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The Happiness Track: Is Mindfulness a Racket?

Women practicing yoga


Is mindfulness really the panacea for today's stress?

Mindfulness, hate it or like it, is gaining traction for one main reason: We are overwhelmed. Most of us are just trying to hold it together with too much to do and faced with too much uncertainty. Yet, a British friend of mine who recently moved to the Bay Area was shocked by something she noticed: Everyone was so busy going to their mindfulness class and yoga class that they didn’t even have time to spend with her. The benefits of mindfulness—touted as the latest panacea for a myriad of problems, from anxiety to chronic pain—has come under some debate. A few years back, a mindfulness research conference attended by the Dalai Lama and other celebrities and scientists came to a close with more of a loud bang than a quiet gong. A lot of hard questions and concerns were being raised. One basic question was whether mindfulness scientists have a religious bias and agenda. Though researchers and mindfulness instructors vouch for its secularism, the presence of the Dalai Lama and Buddhist monks at these conferences quells any doubt about the provenance of mindfulness pra …

Emma Seppälä, PhD, is author of The Happiness Track, founder of, and Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

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