You don’t have to spend long searching the internet to come across all sorts of myths about mindfulness. Here are five very common mindfulness myths:
1. Mindfulness is a relaxation technique
This is one of the most common misconceptions about mindfulness. Mindfulness isn’t a relaxation technique, although it is often used as such. Instead, mindfulness is a particular way of training our attention so that we’re less vulnerable to mind wandering and the suffering this can sometimes cause. However, one of the happy side effects of this ‘mind training’ is that we may experience less stress and feel more relaxed.
2. Mindfulness is about emptying the mind
This is another popular myth about mindfulness. Mindfulness isn’t about emptying the mind. Instead, mindfulness is about being fully aware of what’s happening right now, both in relation to our thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations, as well as in relation to what’s going on around us. Rather than emptying the mind, mindfulness is about being in a different kind of relationship with our inner world.
3. Mindfulness practice involves doing something with the breath
Kind of, but not quite. There is a key mindfulness practice called ‘mindfulness of the breath’ which involves observing the breath. However, we are not ‘doing’ anything with the breath. Rather we are ‘being’ with the breath, just as it is; that is to say, we are noticing it without trying to change it in any way. It’s an excellent way of bringing our attention into the present moment. The breath, after all, is only ever found in the present moment.
4. Mindfulness is about acceptance, so that means we have to put up with whatever life throws our way
Mindfulness is indeed about accepting our experience just as it is. After all, struggling against something which is already here is pretty pointless and just increases our stress levels. However, from a position of acceptance we have the space to start to notice whether what’s happening is conducive to our wellbeing or in line with our values so that we can take wise remedial action.
5. Mindfulness is an insular, ‘all about me’ practice
While mindfulness includes observation of our internal world (thoughts, emotions, sensations) which allows us to get to know ourselves better, the practice is also outward-looking and involves recognition of our place within a connected humanity. Mindfulness incorporates a strong compassionate element for others and for the world we live in, as well as for ourselves.
© Michelle Drapeau, 2019
I provide private, 1:1 programmes specifically for people struggling with stress and anxiety: Shine for Wellbeing, a 6 week programme of mindfulness-based therapeutic coaching, and Better Living, a 5 week introduction to mindfulness. I also run group courses, workshops and seminars. I am based in Buckinghamshire, just 15 minutes from Milton Keynes, Buckingham and Aylesbury.
(Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash)