Do You Need a Mindfulness Teacher?

Founding Editor Barry Boyce digs into what a good mindfulness teacher can offer us.

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As interest in mindfulness grows, and programs and research projects follow apace, critiques grow too. A common critique we hear is that mindfulness is just a quick fix for reducing stress. It doesn’t ask us to look for root causes of stress. For example, this criticism posits that if your employer is asking you to work overly long hours and meet impossible deadlines, the mindfulness teacher hired by the company will simply tell you, “Oh, it’s your fault you’re stressed out. Take a few deep breaths, notice what’s going on in your mind, let go, and you’ll be fine.”

But this critique—most strongly heard in Ron Purser’s recent book McMindfulness—is a classic straw man: It paints a vivid picture of people doing wrong in order to hurl brickbats at them, without saying exactly who’s being talked about and when and how they offended. It’s not supported by a lot of evidence of the work of actual mindfulness teachers.

Yes, there are bad mindfulness teachers, and bad mindfulness apps, and probably there are a growing number of both. So let’s continue…