08/08/2012 12:02 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Mindfulness Is Not a Cure; It's Better

Mindfulness meditation, the act of intentionally paying attention to the present moment while putting aside our snap judgments, may alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma, and open us up to wonders, happy moments and a sense of grace in life. But make no mistake, the longest of practitioners will tell you that they still experience the downturns, getting hooked by the inevitable frustrations of life, and anticipatory anxiety.

So it's not a cure, but it gives us something that a cure can't.

Implied in mindfulness is the acceptance that life is full of ups and downs. This acceptance breeds a sense of warmth and compassion that could not grow if the downs were cured. As the saying goes, it takes both sunshine and rain to make a rainbow.

Or Rumi's quote: "Don't turn your gaze. Look toward the bandaged place that's where the light enters."

The wonderful integration of neuroscience in recent years has shown us that in those moments of acceptance, the volume on our fear circuit and ruminative cycles are turned down and we can reopen to what truly matters.[1] We can actually grow the area of our brain responsible for empathy and willingly shift to more compassionate states of brain.

Just like riding a bicycle, eating and talking, it takes intentional practice and repetition.

Those moments we wake up to what matters is what is called "the now effect," and it can be trained. A wonderful teacher named Tara Brach calls those moments of refuge.

Don't look for mindfulness to cure your anxiety, depression or addiction, look at it more as a new way of relating to life, a way of coming home, nurturing a healthier heart and opening up to the experience of being alive.

Here's a short practice to begin or continue right now:

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Adapted from Mindfulness and Psychotherapy

For more by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.


[1] Goldstein, Elisha. The Now Effect: How a Mindful Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life. New York: Atria Books, 2012.