Despite its success, or precisely because of it, there is still confusion about the scope and meaning of mindfulness. We answer five frequently asked questions.

MADRID.- Mindfulness or mindfulness sells tons of books, mobile applications, courses and articles. Time magazine gave him a cover. In the British Parliament a report was presented a few months ago, Mindful Nation, which recommends implementing this practice in several areas of public policy. But its irruption in so many fronts, not only of the health or the education but also of the businesses, with Wall Street at the top, is a concern for those who see how their roots and the Buddhist context in which it rests vanish.

“When I started this, it was an activity like the basement. It is very nice to think that it can reach large layers of society, “says Andrés Martín Asuero, pioneer of MBSR courses in Spain (or stress reduction based on mindfulness.) We give courses to 1,200 people a year and, through our network of instructors, to more than 6 thousand.

Martin speaks of mindfulness as a “Buddhism for non-Buddhists”, but Francisco Dokushô Villalba, founder of the soto Zen Buddhist community in Spain, refers to decaffeinated mindfulness or what is already known as McMindfulness, in reference to the fast food chain . “You can do a stress reduction course for the staff to produce more, but there is no reflection on the product that this company is doing.

The mindfulness movement lacks a global reflection, and social and lifestyle criticism is at the core of the Buddhist tradition, “he says. Martín believes that when a person is in a percentile of psychological distress of 76 percent (the average percentage in which participants are placed in their eight-week MBSR courses) he does not want to talk about enlightenment. “Entering that spiritual dimension is not possible with that degree of discomfort.”

We answer five frequently asked questions about mindfulness:

Do you need to put mindfulness in your life?

To frame what mindfulness is, an eminently practical skill and one that is difficult to theorize, Martín often uses questions like these:

1. When your attention is distracted, how quickly do you notice and redirect it back to what you are doing? Do you immediately notice the distractions or is it after a good time?

2. In a normal day, what is your ability to organize yourself to work or perform daily tasks according to your priorities? At the end of the day, are you satisfied with what you have done?

3. In your work or daily activities, to what extent do you keep your full attention in a conversation?

That the answers are negative is normal: we only spend eleven minutes on average concentrated in an activity before something interrupts us. So mindfulness, the ability to voluntarily bring back wandering attention, has the fertile ground in the West.

Is it self-help?

In the opinion of Javier García Campayo, professor of psychiatry and director of the Master of Mindfulness at the University of Zaragoza, the first of these characteristics in Spain, the concept of self-help is very discredited, “it is a psychotherapy of recognized effectiveness to increase psychological well-being of the normal population. It can be used as a self-help in the sense that one can practice it alone and already finds benefits, but practice is also recommended in groups “.

“I like more self-awareness,” says Martín. “To the extent that a person is more aware of what he does, how he does it and what impact his actions have on others, he will evolve towards things that have more meaning, beauty and well-being.”

Mindfulness is the same as meditation?

“People are beginning to identify meditation with mindfulness and that’s where we wanted to intervene,” says Villalba. Its center is part of an international network of Buddhist lineages that is launching systems of mindfulness based on the Buddhist tradition. “Mindfulness works together with other coadjutant factors such as the right intention, the right word or the correct way of life,” Villalba points out.

“Because mindfulness is not the same as meditation; Mindfulness is a quality of meditation, but the meditative state is more complex than the simple development of mindfulness. ”

How to distinguish a good teacher?

“When an activity becomes fashionable, as with mindfulness, there are people who want to make a profit. It is important to check the training of those who teach it, “says García Campayo, who is committed to university education as a guarantee of quality. Martin, director of Esmindfulness, believes that the university is not the optimal context, since it is important to create a bond between student and instructor, something that is not easy to achieve with teachers who come and go. “It’s about generating a learning context in which the person is encouraged to investigate and contemplate what happens without reacting to it. This requires skills that are more coach than university. ”

Villalba thinks that there are careerists who are trying to make a professional career through mindfulness. The formation of mindfulness based on the Buddhist tradition (which uses the acronym MBTB) is based on voluntary contributions and a system of exchange. “We must not forget that this is a real benefit for human beings and that is why we propose a voluntary movement. You learn, you train for yourself and to share with others in a policy of generosity and shared solidarity. ”

Is it meditation for everyone?

“Neither meditation, nor mindfulness nor any psychological technique or treatment are for everyone. There are people who reject mindfulness because they find it boring or more anxious. For other people it is not necessary because they already have high levels of mindfulness in a natural way. But for most of the population, it is effective both to cure diseases and to obtain greater psychological well-being, “summarizes Professor García Campayo, who is also the author of several books on the subject.

Martin points out that depressed people will be helped more by sport, by increasing social life or, in short, by using more conventional remedies, because in general they have little willpower and when they are silent, the tendency to ruminate is high.