As a therapist who uses mindfulness as a theoretical tool, strategy and therapeutic method with my clients, I get concerned when I see the word “mindfulness” used to foster elitism. Lately I’ve seen people from the fitness industry, food industry and hospitality industry label themselves as “mindfulness experts”. It is also being used to brand classes, events, products and services. What’s ironic about this is that - mindfulness – by its definition – is not something that can actually ever be mastered.
Mindfulness is the awareness of what is happening now and "now" is always changing.
I doubt the Dalai Lama himself would label himself as an “expert” on anything let alone a “mindfulness expert”. Mindfulness is not something that I master in one aspect of my life rather it is applicable to all aspects of my life. Therefore, I get confused when I read that someone is a “mindfulness expert” because they practice a regimented diet or exercise routine or because they practice meditation and teach meditation to others or because they have been financially successful with an idea or concept. I would argue this may not be mindfulness at all but rather good fortune, determination, talent and execution.
When something – like the practice of mindfulness- becomes elitist- a divide begins to happen. There becomes those who are “experts” and those who are “deficient” or “wanting”. With isolation also comes competition. Suddenly the practice of being consciously aware of yourself – free of judgement- is a full-on contest and all mindful aspects of the practice are lost.
So – what can you be if you cannot be an “mindfulness expert”? You can be a practitioner, a student, a specialist, a scholar, a veteran and so on..
Words matter. We have enough that divides us as a people. Let mindfulness be the thing that brings us closer together through our shared humble practice.