Meditation and Abundance, Part I – The Uses and Limits of Mindfulness Approaches

It might seem odd to associate meditation with materialistic concerns about wealth and abundance. Isn't meditation supposed to be a spiritual pursuit that takes us above such worldly matters? While it certainly can be purely spiritual, meditation has become linked to abundance in the New Age movement because it addresses control over our minds, and what we do with our minds is believed to affect what happens in our lives. The extent to which one believes in the power of the mind dictates the type of meditative practice one will employ. In this first article in a three-part series, we look at the approach taken by those who can't quite bring themselves to fully accept this power.

The Minimalist Approach - Applied Mindfulness

Mindfulness practices aim to cultivate present-moment awareness, with the ultimate goal of teaching us that we have a choice over the contents of our own minds and, consequently, the way that we feel as we ride the ups and downs that life throws at us. The Buddha taught that suffering is inevitable, but the way we react to it is not.

From a New Age perspective, the problem with Buddhist mindfulness is its failure to tell us that we create our realities with our thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness techniques are wonderful ways to reduce stress, and have been shown to boost immune function and positive attitudes, but they do little to empower you. They can change the way you feel, but they do not take the next step and explain how feelings have creative power outside the self.

Thus, the kinds of exercises that are sometimes prescribed by mindfulness practitioners, like Dr. Rick Hanson, are all about making you feel more abundant, but not about making you have more abundance. We are told to feel grateful for all the things we have right now, and to notice and appreciate simple everyday things that we typically take completely for granted, like the air we breathe and the food we eat. Dr. Hanson's approach, combining evolutionary neuroscience with Buddhism, tries to satisfy primitive structures within the brain that are almost permanently afraid of not having enough to survive.

The Limits of Mindfulness Methods

There is much to be said for this approach, but it can be seen as simply managing the symptoms of the disease rather than curing it - a kind of palliative care for the impoverished soul. And, rather ironically, by ignoring the very real creative power of emotions, mindfulness practitioners are actually selling themselves short. It is possible to generate significant feelings of plenty from these simple exercises, and those feelings can work magic in your outer reality. But none of that is acknowledged because most of these practitioners aren't willing to join that segment of the New Age movement which believes in a much greater power of the mind.

In the next article, we will remedy that defect and take a step toward fully embracing the true power of our minds over our lives. But before moving on, I want to emphasize that mindfulness practices should not be ignored. In fact, because they are so simple and can be used to generate feelings of abundance even when the chips are down (we always have air to breathe!), they should be seen as a basic weapon in our never-ending battle against poverty-consciousness. Moreover, mindfulness is an essential quality for anyone seeking to understand the connection between inner and outer reality, for without awareness you have absolutely no chance of ever being able to control your mind well enough to control your life.

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