Is mindfulness making us ill?

As a life long skeptic I have always found the number of otherwise intelligent people who fall for New Age mumbo jumbo to be mind blowing.

After having my mind truly expanded by people like  Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller, Carl Sagan and other scientists, futurists and artists I watched people fall for bullshit like Scientology and est.

As an atheist I was appalled at the number of feminist women who fell for crap like homeopathy, crystals, feng shui, wicca and the whole panoply of questionable practices.

Granted all of the above are just as valid as any religion but that is the point.  Why go to all the effort to reject a traditional religion with great holidays only to embrace one with crappy at best holidays?

I am further appalled by health plans that pay for all this “alternative medicine.”  As Tim Minchin pointed out, “There is a name for alternative medicine that works, it is called medicine.

From The Guardian UK:

It’s the relaxation technique of choice, popular with employers and even the NHS. But some have found it can have unexpected effects

Saturday 23 January 2016

I am sitting in a circle in a grey, corporate room with 10 housing association employees – administrators, security guards, cleaners – eyes darting about nervously. We are asked to eat a sandwich in silence. To think about every taste and texture, every chewing motion and bite. Far from being relaxed, I feel excruciatingly uncomfortable and begin to wonder if my jaw is malfunctioning. I’m here to write about a new mindfulness initiative, and since I’ve never to my knowledge had any mental health issues and usually thrive under stress, I anticipate a straightforward, if awkward, experience.

Then comes the meditation. We’re told to close our eyes and think about our bodies in relation to the chair, the floor, the room: how each limb touches the arms, the back, the legs of the seat, while breathing slowly. But there’s one small catch: I can’t breathe. No matter how fast, slow, deep or shallow my breaths are, it feels as though my lungs are sealed. My instincts tell me to run, but I can’t move my arms or legs. I feel a rising panic and worry that I might pass out, my mind racing. Then we’re told to open our eyes and the feeling dissipates. I look around. No one else appears to have felt they were facing imminent death. What just happened?

For days afterwards, I feel on edge. I have a permanent tension headache and I jump at the slightest unexpected noise. The fact that something seemingly benign, positive and hugely popular had such a profound effect has taken me by surprise.

Mindfulness, the practice of sitting still and focusing on your breath and thoughts, has surged in popularity over the last few years, with a boom in apps, online courses, books and articles extolling its virtues. It can be done alone or with a guide (digital or human), and with so much hand-wringing about our frenetic, time-poor lifestyles and information overload, it seems to offer a wholesome solution: a quiet port in the storm and an opportunity for self-examination. The Headspace app, which offers 10-minute guided meditations on your smartphone, has more than three million users worldwide and is worth over £25m. Meanwhile, publishers have rushed to put out workbooks and guides to line the wellness shelves in bookshops.

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One Response to “Is mindfulness making us ill?”

  1. Hypatia's Child Says:

    I very much agree, Suzan. I think probably over 50% of women active in the lesbian community embrace some part or other of the “New Age mumbo jumbo”, and some of them get hurt because they aren’t able to tell which techniques have a scientific basis and which are pure snake oil.. A friend of mine is a therapist, is passionate about helping people, and a few years ago was bilked out of thousands of dollars in training course fees from a group peddling a theory called “psycho-acoustics”. The theory was supposedly based on physics but it wasn’t the kind of physics that physicists study. Instead it was stuff like, everything has its own natural frequency, therefore you can cure many diseases by playing the right combinations of tones. My friend finally wised up and got out, but not before losing a good deal of money to these charlatans.

    Even worse off are the people who seek out “alternative medicine” for serious medical conditions because they had a bad experience once with an allopathic doctor. IIRC Steve Jobs threw away a chance to beat pancreatic cancer that way. And don’t get me started on the anti-vax movement, which is IMO a real threat to public health…

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