Written by Marni Levitt
I love science. I am fascinated by the observation, questioning, exploration and discovery of the natural world, human beings and the universe. I believe that mindfulness is its own kind of ‘inner science’, where we study our own thoughts and feelings and find patterns. I believe science should be focused on more in school. I believe humans should LISTEN more to MOST of the world’s scientists who believe that climate change is an imminent and immediate threat to our survival on the planet.
‘OK. Science is cool. Science is essential. I have established that.
BUT – the problem I have with scientific studies is that they are increasingly used to validate wellness practices such as yoga and mindfulness. There are a proliferation of studies, articles, research, etc…that are usually only a google search away. I don’t post the statistics or research on my website because I don’t feel I have to. Just google it. You will find something, and these days you will find LOTS of things.
YES – it is a positive development that the studies now exist to help the established medical and educational world feel it is OK to start using and implementing practices that come from yoga and mindfulness in order to help people. This is good, if this is what is needed.
What comes to mind, though, are titles of articles I see floating around social media, such as ‘Studies show that increased use of empathy can improve brain-functioning’ OR ‘Studies show that children who learn kindness early in life have a better chance at a successful career’ …etc…I am just making up these titles right now, but I am sure I have seen similar ones.
HOWEVER, there can be an OVER-reliance on these studies, and an almost obsessive and narrow focus on using the studies primarily as the reason to try something new, or to validate something that is already being done. Sometimes I feel as though we are asking other people to take risks and to try something new before we do. We need hundreds or thousands of people to find something useful before we give it a go. What has happened to our sense of adventure and risk-taking in life? What has happened to our sense of trying something for ourselves, and feeling what the experience is like? No one can take away a first-person experience. Everyone experiences life differently.
The fact that scientific studies to validate mindfulness are proliferating just tells me how much we REALLY do need that mindfulness! When we learn to listen to our bodies and minds, observe the patterns that create a healthy and happy life for ourselves, we won’t need someone outside of ourselves to tell us it is OK. We will just KNOW.
FURTHERMORE – what has happened to our sense of ethics and morality? Are we really leaving it up to scientists to dictate which pro-social behaviours actually make our lives better? Didn’t our grandparents have a sense of this? Didn’t our elders and ancestors? These basic human values come to us through stories and folklore rooted in many old cultures on the planet. I have a feeling they knew things before the scientists did! Do we really need a scientific study to tell us that the use of empathy towards others increases our enjoyment and success in life? I think most people find these things out by direct life experience and trial an error.
Direct first-hand experience, trial and error and observation are an essential part of the process of mindfulness and self-exploration. Listening to yourself is essential, it is the key. A teacher may point or guide you in the right direction, but it is ultimately a very intimate and personal experience. Of Course, it is wonderful and helpful to share these experiences with each other, but does it always have to be in the form of a dry, clinical study? Let’s sing about it, tell stories and dance. Let’s laugh and tell jokes. We can marvel at the wonder of being human together.
Marni Levitt B.A.(Hons.), B.Ed. OCT, RYT
Wellness Educator, Animator, Speaker
Ignite the potential for your body and mind