Last week in "Is Mindfulness Dangerous?: Part I," I wrote about an article entitled, “Is Mindfulness Making Us Ill?” published in the January 23 issue of The Guardian. In that post, I described some of the misconceptions in the article about what mindfulness is and how it’s being applied in the UK.
In this blog post, I write about some of the problems that can arise when one begins a mindfulness practice.
Florian Ruths, quoted in the article above, is clinical lead for mindfulness-based therapy in the South London and Maudsley NHS foundation trust. He says that self-taught mindfulness works for most people, provided that they don’t have disabling stress, clinical depression, or extreme anxiety. In the latter cases, a guided practice is far preferable.
He makes a valuable analogy to physical exercise. Probably about 20% of those who start off at a gym get injured because they haven’t gotten appropriate instruction.
When I began to teach Reiki, I was discriminating about who I would take as a student. Years of working in a metaphysical store in Manhattan and dealing with countless customers had taught me how to recognize if someone had serious emotional/mental issues. The prospect of spending money seems to bring up those issues.
Reiki can also bring such issues to the surface, as can any mind/body practice. Many people habitually push down their emotional issues. These may include unresolved traumas. Depending on how severe these are, a mind/body practice may remove the protective seals.
Anyone who knows or suspects that they have major traumas is far better off not trying to address them without professional guidance. By that, I don’t necessarily mean a psychotherapist. Trained EFT and Matrix Reimprinting practitioners, especially those who have had training in trauma practice, can responsibly assist a traumatized individual (and can benefit anyone who would like assistance in unraveling blockages).
I imagine that going to one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s retreats may also provide a safe and supportive setting, but I have no first-hand information on this. I’d recommend that anyone who knows they have such issues research this further.
Mindfulness Training is Powerful.
The most important point for me is that what is being done in Great Britain (and the US) is to trivialize mindfulness as if it’s some kind of useful trick like memory improvement that gives your life a quick fix. It’s the psychological equivalent of a pharmaceutical drug. However, mindfulness practice is far from a quick fix. has deep effects on the body/mind. That’s why, like yoga and chi kung, people have been practicing it for centuries or more. It works, and it works in ways you can’t always anticipate.
In terms of whether going to a training or retreat is a good idea for someone, consider the following:
- Whether deprivation, whether of food or sleep, is involved
- The qualifications of the trainers/leaders
- If the individual has known traumas that remain unaddressed
- If someone is uncomfortable with strong emotions
- If an individual likes privacy for emotional expression
- If one has never had therapy, whether individual or group, or any kind of psychological coaching.
- More broadly, if one has never before explored the mind-body connection.
In any of the above cases, I recommend coaching. An additional reason for my favoring of EFT and Matrix Reimprinting (which can be combined in a coaching session) is that you can learn and practice them in between coaching sessions. Something else, though, may feel more comfortable for you. Have an introductory session. Decide if you want to go further.
In the final section of this series, I’ll write about easy, beginning mindfulness practices.