Critiques of Mindfulness

I think Andrew Olendzki, PhD is one of the great western Buddhist scholars and teachers of our time. I have read articles by him in Tricycle, Insight Journal, Buddhadharma, Inquiring Mind, and Shambhala Sun magazines. When I see his name as the author of an article, I pay close attention. His writings are always clear and easy to understand.

In this article, he is defending the attackers of the harmful effects of meditation when he invalidates the critiques of mindfulness.

The Mindfulness Solution | March 2, 2015

 It is useful to distinguish between mindfulness as a mental state on one hand and the unskillful pursuit of this state on the other. Consider the case of a person plunging into the jungle, in search of a beautiful and healing flower, he gets torn up by thorns and battered by branches in the process. The problem is not that the flower itself is harmful; what is harmful is only the means of pursuing it….

Mindfulness is a sankhara, a mental/emotional/behavioral state that arises and passes away in a moment in conjunction with consciousness and other functions such as feeling and perception. Co-arising with such factors as trust, equanimity, nonattachment, and lovingkindness, it is an inherently healthy state. Mindfulness itself is always healing and never harmful; mindfulness meditation is the practice of cultivating this benevolent quality of mind, moment after moment.

– Andrew Olendzki, “The Mindfulness Solution”

Andrew Olendzki

In the article, he goes on to write about a simple four-part model that can help clarify the course of meditation training, derived from the Abhidhamma. The model includes the stages of the wandering mind, the focused mind, the afflicted mind, and the mindful mind.

I usually experience all four of these on a normal day of meditation, with the mindful mind being wonderfully present on days of special clarity. What about you? What state is your mind in right now? Wandering mind? Focused mind? Afflicted mind? Or mindful mind? Please share below.

Books by Andrew Olendzki

Unlimiting Mind: The Radically Experiential Psychology of Buddhism

Andrew Olendzki

Both broad and deep, this eye-opening book is one of the best available overviews of the radical psychological teachings underlying the Buddhist approach to freedom and peace. Sophisticated without being daunting, brilliantly clear without becoming simplistic, Andrew Olendzki’s writing is filled wit… [Read More…]

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