Friday, September 19, 2014

Mindfulness, or "Look inside. There's a bunny . . . . ."

I believe that the practice of “mindfulness” – which Primal Therapy’s Janov calls “booga booga”* and atheist-neuroscientist Sam Harris should call “woo woo”** but doesn’t – is a fool’s anesthesia.  It’s foolish to think that applying statistics to mysticism or Buddhism is science.  It’s foolish to believe that pulling thinking away from your deeper, organic and historical feeling self is “awareness.”  It’s foolish to believe that some delimited or protracted emotional numbness can bring real healing in a complex injured system, or that symptom change is the same as healing.  Or that stress (physical tension) is reduced*** rather than shoved deeper down by the process of mental force.

Mindfulness is a species of suppression.  Possibly the long-term practice of mindfulness is the equivalent of repression, the holistic thwarting of our energies known to cause and increase**** pain and disease.  And of course, to curtail one’s experience of life.

People have come to canonize mindfulness from the mere aura of it.  Psychotherapy has, asleep, breathed the vapors and fallen in: This practice must be unquestionably, beautifully right in its fusion of intellectuality – the adult's first great escape from feelings and childhood – to an obscure aroma of personal acuity, wisdom of the ages, temperance and the pretension of philosophical-mindedness.  But mindfulness is none of these things.  It is unplugging the heart, with eyes wide shut.  It is diverting your experience of some inner wrongness and looking at the bunny outside the window.  No excuse that its grandfather-in-spirit, meditation, bequeathed it the genetics of distraction – the essence of human neglect – in its apotheosis of The Breath.*****

And it stupefies me that people can write so, so, so much about meditation and mindfulness, how they can expatiate into a thousand contiguous left fields about breath and the pristine, arid awareness where love, heart and pain have been blanched out.  Look at Sam Harris and Dan Harris’s near-endless conversation about meditation which includes this high-cortical obfuscation by Sam:

And this is why training the mind through meditation makes sense – because it’s the most direct way to influence the mechanics of your own experience.  To remain unaware of this machinery – in particular, the automaticity of thought – is to simply be propelled by it into one situation after another in which you struggle to find lasting fulfillment amid conditions that can’t provide it.
The best I can translate this: ‘Our thinking, which is automatic and somehow intrinsically problematic, will propel us into situations where we struggle but cannot be fulfilled.  It therefore makes sense to doctor the way we receive and experience existence.’  This entitled packet of assumptions is poignant evidence that even a rigorous mind such as Dr. Harris’s must blow smoke when it bypasses feeling as the meaning and source of our thoughts and sees intellect as plow, field and crop in one, as both question and answer.  In that emasculated view, if our thoughts are the problem, fewer thoughts – not expressed feeling must be the solution.

Psychotherapy should, at least high among other goals, want to help people heal from their psychic injuries and emotional pain.  It can’t, then, continue to maintain mindfulness on its cloudy pedestal.  To constrain and “influence the mechanics” of a mind whose history needs to be heard, held, helped by a caring other is to do harm.  This should be a simple fact that we can all feel.

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*, from Janov’s Reflections on the Human Condition.

** Sam Harris debate that includes Deepak Chopra --

*** Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program -- .

**** Please see the psychosomatic literature (and my post, “Down Boy, Damn You” --, Freud’s writings, and anything by Arthur Janov.


  1. Hello,
    I would like to ask for your permission to transalte your article to Czech language and republish it in an independent e-zine. Would you, please, contact me so that I could offer you more information?

    Thank you!

    Vojtech Pisl

    1. You may certainly translate and republish the article. (I'd be interest to know how "booga booga" and "woo woo" translate!) Please note that the Janov blog article that I referenced (linked) is a more educated argument against mindfulness than mine. You might want to contact him, too.


Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.