Why meditation and mindfulness is not a panacea for our Mental Health crisis
We as a human race are so good at building systems that limit people’s capabilities and blamed the individual for all the suffering. This is following the famous infamous quote “If they don’t have bread, let them eat cake”.
Meditation is not an exemption. Anyone you meet, any discussion about mental health — Meditation is the key element to such conversations. Almost always, “Have you used headspace”, they ask? Have you, I ask back. “Yes, once. It was helpful”. Then what happened, I ask again. “Lost interest”. Ah! I exclaim.
You know what the sad part is — there are very few for whom Meditation actually works in their difficult life situations. For the rest — oh the rest is going through what I call “the perfect conspiracy”. This is how the perfect conspiracy works — It convinces you that a certain way of doing things is the only way of doing things. And if you don’t get the outcome you want, you might be doing it wrong!
Now consider this — When meditation works then “meditation is awesome”. When it does not work then the problem is with YOU — the meditator. This absolute power to any system has always been the source of our problems. For a long time, if a kid does not do well in school, then it’s the kid's problem. May be low IQ. May be low EQ. Teachers or School environment or parenting style?! Nah. Now we know better.
The problem with Meditation is that it’s marketed as the panacea for all our Mental health problems. And there is this marketing machinery behind this “promise”.
How come that we as society build systems that create limitations and discrepancies but those who are affected by it are supposed to solve for their mental health through “Meditation”? It’s the perfect scheme — isn’t it?! This scheme allows our politicians and policymakers NOT to solve global warming and racist biases inherent in systems. This scheme allows current Mental health care systems NOT to look beyond medication and talk therapy.
This scheme pushes the responsibility of an entire system of systems back to the individual — go close your eyes and everything will be fine. If it’s difficult, use “this” app that will make it easy for you to sleep. How’s is this approach widely different from giving a sleeping pill to someone who has a tumor in her head?
I don’t have a problem with Meditation. I have tried it. It has helped me sometimes and sometimes not. I have seen others practice Meditation successfully as well. What I have a problem with is people who sell Meditation as a cure-all because it’s in their incentive to do so.
Do you know who’s severely affected by this? As in every systemic problem — minorities, immigrants, poorest poor of developing nations, marginalized communities, etc. are the ones who have to carry the burden of systemic indifferences and solve for it in their hearts and minds by closing their eyes and breathing at a certain rate.
Meditation was fine as long as it was a tool. Then thousands of apps started making millions of dollars on this tool. Now it has become an industry where the individual is brainwashed to believe that all she has to do is sit silent, close her eyes, and breathe if she ever wants to get better. How difficult can that be, right?! Well, ask Gautama Buddha, he will say that’s the most difficult thing to do.