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Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training. The term "mindfulness" is a translation of the Pali term sati, which is a significant element of some Buddhist traditions. The recent popularity of mindfulness in the West is generally considered to have been initiated by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Large population-based research studies have indicated that the practice of mindfulness is strongly correlated with greater well-being and perceived health. Studies have also shown that rumination and worry contribute to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and that mindfulness-based interventions are effective in the reduction of both rumination and worry.
Clinical psychology and psychiatry since the 1970s have developed a number of therapeutic applications based on mindfulness for helping people who are experiencing a variety of psychological conditions. Mindfulness practice is being employed in psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, such as bringing about reductions in depression symptoms, reducing stress, anxiety, and in the treatment of drug addiction. Recent studies demonstrate that mindfulness meditation significantly attenuates pain through multiple, unique mechanisms. It has gained worldwide popularity as a distinctive method to handle emotions.
Clinical studies have documented both physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in different patient categories as well as in healthy adults and children. Programs based on MBSR and similar models have been widely adopted in schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans' centers, and other environments.
Mindfulness meditation is practiced sitting with eyes closed, cross-legged on a cushion, or on a chair, with the back straight. Attention is put on the movement of the abdomen when breathing in and out, or on the awareness of the breath as it goes in and out the nostrils. If one becomes distracted from the breath, one passively notices one's mind has wandered, but in an accepting, non-judgmental way and one returns to focusing on breathing. A famous exercise, introduced by Kabat-Zinn in his MBSR-program, is the mindful tasting of a raisin, in which a raisin is being tasted and eaten mindfully.
Meditators start with short periods of 10 minutes or so of meditation practice per day. As one practices regularly, it becomes easier to keep the attention focused on breathing. Eventually awareness of the breath can be extended into awareness of thoughts, feelings and actions.
Recent interest has emerged for studying the effects of mindfulness on the brain using neuroimaging techniques, physiological measures and behavioral tests. Research on the neural perspective of how mindfulness meditation works suggests that it exerts its effects in components of attention regulation, body awareness and emotional regulation. When considering aspects such as sense of responsibility, authenticity, compassion, self-acceptance and character, studies have shown that mindfulness meditation contributes to a more coherent and healthy sense of self and identity. Neuroimaging techniques suggest that mindfulness practices such as mindfulness meditation are associated with “changes in the anterior cingulate cortex, insula, temporo-parietal junction, fronto-limbic network and default mode network structures." Further, mindfulness-induced emotional and behavioral changes have been found to be related to functional and structural changes in the brain. It has also been suggested that the default mode network of the brain can be used as a potential biomarker for monitoring the therapeutic benefits of meditation.
Translations and definitions
Mindfulness meditation can be defined in many ways and can be used for a variety of different therapies. When defining mindfulness meditation, it is useful to draw upon Buddhist psychological traditions and the developing scholarship within empirical psychology.
Sati and smṛti
The Buddhist term translated into English as "mindfulness" originates in the Pali term sati and in its Sanskrit counterpart smṛti. According to Robert Sharf, the meaning of these terms has been the topic of extensive debate and discussion. Smṛti originally meant "to remember," "to recollect," "to bear in mind," as in the Vedic tradition of remembering the sacred texts. The term sati also means "to remember." In the Satipaṭṭhāna-sutta the term sati means to remember the dharmas, whereby the true nature of phenomena can be seen. Sharf refers to the Milindapañha, which explained that the arisement of sati calls to mind the wholesome dhammas such as the four establishings of mindfulness, the five faculties, the five powers, the seven awakening-factors, the noble eight-factored path, and the attainment of insight. According to Rupert Gethin,
[sati] should be understood as what allows awareness of the full range and extent of dhammas; sati is an awareness of things in relation to things, and hence an awareness of their relative value. Applied to the satipaṭṭhānas, presumably what this means is that sati is what causes the practitioner of yoga to "remember" that any feeling he may experience exists in relation to a whole variety or world of feelings that may be skillful or unskillful, with faults or faultless, relatively inferior or refined, dark or pure."
