Mindfulness, effectiveness, midwifery and healing…

small__5288001046In this week’s issue of The Lancet, Editor Richard Horton comments on the ever-growing popularity of mindfulness and the ever-growing trend towards trying to prove its effectiveness scientifically.

“But”, he asks, “is science the right place to discover the meaning and effectiveness of mindfulness?”

As I read the following paragraph, I couldn’t help but think that some of this might also apply to the more artistic, spiritual and/or esoteric elements of the ancient arts of midwifery and healing…

“Science helps us to understand, discover, and guide. Abstracting elements from a belief system to investigate the efficacy of its particular qualities might make sense from a purely empirical point-of-view. But such an approach risks doing violence to an ancient and, to adherents, coherent philosophy. It may be a mistake to dissect that philosophy, discarding Buddhism’s broader ideas on wisdom and morality (even its ultimate purpose), and putting only a single part to use—even if it is meant for a very good use. Buddhism has evolved to become an important part of global human thought presumably because it has given individuals and communities within their societies some value—even advantage. Good science should surely acknowledge the complexity of human beliefs. We might better understand these systems of belief as complete cosmologies rather than as dismembered limbs of ideology. One can admire deeply the global perspective that Buddhism invites: “How can there be laughter, how can there be pleasure, when the whole world is burning? When you are in deep darkness, will you not ask for a lamp?” The “armour of mindfulness” may offer us protections that can be measured by the standards of western science. But a fuller understanding of mindfulness will not be gained by randomisation or systematic review alone. The poverty of our own (scientific) culture is revealed by our belief in such simplicities.”

Horton R (2014).  Offline: Mindfulness—evidence, out of place.  The Lancet 383(9919): 768 1–7 March 2014.

photo credit: flatworldsedge via photopin cc


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