Michael Eisen

Mindfulness over Matter

The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You?

By

Watkins Publishing 265pp £10.99 order from our bookshop

‘Mindfulness’ is due a backlash, surely. And it starts here. Sort of. The authors, both psychologists, and one an experienced meditator with a lifelong interest in spiritual matters, originally set out to write an account of the astonishing transformative power of meditation and yoga. But their research for the book complicated the story they had meant to tell: meditation turns out to be a stranger and more unreliable thing than we have been led to believe.

Mindfulness, for anyone who has escaped hearing about it, is the cultivation of in-the-moment awareness, mainly via meditation. The authors begin by critiquing the research evidence, which is helpful. We learn that the research is not especially rigorous, and in any case does not show all that it purports to. There is little evidence that eight-week mindfulness-based psychological treatments, as offered by the NHS, are as effective as more traditional forms of therapy. Claims that mindfulness meditation can slow ageing and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, meanwhile, are the result of researchers ‘sexing up’ data – a near-universal practice.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • A treat from the LR Archive: exactly 20 years ago, Malcolm Bradbury reviewed John Updike's 'Bech at Bay' ,
    • ‘When bullets come close, the noise they make as they go past changes from a zing to a crack’ John Lanchester's dy… ,
    • Man with a Bloody Paintbrush: Robin Simon on Lucian Freud ,
    • Jane Ridley reviews The Diaries of Kenneth Rose (ed. D R Thorpe) ,
    • ‘Look,’ says Trump. ‘The fact is I’m only human.’ On the evidence of this book that point is debatable. From the A… ,
    • From our December/January issue - here's John Banville's review of Colm Tóibín on the fathers of Wilde, Yeats and J… ,
    • Hi , we would love to review 'Death of the Vazir-Mukhtar' in our next issue! Please could you get in… ,