Mindfulness is just meditation.
Many people learn and develop mindfulness skills through practising mindfulness meditation. However, there are many other ways of learning and practising mindfulness that don’t require you to learn meditation.
Mindfulness is about controlling thoughts.
Thoughts will arise and just come and go. That’s how our minds are designed to work. Mindfulness is about being aware that we are thinking these thoughts, then allowing them to pass as they inevitably will. Believing that mindfulness is a way of controlling these thoughts is getting stuck in the usual trap of thinking there must be a ‘fix’ for this problem. Undesirable thoughts are part of a healthy mind. We don’t need to try and control them if we’ve learned to control how we respond to them.
Mindfulness is about relaxation.
No, this is a common misconception. Many people feel less stressed and more relaxed after practicing mindfulness, however this is a common side-effect of practice, not the goal. The point of mindfulness is to change the relationship we have with thoughts so that we don’t get carried away by them. Those people who choose to use meditation to develop mindfulness can find that after meditating they feel more relaxed. For some people, some of the time relaxation is just a natural consequence of sitting still and being focused on one thing. It is not the objective of the meditation.
Mindfulness is just another ‘technique’.
Hopefully, the rest of this document has shown you that this is not the case. Mindfulness is a lifestyle you can choose to adopt. Like any new lifestyle, it will take time and effort for you to develop and maintain it. The fruits of the practice are more than worth the effort.
Mindfulness is dangerous.
Mindfulness is completely safe, however some people with severe anxiety or trauma problems experience difficulties when learning mindfulness through meditation practice. It’s essential they have experienced support when learning new meditation skills. Historically, teaching mindfulness was done by teacher to pupil or within communities. These were all religious because these were the only organised groups for centuries. When difficulties came up for a person there was support; often there were physical structures such as the place they were, emotional and ethical structures to support the individual. All of us have deep dark thoughts that come up every so often. They do take time for us to understand them and come to terms with them. Some people rush into meditation and mindfulness too fast, they may get immersed in many of these thoughts without giving themselves the time to assimilate them. There is no evidence that people practising the standard ‘mindfulness-in life’ approaches will have deep dark scary thoughts coming up that they’re not previously aware of.
Mindfulness will make me happy.
Unfortunately, it’s not a ‘virtual happy pill’. Mindfulness will however allow you to be aware of when you’re getting carried away by unhelpful thoughts and being taken off to places that are not good for you, or doing things that can harm your long-term happiness. Mindfulness gives you the opportunity to choose to take actions that are rewarding and meaningful to you, that will take you towards a rich and full life. It will make it easier to choose to do things that you value, even if you’re likely to see the odd monster-donkey. The monster donkeys will no longer have the power to stop you doing what you want to do.
Mindfulness is a religion.
This is incorrect, it’s to do with our ability to notice things, not believe in things. Originally it was only the religious communities that had the resources to develop and teach mindfulness skills and meditation (see above). People with or without faith benefit equally from developing mindfulness skills. It asks you to believe nothing; it asks you to look at your own experiences as they’re happening and learn from that.
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