Although Mindfulness has been touted as a modern cure for various maladies, from reducing fear to improving our immune system, research shows 25% of meditators suffer adverse effects. We have shared that mindfulness is not a form of formal meditation. There is more to mindfulness than just being absorbed in the present moment. Mindfulness practice is subtle and requires wise discernment. In this post, we explore why there are bad effects from practicing mindfulness,
What is Mindfulness?
Another word for mindfulness is awareness. We mostly understand this word intellectually, but not experientially. We recognize awareness as being self-aware and being aware of our external environment. For example, we can say we are aware that temperature has changed because we can feel the weather becoming extreme. We are also self-aware, especially when others may criticize us. We become self-aware by reacting to the criticism either by self-loathing or wanting to retaliate.
When it comes to mindfulness, the mind has been trained to recognize how thoughts arise from outer conditions. Self-awareness to a mindful practitioner is different because s/he does not react first (although this is not possible all the time as it takes sustained training). In fact, the mindful practitioner does not believe most of his/her thoughts, clearly understanding they do not provide the whole truth. Moreover, the mindful practitioner knows that each thought passes away quickly if s/he does not hold onto it. Some thoughts are very helpful but unfortunately, most are negative (any subtle thought of criticism towards self or others is negative). A mindfulness practitioner also recognizes helpful thoughts and acts upon them. Unfortunately, we act more on negative and frivolous thoughts.
Why Do People Suffer Bad Effects from Mindfulness?
Well-being cannot be attained by suppression or distraction. However, many of us suppress our feelings, even during meditation. Otherwise, we are absorbed by strong thoughts while in meditation. Feelings and thoughts of anxiety and unhappiness are usually suppressed in an untrained mind. We have trained ourselves to suppress, repress and avoid feelings and thoughts we dislike for a very long time and are skilled at it. Suppressing emotions do not lead to well-being. We do not investigate how emotions arise. That is because we are busy being lost in pleasurable feelings and pushing away unpleasant feelings. Emotions are caused by thinking about a particular topic for a sustained amount of time. For example, a person who fears an anxiety attack would be hoping not to suffer an attack when not having one. This hope of not wanting anxiety is a thought of anxiety itself. The more an anxious person hopes not to suffer anxiety, the more likely s/he may suffer it.
How to Experience Good Effects of Mindfulness
Mindfulness cannot be strengthened when the mind is not trained. We spend our days cleaning our bodies, taking care of them with exercise and a good diet. But seldom do we clean and train our minds with good food and exercise. The mind is a habitual creature. If we feed the mind with foods of good thoughts for a sustained amount of time, we can be sure to feel positive emotions. Have we ever feared being attacked by happiness and lasting bliss? No. We don’t even wish for it.
Rather, we wish for happiness by hoping we can have a good job and income. We worry about not finding a partner or being anxious about having some disease. These thoughts develop negative feelings just like the thought of hoping not to have an anxiety attack. If we truly wish for happiness, why do we not let go of worrying thoughts? We have the power to replace unruly thoughts with happy ones, such as thoughts of gratitude, forgiveness, and love. Ask yourself, how often are you aware of the kind of thoughts that arise in your mind? If you are aware, how often do you replace unhappy thoughts with thoughts of love? We seem to cling to thoughts of worry and anxiety because of familiarity – like an abused wife who is used to being with her lousy husband.
Change the Horror Movie in Your Mind with Mindfulness
Most of us still believe that well-being can only be attained by being assured by others, or from the kindness of others. Take time and stop. Look around you. Listen to conversations around you. What are people saying? Can you really depend on them, even your loved ones to give you happiness? Even if someone in our life is really kind, we often take them for granted. Or else, we want more from them to feel even more secure. That is because we are all very clear that the person we depend on can change his or her mind or can leave us through death. Otherwise, we want to talk about the anxieties and criticism bubbling in our minds to unload these negative feelings. Unfortunately, talking about it only increase these thoughts. If we want to talk about it, we must have the wisdom to know how to approach it without causing the mind to think more about it.
Therefore, replace unease with ease in your heart. Another way to put it is to change the horror movie playing in your mind with mindfulness as an aid. Mindfulness is like a regular gym you go to in order to cleanse and train your mind. Practice mindfulness correctly and it shall be a useful tool for you. Get in touch with us for an 8-week mindfulness course.