The Meditation and Mindfulness Muddle

 
Anthony meditating
 

As a Vedic Meditation teacher, I spend a fair amount of time making it clear that, in our opinion, mindfulness is not a process or technique but an outcome of meditation. What’s more, it’s just one of the many benefits that emerge from a regular meditation practice.

Over the past few days there has been a flurry of articles from publications including Forbes, The Telegraph, and Metro reporting on some recent research into the effectiveness of mindfulness and meditation.

The research by scientists at Coventry University in the UK, Massey University in New Zealand, and Radboud University in the Netherlands, reviewed 22 studies involving 1,685 people to investigate the effect of various different types of meditation. The study concluded that – in the long-term – meditation: “played no significant role in reducing aggression or prejudice or improving how socially-connected someone was.”

Understandably, it shocked me to read this as someone who has spent most my life extoling the virtues of meditation practice. I’ve certainly experienced definite, long-term benefits for my body, my brain, my sleep and my overall happiness through meditating. I’ve also seen radical changes in those who I have taught to meditate.

After reading more about the study, and the ensuing articles it prompted, it occurred to me that the lead author of the original research, Miguel Farias, a Reader of Cognitive and Biological Psychology at Coventry University, uses the terms “mindfulness” and “meditation” interchangeably.

It is understandable – given the increased prevalence of the two terms in recent years – that many people have fallen into the trap of confusing mindfulness with meditation or have grouped them together. However, I can’t help but feel that perpetuating this error is disingenuous and unhelpful to both techniques.

In 2015 Dr. Farias wrote in The Conversation about how mindfulness had been commercialised, stripped from its ethical and spiritual connotations, separated from its roots, and sold back to us an exercise. It certainly seems to me that, generally speaking, this is the case. And it appears clear to me that this is what doesn’t work in the long run.

For those who want to get away from what has been described as McMindfulness”, Vedic Meditation – the technique I teach – offers an ancient tried-and-tested technique which is simple, easy to learn and practice, and is highly effective.

Unlike many mindfulness practices which are dependent on various props, Vedic Mediation gives its students the opportunity to be independent and self-sufficient. We do not rely on apps, timers, or teachers intoning or cajoling you. You are carefully taught over the four short sessions of your MindMojo course so that at the end you fully understand what meditation is, what it can do for you, and how to do it wherever (and whenever) you wish.

This self-sufficiency and time spent twice a day meditating for twenty minutes allows us to engage with the world at our best more often: when we’re feeling rested, energised, and happy.

It’s not only me who can testify to these benefits of meditation first-hand, my students and peers have all reported long-term shifts in their way of being and thinking that have come with regular practice.

Therefore, in light of these articles, it feels important to make the distinction that ‘mindfulness’ – as it is commonly practiced today – is not comparable to all that Vedic Meditation offers , and the opportunities to deepen and develop your practice as an integral part of your life.


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Anthony Thompson