Sharf further notes that this has little to do with "bare attention," the popular contemporary interpretation of sati, "since it entails, among other things, the proper discrimination of the moral valence of phenomena as they arise."
The Pali-language scholar Thomas William Rhys Davids (1843–1922) first translated sati in 1881 as English mindfulness in sammā-sati "Right Mindfulness; the active, watchful mind". Noting that Daniel John Gogerly (1845) initially rendered sammā-sati as "Correct meditation", Davids explained,
sati is literally 'memory' but is used with reference to the constantly repeated phrase 'mindful and thoughtful' (sato sampajâno); and means that activity of mind and constant presence of mind which is one of the duties most frequently inculcated on the good Buddhist."
John D. Dunne asserts that the translation of sati and smṛti as mindfulness is confusing. A number of Buddhist scholars have started trying to establish "retention" as the preferred alternative. Bhikkhu Bodhi also points to the meaning of "sati" as "memory". The terms sati/smriti have also been translated as:
- Attention (Jack Kornfield)
- Concentrated attention (Mahasi Sayadaw)
- Inspection (Herbert Guenther)
- Mindful attention
- Self-recollection (Jack Kornfield)
- Recollecting mindfulness (Alexander Berzin)
- Recollection (Erik Pema Kunsang, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu)
- Secondary consciousness (Buddhadasa Bhikkhu)
- Presence (Symran) Dav Panesar
- Remindfulness (James H. Austin)
A.M. Haynes and G. Feldman have highlighted that mindfulness can be seen as a strategy that stands in contrast to a strategy of avoidance of emotion on the one hand and to the strategy of emotional overengagement on the other hand. Mindfulness can also be viewed as a means to develop wisdom.
Trait, state and practice
According to Brown, Ryan, and Creswell, definitions of mindfulness are typically selectively interpreted based on who is studying it and how it is applied. Some have viewed mindfulness as a mental state, while others have viewed it as a set of skills and techniques. A distinction can also be made between the state of mindfulness and the trait of mindfulness.
According to David S. Black, whereas "mindfulness" originally was associated with esoteric beliefs and religion, and "a capacity attainable only by certain people", scientific researchers have translated the term into measurable terms, providing a valid operational definition of mindfulness. Black mentions three possible domains:
- A trait, a dispositional characteristic (a relatively long lasting trait), a person's tendency to more frequently enter into and more easily abide in mindful states;
- A state, an outcome (a state of awareness resulting from mindfulness training), being in a state of present-moment awareness;
- A practice (mindfulness meditation practice itself).
According to Brown, mindfulness is
A quality of consciousness manifest in, but not isomorphic with, the activities through which it is enhanced."
- Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS)
- Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI)
- Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS)
- Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale (CAMS)
- Mindfulness Questionnaire (MQ)
- Revised Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale (CAMS-R)
- Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale (PHLMS)
According to Bishop et al., mindfulness is
A kind of nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is".
Mindfulness as a practice is described as:
- "Mindfulness is a way of paying attention that originated in Eastern meditation practices
- "Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally"
- "Bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis"
According to Steven F. Hick, mindfulness practice involves both formal and informal meditation practices, and nonmeditation-based exercises. Formal mindfulness, or meditation, is the practice of sustaining attention on body, breath or sensations, or whatever arises in each moment. Informal mindfulness is the application of mindful attention in everyday life. Nonmeditation-based exercises are specifically used in dialectical behavior therapy and in acceptance and commitment therapy.
In a paper that described a consensus among clinical psychologists on an operational and testable definition, Bishop, Lau, et al. (2004) proposed a two-component model of mindfulness:
The first component involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. The second component involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance.:232
In this two-component model, self-regulated attention (the first component) "involves bringing awareness to current experience - observing and attending to the changing fields of "objects" (thoughts, feelings, sensations), from moment to moment - by regulating the focus of attention". Orientation to experience (the second component) involves maintaining an attitude of curiosity about objects experienced at each moment, and about where and how the mind wanders when it drifts from the selected focus of attention. Clients are asked to avoid trying to produce a particular state (i.e. relaxation), but rather to just notice each object that arises in the stream of consciousness.:233
The five-aggregate model
An ancient model of the mind, generally known as the five-aggregate model enables one to understand the moment-to-moment manifestation of subjective conscious experience, and therefore can be a potentially useful theoretical resource to guide mindfulness interventions.
