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Mindfulness is key to yoga, which in turn helps us cultivate mindfulness. This virtuous circle can help us combat stress and anxiety, feel positive, and live fully in the moment.

Those of us who are committed to developing a life-altering practice, however, shouldn’t stop there — as an article by Ronald Purser in the Guardian argues

When mindfulness isn’t the answer

His longread, called “The mindfulness conspiracy” makes an important point: unless mindfulness is grounded in ethics, it runs the risk of becoming a selfish exercise.

How does this work? Purser points out that divorced from any ethical basis mindfulness becomes just another way to make ourselves feel good.

Feeling good is not bad, but it shouldn’t be pursued at the expense of being an engaged, aware human being. As he notes, there are a lot of real problems in the world: poverty, injustice, inequality, violence. If people use “mindfulness” to help them ignore these issues then nothing will change.

In other words, there are some things we shouldn’t be comfortable with and accept. Mindfulness that helps us be aware of our own mental and emotional processes can be a powerful force for personal and social change. “Mindfulness” whose only aim is to insulate us from discomfort stops us from making positive changes.


Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

Active mindfulness

The good news is that the practice of yoga cultivates what I like to think of as “active mindfulness.” When we are in the studio, using our bodies, we are learning to shape our physical and mental reality. As we experience the temporary discomfort of a tough posture we learn to accommodate and move through difficulties.

Yoga, above all, gives us an ethical foundation. The first of the eight limbs of yoga is Yama: respect for others. This basic principle requires us to be mindful of how our actions affect the well-being of other people. That can be on the daily level, by simple acts of courtesy, or direct efforts such as volunteering.

Mindfulness, at its best, helps us achieve greater insight, compassion and wisdom for the benefit of ourselves and others.


Read more: The 8-word guide to yoga, Yoga = CommUnity