The pitfalls and benefits of mindfulness and Loving Kindness

Knowing what to look out for to help you find the right meditation practice.

This past month I started working with a development editor on my book project that is part memoir, part meditation guide. 

Thanks to his process, I turned my attention away from the benefits, the ‘what works’ about mindfulness and Loving Kindness practices. Instead I concentrated on the ‘what could go wrong’ and ‘who it’s not for’ part of the topic, one that is so often overlooked. 

We all can get caught up, despite the best intentions, in a blind spot, focusing on what we know and forgetting the range of possible human experience beyond our own. 

Because I found it okay from the beginning to close my eyes and be with my own thoughts doesn’t mean that everyone’s like me. Quite the contrary. 

I was advised by my teachers about several possible negative outcomes to look out for in my practitioners’ feedback, including one that is commonly referred to as ‘backdraft.’ I saw firsthand strong reactions from some students who burst into tears after sending themselves Loving Kindness, who abruptly left the room since they felt so distressed at the experience of sending self-compassion inwards. 

As I was taught, ‘It is estimated that 70 percent of us have had a traumatic experience in our life, and that 20 percent of those go on to experience post-traumatic stress disorder — the different symptoms that circle around trauma. If we want to be able to help ourselves, each other, and our society, we need to understand the challenge of trauma.’ 

People who’ve suffered trauma or PTSD need to be guided differently than the rest. I’m grateful to be in a position to further my education in that regard and to lean on the tools given to me as a coach to navigate how to support my students thoughtfully. 

The practices I teach — mindfulness, compassion, Loving Kindness — may be great for many, but they are not for everyone. 

I like to think it’s like that with relationships, too. 

What matters most is not to find ‘the one’ but rather the right one for who you are right now

If you have doubts, questions, and need help to navigate your practice, feel free to get in touch. I’ll be happy to support or guide you to the relevant resources as best I can. 

In the blog this week, I write about the other side of the meditation coin — its benefits. A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure to ask renowned teacher Sharon Salzberg about the common benefits of Loving Kindness and mindfulness. Her answers, which I share, are pretty great. 

It’s perhaps timely to be evaluating both the potential pitfalls as a clear expression of the benefits, don’t you think? 

In other news, you’d like to join me live again. I’m back on Zoom every Sunday for forty-five minutes of Mettā practice. I’m trying out Luma, but you can still find the details on MeetUp here.

Thanks as always for reading me.