We interrupt this themed blog series for important commentary! I just finished reading an article from Tricycle.com entitled From Monastery to Marketplace in which the author (who himself is promoting a book about Buddhist Meditation and American Culture) is quite disparaging about lay people teaching, promoting and “selling mindfulness.” While I agree with the author that it might be taking things a bit too far to market “mindful mayonnaise” and “mindful makeup,” I take exception to his comments about medical professionals, yoga teachers, and other credibly trained non-monks teaching the physiological and psychosocial benefits of mindfulness and other contemplative practices.
My response to his article: “I’m a Licensed Mental health Counselor in practice in Cambridge, MA. Every day I see how mindfulness improves and sometimes saves the lives of overwhelmed and isolated young adults. I’ve spent a lot of time learning about the art and science of mindfulness. I’m not a monk, and yes, mindfulness is a marketing meme these days, but the fact that it has become mainstream doesn’t diminish its power and gift. Let’s not discourage lay people and ‘householders’ from passing on the torch of mindfulness in a responsible way, especially in the era of constant distraction.”
Should we not promote mindfulness, especially now that we know about the myriad health benefits to individuals and the positive impact it can have in our culture? Should we instead promote the latest smart phone or the best dating website? Maybe a better question is why shouldn’t we apply the same marketing techniques to a freely accessible tool for wellness that we do to a possible harmful product?
The Author of this article might be interested to know that the suicide rate for teens and young adults has more than doubled since 1950, and that effective mental health care, connectedness and problem solving skills are important protective factors against self-harm. I use mindfulness as the primary intervention in my therapy practice to foster these protective factors. Sure, sometimes we need a catchy blog title to get a young person’s attention, but I personally don’t know any hard-working clinician who is getting rich off of mindfulness.
It is said that the Buddha taught 86,000 different forms of meditation so that he could, with his great compassion, share his enlightenment with as many people as possible. I think he would get a chuckle out of our earnest attempts to promote this wholesome discipline to the next generation. Of course mindfulness can’t cure all of our mental suffering, but it at least gives us a way to plant seeds.
We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!