Why Call It Mindfulness?

Meditation is too foreign of a concept for Westerners to take seriously.

If someone is meditating in a park in Japan, do people look at them strangely? I don’t know. I have never been to Japan. But I know that if you try to doing it here, then you definitely would turn heads.

And that is detrimental to the meditation experience. Yes, you could say that if you were truly meditating then people looking at you would not matter. But that is a little too idealistic.

At my office building, complete strangers cluster in a room and stare off into space for hours on end. They are not meditating. They are exercising.

What is the difference?

People can see what you are doing when you are exercising. When you are meditating, they do not know what is going on in your mind. So, they probably assume the worst.

Which includes the idea of you following a New Age belief system. Where everything is about peace and tranquility. Everything is about focusing your energy and becoming enlightened. It could be that the very reason why I was drawn to the idea in the first place is the same reason why it is not socially acceptable. It is new and different.

Why does every teacher of mindfulness talk softly, wear loose clothes, speak of energy, etc? It gets in the way of spreading the practice of mindfulness. And the fact that Buddhism is so closely tied to meditation makes mindfulness seem directly tied to religion. This also gets in the way because people are going to believe that if they sit down to meditate they are going to be praying to some Eastern god. Which is absolutely not true.

Even a mood log website that I am using defaults to associating meditation to some kind of religious experience. I am taking the track your happiness survey again. I have mentioned it previously. The survey asks what you were doing before filling it out. One of the options is “praying/worshipping/meditating”.

I am not saying that having a religious experience is bad. And if you believe that meditating is a religious experience, then more power to you. What I am saying is that it does not have to be exclusively tied to religion, eastern thought or any kind of New Age belief system.

I want to avoid that stigma when talking about the benefits of meditation. That is why I use the word mindfulness. Hopefully that stops some people from making the leap to religious connotations.

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