Is Mindfulness Enough?
Over the past decade our media channels have been flooded with the marvels of mindfulness. It’s been embraced by celebrities, business leaders, politicians and athletes; and recommended by doctors, clergy, psychotherapists and prison wardens. Apps and bestselling books touting the benefits of mindfulness as well as meditation proliferate. Google “mindfulness” and you’ll get over 24 million hits. ”Are we in the midst of a “mindfulness revolution”? This movement presents mindfulness as the panacea for all ills ranging from individual unhappiness to lack of work productivity. And if so, can its claims be justified?
We know that mindfulness can improve quality of life, but one needs both present-moment awareness to see what is happening and the focus to create the change that is needed to reach our destiny. This is where being “just mindful” is not enough. It does not have any power to create a force for positive change and assure us that we will reach our destiny.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a mental skill that cultivates awareness in the here and now. It can serve as a means to help you take a skillful action. Unfortunately, popular “mindfulness training” often equates mindfulness practice with only observation, leading one to become self-absorbed in themselves. It certainly can lead to compassion and understanding; but this awareness must go one step further to serve the greater good of our existence.
The ancient tradition of mindfulness does indeed take this into account. However, the proactive training somehow got segmented out without taking the holistic view. In other words, mindfulness training (vipassana) developed in wisdom traditions contextualized the practice within a moral and holistic universe. The practice supported becoming more effective, mentally, in order to live ever more virtuously and serve to create the positive change in the self, community and nation. These were ancient traditions, but their message remains relevant today.
So why is Mindfulness not Enough?
Think of this scenario. You are out in the ocean riding waves on a water device perhaps a surf board, body board or kayak. You are out in the surf far from the beach where you set out. In fact you can see where you have left your belongings because there is an umbrella there. You want to ride a wave into the shore. So you watch the sets of waves; they usually come in patterns of three. You decide that the next one you will take into the shore. The cross currents are many and there are some that will take you south when you want to head to the north point where you have your umbrella set. You are mindful of the currents and where the shoreline is. If you just go with that, you will certainly ride the wave in, but will end up going south quite a distance from where you want to be. If you focus your mind on the shore point where you want to land, you will be able to guide your board along with the cross currents but will guide your board to the point where you want to end up. This example clearly shows that putting mindfulness into focus is needed if you are heading north and don’t want to end up south. Mindfulness in focus is most effective to reach your destination and accomplish your goal. This demonstrates that mindfulness alone is not enough.