Meditation has a deep history in all spiritual traditions as a path toward compassion and insight. It has also been practiced in many as a means to get to the root of suffering, and, possibly, overcome suffering’s wounds and causes. Today, however, the often simplified practice of mindfulness sets stress relief and individual happiness as goals of meditative practice. The move toward a practice that is a panacea to all that ills and a path toward self-actualization has led many critics to point out the flaws in this thinking (or non-thinking, as it were), especially in light of meditation’s long history. So much personal benefit is promised by mindfulness acolytes that I’m finding the practice described as snake oil with increasing frequency. Happiness, while a noble goal, is a luxury in a world filled with so much suffering. It’s also a state that many who meditate deeply never experience. Pain is just as likely to surface during meditative practice as pleasure is. Yet the way mindfulness is sold today leaves one who is not achieving less stress and more bliss feeling like they’re doing it all wrong. They may be, in fact, closer to meditation’s true purpose than any who promise happiness.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
I’ve written of the discipline it takes to maintain both a meditation practice and wellness in the face of mental illness as a keystone of my success in the face of the challenges of bipolar disorder. In a world that seems designed to limit our impulse control and our attention, for everything is available right now, it almost becomes a struggle to make the sacrifices required to stick to one thing and realize a positive accomplishment of a reasonable goal. This isn’t just a challenge facing those with mental illness, it’s a challenge facing everyone.