Mindfulness is so much more than a mind hack

Mindfulness: much more than a mind hack

Chances are, you've dabbled. Downloaded an app, wedged in the earphones and tried to calm the inner storm.

Your GP says your blood pressure's a bit high. "Have you tried mindfulness?" she quips.

But after the third "Just let go of distractions and return to your breath...," you're asleep.

Or worse, agitated, restless and defeated. This is stressful, you decry, and head back to the television.

Meditation can be challenging.

Yet these challenges are to be expected given the huge surge in popularity of mindfulness means more and more people are "dabbling" and often missing out on important scaffolding in their learning journey.

From my experience, people really benefit from ongoing support and tailoring of their practice, as well as an understanding of its broader philosophical rationale.

Otherwise, the practice doesn't stick, and suffers the same fate as our dust-gathering home gym.

This shouldn't detract from the fact that, on the whole, mindfulness meditation can be hugely transformative.

There is an exponentially increasing body of science attesting to its physical and mental health benefits.

These benefits power social enterprises like the Mindful in May challenge, which is in full swing this month.

It's billed as the largest global mindfulness fundraiser, created by Australian doctor Elise Bialylew and featuring talks and guided meditations from a who's who of meditation teachers.

What is encouraging about initiatives like this is an emphasis on charity.

Because too often mindfulness is embraced as just another tool for self-improvement.

Yet as many responding to the McMindfulness revolution have observed, meditation focused only on self-improvement misses the point.

In its original Buddhist context, mindfulness equally balances the clarity and insight of focused attention, with loving kindness and compassion.

Never has this been more relevant than today. In a world riddled with plague, climate chaos, huge wealth disparity and polarising identity politics, we need compassion more than ever.

And compassion borne of calm insight into our interconnectedness may be the most powerful.

The pandemic and climate change are poignant reminders that we don't exist in individualistic bubbles.

Meditation focused on compassion gives us a tool to burst these bubbles and access the joys of our interconnectedness.

It might even help you stay awake next time you lie down with headphones in. Your blood pressure will thank you for it.

Dr Rob Schtze is research fellow at the Curtin School of Allied Health, clinical psychologist and a meditation teacher.

This story Mindfulness: much more than a mind hack first appeared on The Canberra Times.