Earlier this year, I did a show about the benefits of meditation. That’s episode #439 for those who want to check it out. Shortly after that interview, I came across a book called The Buddha Pill, which takes a critical look at the research on meditation and exposes some of the weaknesses of the hype that currently surrounds it. As someone who loves to look at both sides of an issue, I was certainly intrigued and today talk to one of the co-authors of that book.
I begin my conversation with Miguel Farias, a psychologist and therapist trained at Oxford University, by discussing how the current mindfulness craze we’re experiencing in the 21st century isn’t entirely new, but is similar to a trend which emerged in the 1960s and 70s around the practice of Transcendental Meditation. Miguel explains how meditation research began with Transcendental Meditation, the limits of that research, and why Transcendental Meditation has now been eclipsed by mindfulness meditation. In the second half of the show, Miguel shares some problems with the Western approach to mindfulness meditation, including detaching it from a spiritual framework, making it a self-centered affair, and using it to take a more passive stance to life.
We also explore the often overlooked downsides of meditation, including the fact that it can sometimes have the very opposite of the calming, centering effect people are seeking. We end our conversation discussing whether meditation is truly effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, Miguel’s conclusion on whether people should practice it, and if you should ultimately feel guilty if you don’t.
- The current cultural phenomenon of mindfulness meditation
- The Transcendental Meditation (TM) craze of the 60s, and why it dwindled in popularity
- The research studies pertaining to meditation (and why research on meditation is so hard to conduct)
- Is meditation just a relaxation technique? Are meditation and relaxation sort of the same thing?
- Does meditation work simply because people want and expect it to?
- Meditation and prayer
- How meditation can paradoxically disconnect you from reality
- What can meditation really do to help depression/anxiety?
- What are the downsides of meditating?
- Using meditation in a healthier manner
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- Episode #439: Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics
- Why You Should Go to Church (Even If You Aren’t Sure of Your Beliefs)
- A Primer on Meditation
- Mindfulness Meditation
- Transcendental Meditation
- Love Is All You Need
- An Introduction to Stoicism
- Does Stoicism Extinguish the Fire of Life?
- AoM series on male depression
- How to Deal With Anxiety
Connect With Miguel
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Recorded on ClearCast.io
Read the Transcript