If you have been exposed to an MBSR/MBCT course through a hospital which is quite often a step for people suffering from depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder mindfulness becomes a bland therapeutic tool focusing on a apparently simplistic tool of meditation focusing on the breath to give the mind a respite from what has upset it. At the end of the day it is therapeutic type of tool. Whether it be MBSR or MBCT in an institutional setting it really has very little soul. A constant Jon Kabat-Zin theme of being in the present moment in a non-judgemental fashion. Often boring body scan meditations. Breathe, breathe and think of nothing else but the breath. This has so much wisdom in it but having been at least 14 days of MBSR training at a local hospital I can say only a few really understood its significance .Nor is there any understanding of Buddhist or Daoist traditions that form the core of modern mindfulness.
Yes MBSR and MBCT arguably are simply tools. Like prescribing an anti-depressant MBSR/MBCT has become a “drug” to deal with stress and psychiatric disorders. I participate in, or used to before COVID, a monthly mindfulness group meeting headed by a psychiatrist at a local hospital. Yet try to talk about “being in the present moment” or “feeling as one” during meditation really no one understands these concepts. That is a shame to see that mindfulness may be just another RX script. A new nondrug drug. The way I see it taught within the hospital situation is that mindfulness is about a state of mind and not a state of how to live mindfully.
Now if it works to reduce or control stress and psychiatric conditions bravo!
But mindfulness living requires more than a technical sophistry if one wants to take that path. Should there be a value-based mindfulness? By this I mean a conscious attempt to import certain values into a mindful practice. Arguably if one becomes aware of these values isn’t one mindful of them?
Can we move beyond that shallow technical application of head towards a value-based mindfulness that involves principles of living and relating that involves more than a quick and dirty meditation that frees the mind from adverse reactions to life?
Perhaps this is something we should delve into? Are there principles of mindfulness that take us beyond the quick and dirty technical use of mindfulness and shape our lives to a more rich and rewarding intellectual existence beyond that trite “living in the present moment” expression. Well it is not that trite but in my experience it is trite as MBSR participants have absolutely no or little understanding of how it feels and how it means.
Yet should we have a cup of “mindful tea” wearing our mindful T-shirts. Or should we be suckered in by employers offering mindful courses to perhaps exploit and manipulate their employees. Hey, the employer says, we gave you the tools to manage stress so let’s put more responsibility on how as after all you have been “trained” to handle stress.
Let us delve deeper into what mindful living might encompass. Coming up a discussion on the 16 guidelines of life.
(The author is certified in mindfulness by the University of Toronto and the University of Leiden.)