Thursday, October 12, 2017

"mindfulness" is bullshit

If the concept of mindfulness isn't utter bullshit, then it is, at the very least, overhyped—or so argues this article, titled "'Mindfulness' Is a Meaningless Word with Shoddy Science Behind It." A taste:

The benefits of meditation may have been seriously overhyped, a group of psychologists, neuroscientists, Buddhist scholars and mindfulness teachers warn—and the evidence to support mindfulness as a treatment certainly has been.

A new study by a multidisciplinary group of researchers at several universities calls out the "misinformation and propagation of poor research methodology" that pervade much of the evidence behind the benefits of mindfulness. They focus in particular on the problem of defining the word mindfulness and on how the effects of the practice are studied.


Much of the research around meditation and mindfulness has serious flaws, the authors state. Among those flaws: using various definitions for mindfulness, not comparing results to a control group of people who did not meditate and not using good measurements for mindfulness.

"I'll admit to [having drunk] the Kool-Aid a bit myself. I’m a practicing meditator, and I have been for over 20 years," David Vago told Newsweek. A research director at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt University, he is one of the study's authors. "A lot of the data that's out there is still premature," he said.

The revelation is particularly disconcerting in light of how big of a business meditation has become. A veritable industry, the practice brings in around $1 billion annually, according to Fortune. That industry includes apps, classes and medical treatments.

My advice, when it comes to Zen meditation, at least, is just to keep things simple and truncate any lofty expectations. Zen, in the literature, often refers to itself as "nothing special," which is a crucial point to remember. Don't go to meditation looking for miracles. It's just sitting, after all—the attainment (or maybe the non-attainment!) of "ordinary mind."

(My essay on Zen meditation is here.)

1 comment:

Charles said...

I read the title and at first thought it was a koan. Will have to give the article a read later.