Five Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Mindfulness

Mindfulness may be everywhere these days—but people still get a lot wrong when they talk about what it is and why you should practice. Barry Boyce breaks down five myths about mindfulness.

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Myth #1: Mindfulness is just Buddhism in disguise

Mindfulness is a basic human inheritance and capability, and it’s not owned by any group, religion, or philosophy. As a capacity of the human mind, mindfulness can be trained with practices and disciplines, just as one can become a more skilled violinist through long practice or build one’s strength through weight training. Buddhist practitioners have done deep research on the subject, and the many Buddhist traditions offer myriad insights, but that doesn’t mean Buddhism owns mindfulness any more than Italians own pasta or Greeks own democracy.

Ironically, two concerns surround the relationship between mindfulness and Buddhism: Some Buddhists are concerned that mindfulness, if ripped from its moorings in Buddhism, is a sham; another group of critics is concerned about the opposite: that mindfulness—in a hospital or school, for example—is stealth Buddhism that will pop out and ensnare participants once they’re trapped in its web. Both of these assume mindfulness is inexorably married to Buddhism. It is a central practice in Buddhism, but the Buddha would not have claimed to have invented mindfulness, just as Newton would not have claimed gravity as his invention.

Some say it’s simply wrong to take mindfulness out…

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About the author

Editor-in-Chief Barry Boyce

Barry Boyce is Founding Editor of Mindful and Mindful.org. A longtime meditation practitioner and teacher—as well as a professional writer and editor— he is the editor of and a primary contributor to The Mindfulness Revolution: Leading Psychologists, Scientists, Artists, and Meditation Teachers on the Power of Mindfulness in Daily Life. Barry also worked closely with Congressman Tim Ryan, as developmental editor, on A Mindful Nation and The Real Food Revolution. Barry serves on the board of directors of the Foundation for a Mindful Society and the Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto as well as on the advisory board of Peace in Schools, in Portland, Oregon.

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