Mindfulness is now ubiquitous among people who are drawn towards creating a better life for themselves using various methods, such as living in the moment, being kind and compassionate, not judging other people and meditating. What’s not to like?
While there’s no doubt that mindfulness is growing in popularity, it has also received its fair share of criticism over the years. Described as a cult, selfish and an escape from reality, we felt compelled to write a post to debunk the common myths that are out there.
While some of the below misconceptions may seem far-fetched, they are all topics that have been spoken about on national TV and radio shows, wide-reaching blogs and highly influential magazines.
Here are six common misconceptions about mindfulness:
1) “It’s a Cult”
A cult is a system where an exclusive group of members express idolisation toward a person or thing. Cults have strict rules in place, which must be obeyed, and individuality is often erased.
Mindfulness, on the other hand, is not a belief system; it is simply a way of life. Based on love, compassion and awareness, mindfulness is an individual journey that leads to inner peace, joy, and a simple yet profound knowing that everything is just as it’s supposed to be.
A cult offers a very limited way of life, whereas mindfulness is a gateway to mental freedom.
2) “Mindful People are Selfish”
Mindfulness has been described as selfish for the reason that people practising it spend too much time focusing on themselves. Being stuck in the day-to-day running of life, with a constant attachment to our thoughts, can cause us to neglect our inner needs. People who practise mindfulness release themselves from any afflictions, making them better equipped to help others.
It is not selfish to seek happiness, and, in order to make the world a better place, we must start by improving ourselves.
Mindfulness inspires people to come from a place of love, and rather than judge others, support them. When we feel a deep peace within, we become more compassionate and connected with other people and animals, especially those in need, and it is this compassion that drives us to make positive change.
3) “It’s Just a Moneymaking Business”
In this day and age, with the proliferation of the internet, information about mindfulness is readily available at most people’s fingertips. There are millions of articles, videos and even books that can be accessed for free.
There’s no denying that the self-help industry has exploded in recent years and that’s because more and more people are beginning to understand the benefits of living life on purpose. Books and courses are now considered to be very effective in helping people to understand more about mindfulness and incorporate it into their daily lives.
4) “Mindfulness is a Religion”
Mindfulness is a state of awareness on the present moment; it primarily means paying attention to what is happening right now, without judging.
Religion is a ritualistic system of beliefs, behaviours and ethics, which are used to worship a god or, group of gods. Religious followers hold a firm belief that their religion is the only true faith; this often causes conflict, alienation and even war.
Unlike religion, mindful people tend not to judge themselves or other people; they understand universal love and are geared towards achieving a sense of peace.
Mindfulness is sometimes practised alongside other religions, or with no religion at all.
5) “To be Mindful You Have to Stop Thinking”
The theory here is that mindfulness involves getting rid of all thoughts. Trying to stop yourself from thinking would involve thought, so this practice would be counterproductive.
When we practise mindfulness we are not aiming to stop thinking, but rather bring our attention to the present moment, and be aware of any thoughts that pass. In turn, we become the awareness behind the thought. The aim is to maintain this awareness because, until doing so, we are trapped in our thoughts.
Sure, some thoughts are useful – mindfulness doesn’t discount that – but only when the thoughts relate to whatever is happening in the here and now. Your thoughts are a self-serving tool; they are not supposed to control you. Any thinking that involves planning, arranging or learning, is practical though, and thoughts can be very helpful in these instances.
6) “Mindfulness is Used to Escape Reality”
Contrary to this belief, mindfulness is used to confront reality; to take a look inside, face issues head-on and accept everything exactly as it is. This doesn’t involve escaping life, it means viewing it from a different, calmer perspective.
Whereas, when we are fully absorbed by thought, we remove ourselves from the present moment and live a falsehood created by the ego and our thoughts. Repetitive thoughts cause us to spend most of our time thinking about past or future events, which removes us from the reality of the now and creates a fantasy in our minds.