The five aggregates are described as follows:
- Material form: includes both the physical body and external matter where material elements are continuously moving to and from the material body.
- Feelings: can be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
- Perceptions: represent being aware of attributes of an object (e.g. color, shape, etc.)
- Volition: represents bodily, verbal, or psychological behavior.
- Sensory consciousness: refers to input from the five senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or touch sensations) or a thought that happen to arise in the mind.
This model describes that sensory consciousness result in the generation of feelings, perception or volition, and that individuals’ previously conditioned attitudes and past associations influence this generation. The five aggregates are described as constantly arising and ceasing in the present moment.
The English term mindfulness already existed before it came to be used in a (western) Buddhist context. It was first recorded as myndfulness in 1530 (John Palsgrave translates French pensée), as mindfulnesse in 1561, and mindfulness in 1817. Morphologically earlier terms include mindful (first recorded in 1340), mindfully (1382), and the obsolete mindiness (ca. 1200).
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, mindfulness may also refer to "a state of being aware". Synonyms for this "state of being aware" are wakefulness, attention, alertness, prudence, conscientiousness, awareness, consciousness, observation.
Mindfulness as a modern, western practice is founded on modern vipassana, and the training of sati, which means "moment to moment awareness of present events", but also "remembering to be aware of something". It leads to insight into the true nature of reality, namely the three marks of existence, the impermanence of and the unsatisfactoriness of every conditioned thing that exists, and non-self. With this insight, the practitioner becomes a socalled Sotāpanna, a "stream-enterer", the first stage on the path to liberation. Vipassana is practiced in tandem with samatha, and also plays a central role in other Buddhist traditions such as Tibetan Buddhism.
According to Paul Williams, referring to Erich Frauwallner, mindfulness provided the way in early Buddhism to liberation, "constantly watching sensory experience in order to prevent the arising of cravings which would power future experience into rebirths." According to Vetter, dhyana may have been the original core practice of the Buddha, which aided the maintenance of mindfulness.
According to Rhys Davids, the doctrine of mindfulness is "perhaps the most important" after the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. Rhys Davids viewed the teachings of Gotama as a rational technique for self-actualization and rejected a few parts of it, mainly the doctrine of rebirth, as residual superstitions.
Kabat-Zinn himself refers to Thoreau as a predecessor of the interest in mindfulness, together with the other eminent Transcendentalists Emerson and Whitman:
[The collective experience of sages, yogis, and Zen masters] offers a view of the world which is complementary to the predominantly reductionist and materialistic one currently dominating Western thought and institutions. But this view is neither particularly "Eastern" nor mystical. Thoreau saw the same problem with our ordinary mind state in New England in 1846 and wrote with great passion about its unfortunate consequences.
The forms of Asian religion and spirituality which were introduced in the west were themselves influenced by Transcendentalism and other 19th-century manifestations of Western esotericism. Transcendentalism was closely connected to the Unitarian Church, which in India collaborated with Ram Mohan Roy (1772–1833) and his Brahmo Samaj. He found that Unitarianism came closest to true Christianity, and had a strong sympathy for the Unitarians. This influence worked through on Vivekananda, whose modern but idiosyncratic interpretation of Hinduism became widely popular in the west. Vipassana meditation, presented as a centuries-old meditation system, was a 19th-century reinvention, which gained popularity in south-east due to the accessibility of the Buddhist sutras through English translations from the Pali Text Society. It was brought to western attention in the 19th century by the Theosophical Society. Zen Buddhism first gained popularity in the west through the writings of D.T. Suzuki, who attempted to present a modern interpretation of Zen, adjusted to western tastes.
