Oh, Thank Goodness: Someone Finally Said Mindfulness Meditation Might Not Be For Everyone

Oh thank goodness, someone finally says that mindfulness practice isn’t for everyone. Neuroscientist Catherine Kerr studies the effects of mindfulness practice on the brain, and is a practitioner herself, but denies that it is the emotional and scientific wonderdrug it’s been made out to be.

Kerr was an author on a 2005 paper that claimed, tentatively, that mindfulness meditation — basically, focusing one’s attention on the feelings, sensations and emotions in the present moment — increases the thickness of the cerebral cortex, which many news outlets jumped on as proof that meditation is absolutely an effective treatment for stress and depression for everyone. Kerr is much more reserved: There’s evidence that meditation is beneficial to brain function, but not enough to paint it in the unfalteringly positive light that some have done.

Kerr’s concern is that she knows, as a scientist, that there will inevitably be studies with conclusions that oppose the current evidence about the effects of meditation, and when they come, they will be used to create a backlash to meditation that is as undue as the heavy praise it’s getting now precisely because it’s so highly praised. Personally, my concern about the high praise for meditation is that for those of us who suffer from emotional disorders of one kind or another, and for whom meditation has not been effective, it can feel like a failure. But that’s personal.

The interview is a long read but extremely informative; pop over to Tricycle to get a lot of very detailed information about the science behind mindfulness.


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