The real truth about the dark side of mindfulness | Sunday Observer

The real truth about the dark side of mindfulness

12 June, 2021

Mindfulness has spread across the world. It’s made its way into mainstream society. But there’s one thing that makes me utterly sad about our predicament.

While mindfulness has spread like wildfire, there’s one essential ingredient that is lacking — Love.

Let me explain.

I recently came across tons of articles talking about the ‘Dark Side of Mindfulness’. As I went on reading, there were two key points I noticed:

First, the people talking about the ‘Dark Side’ were themselves not regular practitioners

Second, they’ve not studied the techniques deeply.

You might think that just because they’re using scientific studies to back their points, they should be right.

The problem is that it’s not true. For one, science looks at mindfulness with a robotic, mechanistic lens. Any philosophy, whether Buddhism or Yogic, is much more than meditation techniques.

Most scientific studies are done on untrained, or regular people. This is done often to see what kind of impact meditation has on someone who’s never done it before. But beyond that, this represents a false reality.

Let’s look at a few points that stood out to me while reading these pieces.

Emotional Detachment

The first argument that people make against mindfulness is it leads to emotional detachment. Let’s see what they say. (I’m paraphrasing)

By detaching yourself from your emotions, you lose any sense of happiness. Not only do you lose the reaction to negative thoughts but also towards positive ones. You forget to enjoy a good sunset or appreciate the beauty in anything.

People try to leave their negative baggage behind while trying to keep the positive one.

As a result, they feel depressed or unhappy after practicing mindfulness.

People then start to avoid problems or critical thinking leading to a vicious cycle of repeated escapism


One central teaching of mindfulness is acceptance. Attachment to anything will lead to suffering.

Even if people realize this, they go haywire. As I said, Love is the missing piece of the puzzle here.

People think acceptance is passive — like a cow standing in the storm with a poker face. Far from it!

It’s about the joyful acceptance of what life gives you. Instead of fleeing the scene at the slightest sign of trouble, mindfulness teaches us to see things as they are. To prevent our emotional reactions from going on a roller coaster.

The kind of passive acceptance everyone talks about, will of course make people numb. We have to practice joyful acceptance.

Do you think the saints and sages of all religions were numb, feeble-minded cowards? No! They shook the world with their teachings (Think Buddha, St. Teresa of Avila, and Paramahansa Yogananda).

They accepted things as they are. But they also played a crucial role in uplifting society instead of escaping from the problem.

To sum this up, it’s not about overcoming emotions or complete detachment. It’s about transcendence.

When you transcend the emotions, you find a higher source of happiness. If you escape reality or try to find happiness in this world of duality, you’ll be utterly disappointed.

The societal iImplications

The second argument is when everyone starts thinking that the problem ‘is in their heads’ (as is often taught by mindfulness), no one will do anything about it.

Mindfulness teaches us that real suffering is inside us. That it’s not in the situation but in our reaction to the situation. But it doesn’t teach us to sit back and see the world or our community being destroyed.

Once you master yourself and your reactions, you can respond and not react.

Only by overcoming your own (mental) suffering, can you take the right action.

Feeling nothing

People often say that they feel numb after practicing mindfulness. They can’t enjoy anything. And there’s no excitement. This problem can actually be solved with all the things I mentioned above.

Why? Because you’re not enjoying things from your little, egoic self. You’re enjoying them with the joy of God! I can’t overstate this simple fact.

This is a great delusion amongst many modern meditation practitioners and teachers. If we try to see meditation as just a focus-enhancing technique, of course, it will be boring. It will of course make you numb.

The real problem with mindfulness

We need to stop thinking of meditation as just a technique and embrace the philosophy that comes with it. No matter what philosophy you accept, love, compassion, and kindness will inevitably be a part of it.

In that sense meditation is only a part of the teachings. It’s not the whole teaching.

Meditation supports and is supported by a lot of factors.

It never plays solo, it’s part of a larger orchestra inside our own being.