Jon Kabat-Zinn and MBSR
In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts to treat the chronically ill. This program sparked the application of mindfulness ideas and practices in Medicine:230–1 for the treatment of a variety of conditions in both healthy and unhealthy people. MBSR and similar programs are now widely applied in schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans centers, and other environments.
Mindfulness practices were inspired mainly by teachings from the Eastern World, particularly from Buddhist traditions. One of MBSR's techniques - the "body scan" - was derived from a meditation practice ("sweeping") of the Burmese U Ba Khin tradition, as taught by S. N. Goenka in his Vipassana retreats, which he began in 1976. It has since been widely adapted in secular settings, independent of religious or cultural contexts.
Popularization, "mindfulness movement"
Mindfulness is gaining a growing popularity as a practice in daily life, apart from buddhist insight meditation and its application in clinical psychology. Mindfulness may be seen as a mode of being, and can be practiced outside a formal setting. The terminology used by scholars of religion, scientists, journalists, and popular media writers to describe this movement of mindfulness "popularization," and the many new contexts of mindfulness practice which have cropped up, has regularly evolved over the past 20 years, with some criticisms arising.
Mindfulness is an antidote to delusion and is considered as a 'power' (Pali: bala) which contributes to the attainment of nirvana. This faculty becomes a power in particular when it is coupled with clear comprehension of whatever is taking place. Nirvana is a state of being in which greed, hatred and delusion (Pali: moha) have been overcome and abandoned, and are absent from the mind.
Anapanasati, satipaṭṭhāna, and vipassana
Anapanasati is mindfulness of breathing. "Sati" means mindfulness; "ānāpāna" refers to inhalation and exhalation. Anapanasati means to feel the sensations caused by the movements of the breath in the body. The Anapanasati Sutta gives an exposition on this practice.
Satipaṭṭhāna is the establishment of mindfulness in one's day-to-day life, maintaining as much as possible a calm awareness of one's body, feelings, mind, and dharmas. The practice of mindfulness supports analysis resulting in the arising of wisdom (Pali: paññā, Sanskrit: prajñā).
Vipassanā is insight into the true nature of reality, namely the three marks of existence, namely the impermanence of and the unsatisfactoriness of every conditioned thing that exists, and non-self. With this insight, the practitioner becomes a so-called Sotāpanna, a "stream-enterer", the first stage on the path to liberation.
In the Theravadin context, Vipassanā is commonly used as one of two poles for the categorization of types of Buddhist practice, the other being samatha (Pāli; Sanskrit: śamatha). According to the contemporary Theravada orthodoxy, samatha is used as a preparation for vipassanā, pacifying the mind and strengthening the concentration in order to allow the work of insight, which leads to liberation.
Vipassanā-meditation has gained popularity in the west through the modern Buddhist vipassana movement, modeled after Theravāda Buddhism meditation practices, which employs vipassanā and ānāpāna meditation as its primary techniques and places emphasis on the teachings of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.
Samprajaña, apramāda and atappa
In Buddhist practice, "mindfulness" also includes samprajaña, meaning "clear comprehension" and apramāda meaning "vigilance". All three terms are sometimes (confusingly) translated as "mindfulness", but they all have specific shades of meaning.
He held that in the proper practice of right mindfulness, sati has to be integrated with sampajañña, clear comprehension, and it is only when these two work together that right mindfulness can fulfill its intended purpose.
