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Demystifying Mindfulness: Why So Much Mumbo Jumbo?

Keeping it Simple

It is the goal of this site to help make Mindfulness immediately accessible to everyone. That means keeping the mumbo jumbo to a minimum; ideally pruning it out completely wherever it pops up.
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By mumbo jumbo we mean “a belief in practices based on superstition and rituals intending to cause confusion and/or using languages that the speaker does not understand” (from Wikipedia).

And from Wester’s Dictionary: “A complicated often ritualistic observance with elaborate trappings, and a complicated activity or language usually intended to obscure and confuse.”

Eliminating Jargon

In weeding out the mumbo jumbo there is a necessary process of demystification. I recognize that mystification is often a deliberate act by leaders trying to gain followers by dazzling them with their alleged superior knowledge. This is done first and foremost by religious leaders, but there are also numerous example in science, medicine, law and politics. Most of the world’s major religions are punctuated by rituals and words that are impenetrable to outsiders. Only true believers – the fully initiated – appear to comprehend. But how strong is that understanding really?

For example until a few decades ago Latin was the primary language of the Catholic Church, despite the fact that the vast majority of people seeking solace and inspiration by attending church services did not understand Latin at all.

Even now, in the more modern era of the Catholic Church, translated phrases and concepts such as “liturgy,” “transubstantiation” and “Eucharist” are still barely understandable to most people and require careful study to utilize correctly and then only among a small group of the highly educated faithful. It is similar in Judaism, where ancient Hebrew still dominates as the language to impart guidance and inspiration to the faithful.

It is little different in the major religions connected to Mindfulness – Buddhism and Hinduism. Terminology from largely extinct languages such as Pali and Sanskrit is widespread and often preferred to more accessible modern languages.

I do not have even minimal knowledge of Pali or Sanskrit, which is one of the reasons I am avoiding any words in those languages. But more importantly, using terminology from ancient languages is more likely to create confusion rather than clarity. I do speak several modern European languages and at a fairly high level. And I know from my experience of trying to understand and be understood in those languages that words, in any language, do not have absolute, precise or permanent meanings. They change over time and are used to mean different things by different people depending on context, specific regional geography and historical period.

A ready example is the German word “Angst,” which over the past 75 years has typically used by philosophically-oriented English language writers to mean a deep and pervasive existential fear. However, in everyday German the word can simply mean fear as “I’m afraid of that dog, mommy” (Ich habe Angst…) And it is entirely likely the word Angst has nuances of meaning that are different, for example, in northern Germany versus eastern Austria or western Switzerland. All languages are highly fluid and imprecise. Using terminology that is over 2,000 years old just creates confusion (although it keeps language scholars in employment).

Mindful Your Own Business aims to keep it simple. We will strive to use the most basic, universally understandable words available. We’re all about demystifying Mindfulness.