Mindfulness For Sale

I started my meditation practice spontaneously when I was 17 years old. I remember it quite clearly. I’m not sure where I got the idea from, but I must have read something about it. At any rate, it was a hot summer day and I was at an enormous outdoor rock festival. I had just come out of a the mosh pit, having received several boots to the head and slams to the body. I was having a blast. But it was also pretty sore. I decided I needed a break so I headed down the gully away from the crowd and decided to just sit and hopefully recuperate.

I only remember the feeling of great light entering me, a sense of clarity and cool reprieve, and was shocked when I stood up that I felt refreshed and no longer sore in my previously aching head. I was sold – on whatever that was.

That was over twenty years ago now, and meditation has never been far from me in all those long years. Though this doesn’t by any means make me an expert, it gives me at least substantial experience. I’ve done my time in ashrams, monasteries, and science-based trainings.

And at this point, I have to say that a lot of this mindfulness movement pisses me off. don’t get me wrong – i think it is nothing short of a miracle that the Western world is embracing this idea en masse. It is currently on the cover of Time magazine. I mean, if we are to somehow not destroy ourselves and the planet, it is mindfulness that it going to be a necessary, germane factor in our diversion. But what grinds me is the fact that the people who are talking the most about it are often those who don’t have a very good experience of it personally.

They have read the science, they have perhaps sat with their eyes closed for a few minutes, they see the value of looking within. But again and again I hear them speak and they don’t seem to have any experince of it integrating into their lives.

Mindfulness is a practice whose greatest power comes if – and only if – we make it a way of being.

It is not merely a tool to relax at night. If it is, you are not really doing it right to begin with. It is not a technique for stress relief. That’s like saying the purpose of the sun is to look pretty in the sky.

It’s not a tool to achieve anything at all, except more mindfulness. It has no end besides its own means. That’s the whole point. And when you do that, you will see that the power is that in true mindfulness, you no longer need to achieve anything more.

Young therapists tend to be the most confused on this. And I don’t blame them. They read about it in textbooks at this point, by other authors who are themselves just citing research and statistics. They get this idea in their minds what it is, and then they end up in clinical settings telling their clients to ‘be mindful’ as a ‘cure for anxiety’.

Mindfulness isn’t a cure for anxiety. It is a cure for mindlessness. It is a cure for being lost in thought. And when you aren’t utterly identified with and a slave to your thinking, it just so happens that you will very likely experience very little anxiety.

The problem is – a person can’t fully understand this concept without experiencing it personally. And a person can’t experience this personally without (generally) creating a sustained, long-term practice of it. The texture of the mind is just too sticky.

So by all means go out and buy your Happy Meditation Package from a licensed McMindfullness store. But this is not fast food for thought. This is a food that only releases its integral ingredients when chewed a hundred times. Otherwise, you’re just gulping empty calories. They have use – inasmuch as they feed the starving. However, they do not strengthen the fed.

But yes, mindfulness is potentially the thing that we have all been waiting for, the push of the wave of consciousness that, though wrought with problems and of course not exempt from the commercialism, misunderstanding and outright misuse and appropriation that comes with our culture (not unlike yoga in these ways) may nudge our clarity enough to create real change. But if that is so, the change is going to come not from the quick-fix ideals of a cover story showing cute women with their eyes closed, but the real and thoughtful men and women who integrate the organic value of being truly mindful – and let themselves be changed by it from the inside out.

If mindfulness is a cure, it is not one that can be purchased. And that is perhaps why it could really be a cure. Stop buying the books and the incense and the youtube videos. Sit quietly. Be in this moment only. Notice your own mind with equanimity.

And then, try to stay there.