Sunday, January 24, 2016

The mindfulness trap

A friend shared this article about mindfulness meditation and its potential to harm on Facebook, and while its content flies in the face of what's the popular view of what mindfulness meditation can do for us, I feel that it's the important discussion that's not had most of the time when mindfulness meditation is talked about.

First, I've grown a bit tired of mindfulness because of the way it's bandied about nowadays. You're supposed to eat your food mindfully, taking time to really feel and experience every mouthful, and every damned thought and feeling attached to the experience. You're supposed to brush your teeth mindfully, make love mindfully, think mindfully, work mindfully and mindfully be mindful of your mindfulness in the most possible mindful way you can mindfully do. If you're not being mindful you're a jerk and an emotional neanderthal.

It's become a bit crazy.

We do this a lot us Westerners. We take a concept that's completely foreign to us and instead of slowly applying it, and thinking about how it applies to our situation and way of living, we jump right into it trying to achieve full guru status a.s.a.p. thinking that if we just follow "the recipe" we're going to find the sweet spot real soon because we're so damned clever.

Problem is we know how to think and how to be logical but most of us are incredibly out of touch with our emotions and feelings, and the complete lack of logic that's sometimes attached to them. A lot of us are emotional infants really. Most of us have no idea of how much crap we've suppressed and repressed over time, and how much of what's happened to us have affected us in a big way, and we're incredibly ill-equipped to deal with it.

We fail to realize that "undigested" emotional material is the root of our discord most of the time, and we're really bad at dealing with that, because we think we can "logic" ourselves out of anything. 

With mindfulness meditation you're going to come  up against the raw essence of that, of you, and it's going to happen pretty soon. You're going to come face to face with unstructured, illogical and conflicting thoughts, and that's just the minimum, and you're going to come to realize that your mind is a bloody liar and most of the time you're along for the ride, and it's a ride you thought you controlled but now you're seeing you're not. 

Holy crap, now you're out of control and it can get real ugly real soon depending on where you're at emotionally and intellectually.

When I first started meditating I did it to find peace. I didn't find peace and it was really annoying because I was wondering what I was doing wrong. I ended up opting for the holy holy grail of meditations, mindfulness meditation, and I was really surprised when it forced me to face a range of thoughts, feelings and emotions that I didn't actually know were part of me. I'm a pretty aware person so this brought me a kind of crisis of its own.

What happened to me though was that I ended up choosing to go back into therapy and as it turned out, I applied my mindfulness meditation "skills" to my therapy, and my therapist was really happy to work with that and with me while I was doing that. 

We agreed that me studying my thought patterns, learning about them, and finding out more about my own feelings and emotions without getting attached to them was a great way of starting out on my "healing journey". I was seeing him regularly; I was digesting it by telling him about it. What we were doing though was gathering data and while that worked for me and my therapist it won't work for everyone. The most important part of it is though that when he saw we had  gathered "enough data" he told me that now I had to "parent myself" out of the emotional turmoil. In other words, enough of trying to apply logic to this, now you have to feel those emotions and feelings, and you have to be the grown up at the same time in the same way you would when raising a child.

Make no mistake, this was not an easy thing to do.

As the article I linked to in the beginning of this post says, corporations are now regularly giving their employees the opportunity to do mindfulness meditation as a way of reducing stress. As the article also points out they do this rather than dealing with the cause of the stress. The first problem with that is that your mindfulness meditator will a lot of the time actually start seeing how damned destructive the stressful situation is for them. In order to keep existing in that environment they have to suppress again, I'm sure you're seeing where I'm going with this, they're compounding the problem. This is actually kind of a best case scenario believe it or not.

I remember years ago when we were offered yoga at work. I would do yoga for an hour at lunch time twice a week, and it soon become abundantly clear to me that I was going to leave every session being deeply depressed. I talked to the yoga teacher about it, and she was good I may add, but I got no real reason for it or support from her for it. She just didn't know what was going on and perhaps she shouldn't have either.

I know now that the depression I felt, and it was deep and dark depression that I would feel until (you guessed it) managed to suppress it again, was most likely suppressed and repressed emotions that were "stored in my body". It happens a lot when people get massages. They end up balling their eyes out and a good masseur/masseuse knows what that's all about. If I had known then what I know today I would have hiked off to therapy right away and it's quite likely that I would have actually been able to avoid having a nervous breakdown at all.

I'm pretty aware when it comes to myself, at least nowadays, but I'll say it again; most of us just don't know ourselves that well. We won't have done the work unless something in our life isn't working big time, is causing us real pain and is forcing us to. No one ever jumps on the self-help bandwagon or heads into therapy because they feel happy or even just OK. 

We need to become mindful (yes, I went there and I used that word) about how we apply what's essentially self-healing techniques sans aid and support of truly qualified people. We need to get smarter there. There's actually such a thing as going through major recovery and healing in a controlled way, over time and with the full knowledge of the process but it requires support. We can't go this alone; we can never go this alone!  This band-aid/"I can do it because I think mentality" is not serving and if you want to meddle in mindfulness you have to do it fully prepared to come face to face with your emotions and be completely aware that some of that shit is going to be real ugly; things are going to get real ugly for a while.

We can save ourselves but it requires an awareness that most of us just don't have. If you're really going to mindfully meditate book an appointment with a reputable therapist first. Just in case.

I'm just saying.

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