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Mindful : October 2015
MYTH 2 The result of meditation is a boring, bland, cult-like calmness and complacency It’s so easy to confuse the practice of meditation with what the results are presumed to be. Since we slow down when we meditate (we move little or not at all and our thought process eventually decelerates a bit), it’s natural to think this means everyone who meditates is supposed to be slow, forever, in everything they do: meditators can’t be short-order cooks, nor sprinters. They do everything in slowmo, one thing and one precious thought at a time. Air traffic controllers can forget about meditating. According to this mythical notion, the meditator is colorless, bland, blissed out, and checked out. So wrapped up in her own mind and how it’s doing, she has no time for worldly matters. She’s not only a pacifist. She’s a passiv- ist. No outrage, lust, sarcasm, or humor allowed. Unfailingly earnest at all times. This is an old stereotype, but like all ste- reotypes, it’s pernicious and evergreen. And it gains new currency from new commentators. In a recent screed in GOOD magazine, a writer lamented the years she lost to meditation, the ones where she “moved at such a slow pace and got so little done and participated in so little in the world outside of those who have the lux- ury to yoga-fy and meditate and manage their thoughts that I am ashamed.” Whoever suggested mindfulness meditation requires you to manage or police (her word elsewhere in the piece) your thoughts—and also get nothing done out in the world—missed the point. The point of slowing down during meditation practice is to allow one to see how one’s own mind operates. And there are, as we all know, countless types of minds (shy, outgo- ing, fast-moving, slow-going, ambitious, reflec- tive...) and within each mind a vast array of emotions (from sad to ecstatic and every shade in between, including complex amalgams of var- ious emotions that defy description). A healthy mind and a healthy community is diverse and able to draw on all its glorious parts to their fullest extent. One of the leading institutions studying meditation is about just that. The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, founded by neuroscien- tist and emotion specialist Richie Davidson, uses that phrase to refer to inquisitive minds that make full use of a wide range of capacities and colorations. Meditation is one means to enable that fundamental healthiness of mind. Far from dulling us into sameness, mindfulness practice allows us to be ourselves more freely, with all the juicy and unique bits in full flower. 36 mindful October 2015