Mindfulness and meditation have entered the mainstream of western societies. Emerging from Buddhist traditions, mindfulness practices claim to be “non-judgemental” and compatible with any belief system. Advocates claim meditation can reduce stress, alleviate physical pain, boost productivity and creativity, and help adherents understand their “true” selves. Yet for Sahanika Ratnayake, a “cultural Buddhist” and a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at Cambridge University, mindfulness and meditation are “metaphysically loaded.” In her evocative account, first published in Aeon, she suggests why mindfulness practices are unsuited for reaching real self-understanding, and warns against the tendency to view mindfulness as a panacea for the modern world’s ills.

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