Why Today’s Version of “Mindfulness” is Problematic

If you’re like me (a young adult living in the 21st century), then you have probably heard

or read the word “mindfulness” a couple times. Recently, mindfulness meditation has become

popular among this generation. If you’re in college, there’s a good chance that mindfulness

activities are popping up around your campus, advertised as a way for you to de-stress. You

may even have an app on your phone for mindfulness, something that you paid for to help you

relax. Corporations and schools across the country are promoting this, which stems originally

from traditional Buddhist practices. Whether you are familiar with the term or not, this idea of

“mindfulness” filling our heads today needs to be fixed.


I’m going to preface this by saying that if you do practice mindfulness currently and you

are receiving benefits from it, then great! That’s the main goal, isn’t it? Personally, I have tried

mindfulness activities before, and received temporary relief from overwhelming stress that

comes with being a college student. I even bought and downloaded an app, Headspace. I then

stopped using the app when I realized I had to pay to get a premium membership to access

the advertised guided meditations. That, essentially, is the flaw that I find with this version of

mindfulness. Headspace is a corporation worth an estimated $250 million, with 400,000

subscribers paying to get their own peace of mind.

Let’s talk about the roots of mindfulness. It comes from Buddhism, and the very

practice of mindfulness itself has deeper foundations of morality. David Forbes quotes

“Buddhism has ethical values and practices such as non-violence. Its deeper moral stance its

that we are interconnected with all beings, to all our social relationships and institutions, and

with the earth itself.” With this in mind, it makes sense why meditation is traditionally used to

center and realign oneself with this stance. When we think of meditation today, it’s often used

as a method to clear one’s head, a way of taking a moment to oneself in the middle of a busy

day. This is the brand of mindfulness meditation that is being advertised around college

campuses, middle and highs schools, and even in work settings. The main problem of this is

that it’s focused on fixing the effects of problems in social dimensions, not the roots of the

problems themselves. When we do this, we’re really just reinforcing a cycle of anxious feelings

that surface throughout the day and suppressing them back down temporarily. There is no

identifying why and when these problematic inner thoughts occur. This is the next step that

mindfulness needs to take in today’s society. By realizing what patterns in your day to day life

might be affecting your well being, we would then be working towards a real solution rather

than falling back on an app to help relieve our stress.

Now, I am not trashing on mindfulness. I’m a big fan, and you should be, too! It’s

essential for college students to take moments to themselves every day to keep ourselves

functioning. We all want to stay healthy. What I’ve learned, and hopefully what you have

learned now, too, is that we stay healthy by identifying the roots of our problems that make us

want to rely on mindfulness in the first place. If you don’t do this, then chances are your

remedies are only a temporary fix. No app can lead you to your wellness. Is it nice to have an

app for meditating when you want to meditate? Sure it is. I just hope this article has reminded

you to stay mindful (ha!) of your own well being and self, and all the factors that may contribute

to that.