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The Problem with Mindfulness (nautil.us)
18 points by dnetesn on March 30, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 8 comments

For the first year of my mindfulness practice, I cheerily recommended meditation to acquaintances who were struggling with anxiety and a lack of joy. After a harrowing experience of dissolution that lasted for several weeks, I realized that mindfulness isn't just calm and pleasant experiences. I still continue to practice and it does bring me joy but I no longer recommend this particular practice to anyone who has a rocky past and a limited support system and just wants to feel 'good'. For that, I think diet, exercise, and sleep are safe bets.

Do you mind elaborating on your "harrowing experience of dissolution"? I've been practicing for less than a year now and I'm curious about your experience.

It happened while i was meditating for 1-2 hours a day sitting up and then lying down on my couch and practicing for another hour or two. At some point, I looked at my feet at the end of the couch and I didn't recognize them as 'mine'. I felt in to my body and no longer identified with the sensations. Not particularly unpleasant on its own, but it was coupled with a sensation of doom that was similar to coming up on a hallucinogen and hearing news that someone you knew died. The fear and sensation of pressure and stress lasted for about 2-3 weeks, all day, every day. It was an inescapable sense of doom. I did not feel any sense of compassion or joy that I had heard arise in conjunction with my other symptoms. Eventually, the feeling passed. Now I make sure to explicitly cultivate a sense of self-compassion and my 'lows' have been a lot less fearful. I do have a history of depression and have been diagnosed with ptsd so if you're relatively healthy and generally feel okay about life I wouldn't be too worried about such an experience in everyday practice. I also remembering that maybe the event was something meaningful and 'dove in'. I kept meditating in isolation. In hindsight I could have pulled back a little bit. While I have had one or two episodes similar to that since, I understand they're momentary and instead of meditating, I distract myself with tv or something similar.

I really think this, your incidents here are something you need to go and discuss with a nice psychologist. You shouldn't have to bear these kinds of things alone, and there are healthy solutions to this.

Take care.

it is the knowing and experience of no self / anatta. You've been told this and nothing compares to experiencing it as a certainty and truth. That the you you thought you were is not real and never was. Suddenly there is an existential crisis. If I am not real then what is the point? Serious anxiety and horror from this but it passes as a new reality asserts itself. The ego still exists but you're no longer trapped all in there and can see it separate from that which is aware.

This happens when the person is not calm/tranquil enough to handle the realization of no self (emptiness). One should also develop tranquility / calmness by doing samatha meditation (like anapana). With having developed tranquility the realization of no-self and emptiness are easier to handle.

I lead a small group of people twice a week in mindfulness practice. I agree wholeheartedly with what this article is saying. Mindfulness has been sold as the latest snake oil, a cure for all ills. It is not, and it should not be taught that way. Mindfulness is the benefit of practice, not the salve for our wounds.

Yes. Mindfulness is not about just being present during pleasurable moments. A lot of the value, to me, is being present when my mind or expectations conflict with the world around us. That leads to an examination of ourselves, insight, and ultimately growth. This is very different than the withdrawl into feel good moments, which is what is often sold to us.

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