Mindful meditation has become a standard therapeutic tool for reducing stress and achieving greater clarity of mind—helping us to be more fully present in the moment. And because of its contemplative religious roots, mindfulness meditation also bears a spiritual dimension, whether unspoken or even denied.
Mindfulness practices have been touted as a remedy for combatting problems ranging from drug and alcohol abuse to depression and anxiety. Indeed research demonstrates a positive link between mindful-based stress reducing practices (pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn) and the reduction of mental and emotional suffering.
Mindfulness meditation sometimes erroneously has been reduced to a simple antidote for complex mind-body problems that otherwise require persistent, conscious exploration and resolution—including psychodynamic and somatic approaches to healing. To be sure, mindfulness meditation can be a reliable staple in therapy or daily life. But it can be seductive as a singular approach. Spiritual by-pass, a term coined by psychologist John Welwood, represents such a misguided belief: that major problems can be ameliorated through meditation and spiritual practices alone.
In The Trauma of Everyday Life, psychiatrist and author Mark Epstein noted that even the life and teachings of the Buddha tell us “the only way out is through.” We cannot escape the painful memories and damage done by trauma simply by meditating. But we can learn to accept the pain and uncertainty of exploring again the origins of our suffering in order to achieve new insights, reconciliation with others, and healing of the wounded soul.