Mindfulness is the current “new kid on the block”; Guest Blogger and Senior Clinical Psychologist Martin Seager sounds a few notes of caution.
Mindfulness is not new – it’s a western branding and techniquification of some eastern religious ideas and pan-religious spiritual concepts that are ancient: it is a fashion, a gimmick and a bandwagon. The techniques were already there in hypnosis and meditation and relaxation practices and people in our empty materialistic world are reaching for some kind of new panacea with a marketable label and the current fashion says more about the ongoing crude search for a simple answer to life’s problems than about the true complexity of the human spirit.
In order to help another human being psychologically you have to connect with them in a meaningful relationship over time – there is no substitute for that whatever your culture, creed or religion; if mindfulness is a call to relaxation, meditation and spirituality then fine, but why dress it up as something new?
People are gullible and like something that doesn’t involve pain, suffering or facing up to the darker and more complex aspects of their psychological lives – the less you want to face the dark side of human existence – goodness knows our history of greed, corruption, warfare, empire-building and genocide should tell us that there is a darker side- the more “mindfulness” appeals to you. It is bland, unthinking (mindless) and it won’t be long before you can buy units of mindfulness from Argos; there will soon be programmes on TV like “Grow bigger marrows the mindful way!”
What would be nice is if science recognised the importance of mind as a true dimension in the universe alongside time and space – that would be a serious and valuable paradigm shift; we might then address the mind in “mental” health rather than medicalising it whilst slapping a bit of pseudo-religion on top just to make it sound deep. It took me years of training and experience to learn how to get close to the minds of other people with my own – it is hard and slow work and requires vocational study over years; however, what we will get is imposed, government-approved brief mindfulness lectures, mindfulness GCSEs and mindfulness workshops and, no doubt, diplomas in mindfulness will be trotted about by “life coaches” who will claim massive changes in the lives of the wretched at reasonable prices from their elegant private therapy mansions (have you seen the “Speakmans” on ITV?)
I am reminded of the Harry Enfield character who was a shop owner selling all kinds of rubbish to posh women in Kensington at extortionate prices pretending it was “deep” – his catchphrase was “I saw you coming” – I think the same will be seen to apply to mindfulness” when we look back.
Mindfulness is also insulting to Buddhists – if we took some bits out of Christianity and sold them split from Christian faith as “cures” or “techniques” we should rightly be lynched.