What mindfulness is not

If you go back a few years ago (and not that many!), Mindfulness was a completely unknown concept for the majority of the population or was associated with something rare, strange and marginal.

Nowadays, Mindfulness is the theme of several magazines cover (such as Time) and a huge number of books that fill bookstores. Also, it is practiced and promoted openly by CEOs, professionals, companies, university students, etc.

Still, during what some have called “mindful revolution”, many misconceptions, misinterpretations or erroneous expectations remain. This article intends to clarify some of these “myths” around Mindfulness:

It is a hippie or new age fashion

Some time ago, Mindfulness was (and often incorrectly) associated with very specific groups, contexts or movements and easily described as complex and rare. As it became popular, it became more visible and seen as “a fashion”. In reality, Mindfulness is increasingly popular for two main reasons: scientific evidence regarding mindfulness’ practices and benefits have increased a lot (only in 2019 there were around 1200 scientific articles on the subject) and there is a greater openness from people with a public role to naturally share that they practice and that they enjoy its benefits.

It is a religious or spiritual practice

We know that many cultures or religions use practices or rituals that facilitate self-knowledge and being present in the current moment (such as meditation, prayer, yoga, tai chi, etc.). Mindfulness (as we know it) is not related to any particular religion or spiritual practice, neither it is incompatible with any of them. Mindfulness is, therefore, introduced and teached in the secular context.

It is important to clarify that Mindfulness meditation is one type of meditation and that there are several types of meditation. Specifically, Mindfulness meditation focus on training our attention. On the other hand, there are other Mindfulness practices different than meditation.

It is to free myself totally from thoughts

John Kabat-Zinn (founder of the MBSR program and recognized author and speaker on Mindfulness) says that if we try hard to free all our thoughts, the best we will get is a big headache! Thoughts are natural and will always arise. What we intend with Mindfulness practice is to learn to observe them with curiosity, kindness and non-judgment, without getting too involved with them. This allows you to identify thought patterns, decrease rumination and open space for those thoughts that are important.

It is not for me

A person naturally hurried, hyperactive and stressed feels impossible the idea of stopping for a while and “observe” the thoughts, emotions or corporate sensations. However, we say that when you feel that you do not have time to stop, then you really need to do it. The time spent in practice helps to calm the mind (and the body) and is compensated by a greater focus, greater clarity of mind and a greater experience of each moment. The world continues to be “chaotic” and waves of stress will appear, but practice (with discipline) helps to better identify, deal with and recover from that stress.

It is a quick fix or panacea

We live so much in a rush that we get used to fast, even instantaneous answers to anything needed. As research shows us better about the benefits of practicing Mindfulness, popular expectations to see quick results increase. But it is important to clarify that it is not by reading a book, by attending a workshop or even by joining an intensive 8-week program that you will become a more mindful person. As the name implies, it is a “practice”. To experiment the benefits, there must be commitment, integration, discipline, even resilience. Although the process will not always be calm and peaceful (as expected), the benefits of practicing Mindfulness with regularity are certainly worth it!

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