What does it mean to be mindful? Does it mean to be aware? To remember? To understand? To be thoughtful? Our current concept of “mindfulness” is more akin to meditative practices long associated with Buddhist practice. The college town in Indiana where I live has many venues for meditation and yoga. Is it an innocent “calming” practice or are there potential negative effects? Is it like “prayer without God” as some say? My colleague, Anna Bowness-Park, writing for the June 29, 2015 edition of The Vancouver Sun, helps us to get a balanced view of meditation and mindfulness practices. Here’s Anna:
“Meditation is very much like cooking lentils. The scum rises to the surface when you are doing this.”
It’s an intriguing observation made by psychologist Dr. Miguel Farias during an interview on CBC radio regarding the book, The Buddha Pill: Can meditation change you?, which he co-wrote with Dr. Catherine Wikholm. This analogy, which Farias heard from a meditation guru in India spoke to him about the more challenging effects of the practice.
Numerous studies have shown the positive side of meditation – how it can calm us and reconnect us to some aspect of our inner selves, resulting in positive health effects. There are even some studies that claim it can change our brains and our whole nature. Farias and Wikholm spent time gathering and analyzing a wide array of recent studies and the claims made, based on these studies. They were particularly interested in the challenges – rather than the benefits – meditation can present. Their research took them from prison cells to ashrams, from Christian mystics to ordinary individuals – all with stories to share….