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  • Writer's pictureChristoph Spiessens

A Common Misconception About Mindfulness Meditation

“Positive vibes only.” 

Yes, there are many forms of #meditation that can make you feel good.

But this is not the aim of Mindfulness meditation. It is not about happiness or relaxation. 

The aim of Mindfulness meditation is freedom. 

Freedom from self-perpetuating routines that keep us trapped, like rumination (repetitive self-critical negative thinking, often unconscious).

This is why some people tend to “teacher hop,” going from one teacher to the next, hoping that the new teacher will say something nicer than the previous one; make things a bit easier; add more “positive vibes.” (Although clearly it is important to feel safe with your teacher and find one you resonate with.)

You see, nothing in Mindfulness training is random. 

A “popular” practice like the Body Scan, for example, is not about calm and relaxation. It is about learning to notice the flux of sensations and stay present with the body as it is, even when unpleasant sensations are present. (Again, safety first, do not push yourself.)

Wanting to avoid the unpleasant is natural, but avoidance is a vulnerability that can exacerbate stress by driving maladaptive coping strategies (including rumination). 

Instead, we come to know the difference between direct sensations and our related thoughts and emotions so these can pass without rumination.

During genuine mindfulness practice, we are introduced to the core mindfulness principle of learning to be with what is, without changing or controlling the situation. This cultivates additional mindfulness attitudes like non-judging and acceptance. (Please note: this does not mean blindly accepting things for the sake of being “mindful,” e.g., racism or other forms of injustice.)

Overall, bringing a more compassionate attention to the body can thus dissolve the link between the unpleasantness of discomfort and the automatic reaction of avoidance. This won’t always come with a momentary pleasant “vibe,” but it may well help you cultivate a lasting skill for #life

References: Crane, 2017; Feldman & Kuyken, 2019;  Kabat-Zinn, 2013; Segal et al., 2018.

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