Myths About Mindfulness

  • Mindfulness will make you weak and you will lose your drive for success
  • Mindfulness is concentration
  • You can’t meditate because your mind is very active
  • Thoughts and emotions are distractions
  • You are supposed to be mindful throughout your day
  • Mindfulness is unsettling
  • Mindfulness is a religious practice

MYTH: Mindfulness will make you weak and you will lose your drive for success. In fact, mindfulness will make you more resilient and motivated. This is because the practice helps you lose the stress and all the other problems (difficult thoughts and emotions) that get in your way to pursue your passion.

MYTH: Mindfulness is concentration. While there are concentration meditations, mindfulness meditation is not one of these. Now, over time you will become more concentrated as you shed the difficult thoughts and emotions that distract you. But for starts, don’t think about mindfulness being a purely concentration exercise. By letting go of the idea this is a concentration exercise, you’ll find it easier to meditate because when your attention wanders (which it will) you won’t immediately feel like a meditation failure.

MYTH: You can’t meditate because your mind is very active. Have an active mind? No problem. When you are mindful you just notice “wow, my mind is going crazy with activity” …and just notice this without judgment. In fact, only when you notice your active mind this way do you have any hope for your mind to settle down.

MYTH: Thoughts and emotions are distractions. Some meditation traditions focus on suppressing thoughts, emotions and body sensations or view these as distractions. For example, some people think meditation is a process to clear the mind of thoughts. But with mindfulness meditation, thoughts, emotions and body sensations are just other things to pay wise attention to. Finally, even in the deepest states of meditation, there is always some directed thought.

MYTH: You are supposed to be mindful throughout your day. If you are thinking this way, you will be sadly disappointed. In fact, as noted earlier you need to rely on your instantaneous reactions for many activities you engage in during daily life. A much better way to make sense of this is by continuing the skill analogy noted above. You practice a skill so that when it’s necessary you can use the skill in daily life. In the same way, you practice mindfulness when you find yourself in situations where stress is arising you can use your mindfulness skill. If you are going to focus on one aspect of mindfulness during the day, check in with your body to see if any stress is starting to build.

MYTH: Mindfulness is unsettling. Some people who have commented in the media point out the potential problems of a mindfulness practice. One problem they comment on is based on hearing that mindfulness is meta-cognition (I’m breathing in and know I’m breathing in), which they say leads to being dissociated with one’s emotions. But mindfulness doesn’t turn away from our emotions, thinking or body sensations – we turn towards these experiences. Some people can indeed experience strong emotions during meditation, but our teachers are well aware of this and show them how to process these emotions and, when necessary, refer them to professional psychological services.

MYTH: Mindfulness is a religious practice. Mindfulness does come from Buddhism, but the practice is secular and does not rely on any religion. As such, mindfulness can be practiced along with any religion.