Getting results from mindfulness…and letting go of them

Barely a week goes by without some new clinical trial showing how programs which teach mindfulness can help people minimize suffering and enhance their well-being. Whether it be through reducing stress, managing illness, boosting the immune system or moving away from addictive habits, science is confirming what meditators have reported for thousands of years—that mindfulness is beneficial in a wide range of ways. At the same time, it’s important not to get carried away by all the data, sucked into viewing meditation as a quick-fix solution.

To fall into this goal-oriented mindset is to fundamentally misunderstand what meditation is, and how it helps. Indeed, expecting meditation to “make me better,” perhaps based on the results of clinical studies, may well sabotage the practice, whose benefit comes partly from letting go of the tendency to grasp for results.

In the UK, psychologists have positioned mindfulness within the cognitive-behavioral tradition, and there are similarities—like CBT, mindfulness offers a practical set of skills that can help people relate more effectively to their thoughts and feelings. But whereas CBT is primarily a change-focused approach, mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy show us how to let go of struggling for change. Their magic…