pill/treatment that works for everyone, we are all different biologically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. There are many types of meditation because the ancients who passed down the traditions of meditation knew that there was more than one path to peace. So you need to find what works best for you.
For instance, someone who is hyper-vigilant or avoidant of their thoughts and feelings are likely to struggle with mindfulness as it reinforces their hyper-sensitivity to the world around or provokes anxiety by asking you to concentrate on the things you are trying to avoid. A better option would be for them to learn first to relax, to not see danger in their thoughts and surroundings, to learn to let go.
So what is the difference between mindfulness and meditation? In Western society we like to find that magic ingredient, that extract that we can remove, concentrate and administer to make us better. Mindfulness is an extract of meditation, it is one quality, one skill that improves our focus, bringing us into the present moment allowing us to stop worrying about the past or the future. Mindfulness meditations can work really well for some people, but not everyone.
Meditation is broader in its scope encompassing different types of meditation and relaxation. It is often set within a religious or psychotherapeutic framework, which allows the meditator a space and the resources to work through their emotional and mental baggage. See my blog: Meditation, is it all just sitting around? for a fuller discussion of this process.
Which brings us to the question of the need for a teacher. A good teacher will help you to find the right type of meditation for you, after listening to what you feel, think about and want from meditation. They might ask about your motivation, the type of person you are and if you have experienced depression, anxiety or mental health issues. They will be able to help, guide and support you through the process, particularly when any emotional issues arise. Most importantly a good teacher will have been there before you, faced those struggles and worked through them. Beware the teacher who doesn’t practice what they preach.