What mindfulness is not

There are some common misunderstandings about mindfulness that can undermine its practise, or even prevent people from trying it in the first place.

Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Mindfulness is a religion: This is not true. While mindfulness is most commonly associated with Buddhism (because of their emphasis on the practise for personal & community growth) it is not, in itself, religious. An analogy would be the drinking of red wine and eating of bread, which can be associated with the Christian faith, but are not in themselves religious. Eating bread and drinking red wine do not make people become a Christian.
  • Mindfulness is a relaxation practise: This is also not true. Relaxation may happen, but equally it may not. We can be mindful of the fact that we are relaxed or we can be mindful of the fact we are stressed and tense. What’s important is our openness to these feelings and not struggling against them. After all, relaxation (and sleep!) tend to occur most readily when we ‘let go’, rather than force them to happen.
  • Mindfulness is about having a clear/empty mind: Perhaps the most common myth of all. Experienced meditators may think just as much as beginners. However, experienced meditators watch the mind thinking, rather than participate in its stories. If you like, experienced meditators sit at the back of the cinema, watching the movie, rather than being on-screen and stuck in the action.
  • Mindfulness is selfish and lazy: Absolutely not. Mindfulness is an act of self-compassion rather than selfishness. An analogy would be: stealing someone else’s lunch, which is selfish, however, taking your own lunch with you is self-compassion. Mindfulness is not at anybody else’s expense. In fact, it caring for others is important to us, it would be wise to care for ourselves too. We will also learn that being ‘still’ and doing nothing/being lazy are really quite different.