In 2005, Jon Kabat-Zinn published his magnum opus, Coming to Our Senses. At 650 pages and years in the making, it was a monumental achievement. It allowed the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction to put his life’s work in a larger context. Mindfulness is not a mental trick, an adjunct to regular life. It’s a basic human inheritance that is essential to life.
LAST MONTH, IN advance of its annual Stress in America report, the American Psychological Association released what will likely be counted among the most obvious research findings of 2016. The presidential election, concluded the APA, was a source of significant anxiety for the country. Regardless of party, over half of American adults surveyed felt very or somewhat stressed by the election. Gasps could be heard from across nowhere.
For some time at Mindful we’ve been concerned that discussions of the brain—particularly in the context of mindfulness and meditation—have become simplified to the point of distorting the truth. They often present the brain as a set of building blocks or Lincoln Logs, each with its own function. The goal of meditation in this model is to strengthen certain parts and suppress others. When we asked neuroscientists doing actual research about these notions, the answer ranged from “that’s very, very simplistic” to “that’s nonsense.”
Meditation can lead people to some dark places, triggering trauma or leaving people feeling disoriented, according to Dr. Willoughby Britton, who has studied the adverse effects of contemplative practices for more than a decade. In May 2017, she and her research partner and husband, Dr. Jared Lindahl, released a study that identified 59 different kinds of negative meditation experiences. Their research has also shown that these distressing experiences are not limited to people who have a history of mental illness.
How to Help Your Clients Understand Their Window of Tolerance
BY RUTH BUCZYNSKI,
Our clients are best able to cope with stressors and triggers when they’re operating within their window of tolerance.
But a traumatic experience can narrow our participants’ window of tolerance, leading to states of either hyper- or hypo-arousal.