Georges Dreyfus has expressed unease with the definition of mindfulness as "bare attention" or "nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness", stressing that mindfulness in Buddhist context means also "remembering", which indicates that the function of mindfulness also includes the retention of information. Robert H. Sharf notes that Buddhist practice is aimed at the attainment of "correct view", not just "bare attention". Jay Garfield, quoting Shantideva and other sources, stresses that mindfulness is constituted by the union of two functions, calling to mind and vigilantly retaining in mind. He demonstrates that there is a direct connection between the practice of mindfulness and the cultivation of morality – at least in the context of Buddhism from which modern interpretations of mindfulness are stemming.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, which uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness, and yoga to help people become more mindful. In recent years, meditation has been the subject of controlled clinical research. This suggests it may have beneficial effects, including stress reduction, relaxation, and improvements to quality of life, but that it does not help prevent or cure disease. While MBSR has its roots in spiritual teachings, the program itself is secular.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a psychological therapy designed to aid in preventing the relapse of depression, specifically in individuals with Major depressive disorder (MDD). It uses traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) methods and adds in newer psychological strategies such as mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. Cognitive methods can include educating the participant about depression. Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation, focus on becoming aware of all incoming thoughts and feelings and accepting them, but not attaching or reacting to them.
Like CBT, MBCT functions on the theory that when individuals who have historically had depression become distressed, they return to automatic cognitive processes that can trigger a depressive episode. The goal of MBCT is to interrupt these automatic processes and teach the participants to focus less on reacting to incoming stimuli, and instead accepting and observing them without judgment. This mindfulness practice allows the participant to notice when automatic processes are occurring and to alter their reaction to be more of a reflection. Research supports the effects of MBCT in people who have been depressed three or more times and demonstrates reduced relapse rates by 50%.
Acceptance and commitment therapy
Acceptance and commitment therapy or (ACT) (typically pronounced as the word "act") is a form of clinical behavior analysis (CBA) used in psychotherapy. It is an empirically based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies mixed in different ways with commitment and behavior-change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility. The approach was originally called comprehensive distancing. It was developed in the late 1980s by Steven C. Hayes, Kelly G. Wilson, and Kirk Strosahl.
Dialectical behavior therapy
Mindfulness is a "core" exercise used in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a psychosocial treatment Marsha M. Linehan developed for treating people with borderline personality disorder. DBT is dialectic, explains Linehan, in the sense of "the reconciliation of opposites in a continual process of synthesis." As a practitioner of Buddhist meditation techniques, Linehan says:
This emphasis in DBT on a balance of acceptance and change owes much to my experiences in studying meditation and Eastern spirituality. The DBT tenets of observing, mindfulness, and avoidance of judgment are all derived from the study and practice of Zen meditations.
Mode deactivation therapy
Mode deactivation therapy (MDT) is a treatment methodology that is derived from the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy and incorporates elements of Acceptance and commitment therapy, Dialectical behavior therapy, and mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness techniques such as simple breathing exercises are applied to assist the client in awareness and non-judgmental acceptance of unpleasant and distressing thoughts and feelings as they occur in the present moment. Mode Deactivation Therapy was developed and is established as an effective treatment for adolescents with problem behaviors and complex trauma-related psychological problems, according to recent publications by Jack A. Apsche and Joan Swart.
Since 2006, research supports promising mindfulness-based therapies for a number of medical and psychiatric conditions, notably chronic pain (McCracken et al. 2007), stress (Grossman et al. 2004), anxiety and depression (Hofmann et al. 2010), substance abuse (Melemis 2008:141-157), and recurrent suicidal behavior (Williams et al. 2006). Bell (2009) gives a brief overview of mindful approaches to therapy, particularly family therapy, starting with a discussion of mysticism and emphasizing the value of a mindful therapist.
- Morita therapy
The Japanese psychiatrist Shoma Morita, who trained in Zen meditation, developed Morita therapy upon principles of mindfulness and non-attachment. Since the beginnings of Gestalt therapy in the early 1940s, mindfulness, referred to as "awareness", has been an essential part of its theory and practice.
- Adaptation Practice
The British doctor Clive Sherlock developed Adaptation Practice in 1977. Adaptation Practice is a structured programme of self-discipline.
- Hakomi therapy
Internal Family Systems Model (IFS), developed by Richard C. Schwartz, emphasizes the importance of both therapist and client engaging in therapy from the Self, which is the IFS term for one’s "spiritual center". The Self is curious about whatever arises in one’s present experience and open and accepting toward all manifestations.
- