Mindfulness as therapy. Sense or nonsense?

You will have heard the term down the high street daily also among friends about the “coolest” way to deal with your anxieties depression anger and so on. Just delve into this latest phenomenon known as Mindfulness. What is it? Its current popularity has influenced NICE ( National Institute for Clinical Excellence ) in UK to adopt it as the best thing since sliced bread for curing various forms of mental illness. However, cool it may be, we must err with caution. This “therapeutic intervention” stems from Buddhist teachings and is perpetuated by some scholars in UK notably Prof. Jon Kabat- Zinn from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre and also influenced by no other than Ruby Wax the comedienne who has taken her Masters degree in Mindfulness CBT. Mindfulness is about discerning a higher quality of thinking, taking you away from your daily thought patterns which it suggests you are on “automatic pilot” and helping you become more self aware. The “therapy” has become demeaned as there are now courses on all sorts of mindfulness…Aqua Mindfulness, Cardio Mindfulness, Cockney Mindfulness, Honey Roast Mindfulness, and so on. I read recently that the Barbican now offers Mindfulness Opera! The only self awareness I might experience would be the price of a good seat at the opera and dubious thoughts of how my theatre goers might all appraise the concept of Mindfulness utilizing all of their senses. There is an excellent App known as Headspace highly recommended by students and younger adults. This is based on mindfulness meditation and has over three million users in 150 countries.

What it teaches is the underlying principles of Buddhist philosophy to help patients cope with pain, and this led to Mindfulness based Stress Reduction Therapy. Knowing what you are doing while you are actually doing it is the essence of mindful practice. It’s about self awareness of every body movement, touch, taste, smell, hearing and fine tuning your mind to absorb the birds singing outside the window, the fragrances of those in the room where you are sitting, the awareness of your bottom on the cushion and all the various stimuli you see around you. The therapist would ask you to become aware of the present, to allow your mind to drift off autopilot, and then to bring awareness back again to the self, after you have allowed your mind to “wander” around for a while. The next practical task will be for you imagine a raisin, visualize it, be aware of its shape texture form smell,then after minutes of procrastination, the taste of a single raisin is adorable.. or so many will say. The “Body Scan “ is next and you lay down on a comfy mat and and meditate on every part of the body from your big toe to your pelvis tummy chest heart arms head facial muscles etc. because there is no surrounding music the session can be dull even boring. In many ways it is simply a sophisticated form of distraction, but it’s not for everyone. At the critical level of analysis there are few clinically controlled studies to show whether it is more effective in dealing with depression , anxiety and so on compared to the well established CBT. Those clients who undertake it need to be motivated to meditate and visualize various objects, in the same way as art is not for everyone. Many critics argue that it is self centred and a selfish approach to getting well again. Recovery is about having other caring supportive positive people around you. Id much prefer that to a raisin orange, pear, or pineapple.