Is meditation always good for you?

Whilst there is a general sense that meditation and mindfulness are always good for your health, it all depends on you.

Is meditation a god treatment for all ills?

One of the main weaknesses of the movement to medicalise Buddhist meditation is the creation of the myth that meditation and mindfulness are ‘one size fits all’ health interventions. To address the question, I have to separate meditation and mindfulness into two separate categories, traditional meditation and modern forms of mindfulness.

While mindfulness meditation is widely regarded as a cure-all, it has only been approved for clinical use in the UK for one instance, the use of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for people in danger of a third relapse into clinical depression. That doesn’t mean that all other forms of mindfulness are not beneficial, just that they haven’t been proven so by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence’s (NICE) exacting standards. So if you’re thinking about practising mindfulness for a specific health issue, you’d be wise to ask the teacher what the practice will achieve and about the scientific evidence to support the claims.

Most forms of traditional Buddhist meditation haven’t explicitly been designed as health or wellbeing treatments. However, there is a presumed relationship between spiritual health, physical health, and mental health in many Buddhist communities. In the Mahayana Buddhist schools, there are literally thousands of different meditation practices; many are not suitable for beginners or as therapies for mental or physical health problems. However, most appear to be correlated with resilience; once we practice them regularly, we may be less vulnerable to life’s ups and downs. Several of the most popular of these meditation methods, such as some simple mantra or compassion meditations, are generally regarded as being safe for anyone to learn. For more information, you need to ask a qualified Buddhist meditation teacher, describing your needs and your meditation goals. It’s also always appropriate to ask a meditation teacher how a  meditation method works and if it is suitable for you.

A final point, Tibetan Buddhism also contains healing meditation methods; but these have rarely been investigated by cognitive psychology. Anecdotal evidence suggests these practices have great healing potential, but they are typically only suitable for practising Buddhists, an experienced Buddhist teacher will be able to give you more information.

Author: Stephen

Neuropsychologist researching what happens when a spiritual practice (meditation) is translated to a psychological intervention; what is lost and what is gained from the curative potential? A PhD candidate writing the scientific history mindfulness. Also researching how compassion and explicitly nondual meditation methods influence our physical and mental health. Stephen has decades of personal practice in spiritual and secular forms of meditation, he has also been trained in the Himalayan Science of Mind and Perception (Tsema). Alongside the teaching and research of nondual methods, Stephen trains his own brain every day with Dzogchen practices.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s