Mindfulness is a popular buzzword these days. While spotlighting tools to help us navigate the stresses of daily life are arguably a positive thing, the trendiness may also diminish the message and blind us to what mindfulness actually means. As a recent article by Seth Gillihan, Ph. D., explored, “Is Mindfulness More Than a 10-Minute Hack?”
A few years ago my wife told me an amusing story about something that happened on the way to her yoga class. As she drove there, she was tailgated aggressively by a driver in a fancy sports car. When she was able to get over to let him pass, he zipped dangerously close as he sped around her car and quickly changed lanes to pass the car ahead of him.
When my wife arrived at the studio, she was surprised to see the same car in the parking lot, and the man setting up his yoga mat in her class! We laughed when she told me the story because he fit a certain stereotype of the person who does mindfulness practices like yoga or meditation but doesn’t seem to partake of the deeper elements of the practice—someone who might push ahead of you after meditation class to get their kale detox smoothie, picking up where they left off in their frantic lives.
Well before this incident I’d wondered if the popularization of mindfulness—”McMindfulness,” as some have called it—had hollowed out its core. Could this potentially transformative practice be distilled to a 10-minute-a-day “hack” for better relationships, concentration, and mood? To be honest, I asked this question of my own practice, which felt rather tacked on to my life-as-usual.
I explored this issue in my recent discussion with author and mindfulness teacher Ora Nadrich on the Think Act Be podcast.
Nadrich recently wrote Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity, which offers ways to bring mindful awareness into every area of our lives. She noted the tension between bringing mindfulness to as many people as possible and maintaining the integrity of the practice.
“I’m very inclusive,” Nadrich said. “You don’t have to be sitting on a mountaintop as a Buddhist monk to experience these things.” Like many teachers of mindfulness, she aims to bring age-old practices into the modern experience. The approachability of westernized mindfulness has drawn countless people to it, including me.
At the same time, she noted a “watering down” and commodification of mindfulness “that only uses some aspects of it, and doesn’t require the work.” And while the concept of mindfulness is extremely simple—”being present in the moment with acceptance and non-judgment”—it’s not at all easy to practice.
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