Should we be mindful of how popular “mindfulness” now is? Carl Erik Fisher says we should. Fisher is a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and a practicing psychotherapist who integrates meditation in his practice, and meditates himself. But he worries some popular meditation practices, which stress salvation through a clear mind, undermine the genuine benefits of meditation. Recent studies in psychology show mindful meditation has been detrimental to practitioners.
“The overselling of mindfulness can lead to this idea that we should always be rigidly focused on what’s in front of us and our minds should be totally clear of any sort of input or thought,” Fisher told Nautilus. “That’s a total misrepresentation. Mindfulness doesn’t mean the eradication of thoughts, in any tradition. In any sort of basic, secular, clinical application, it just means paying attention to the present moment…Maybe we need to clarify what we mean by mindfulness before we slap it on a bunch of posters in every school and every workplace.”
Every year, at least 1 million new meditators arise in the United States alone. “Meditation Has Become a Billion-Dollar Business,” one Fortune headline announced. Willoughby Britton, director of the Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at Brown University, and colleagues, wrote in a paper last year, “With more than 20 mindfulness phone apps, mindfulness is a major contributor to the billion-dollar meditation industry that serves more than 18 million meditators.” In a piece in Wired, Robert Wright, author most recently of Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment, argued “How Mindfulness Meditation Can Save America.”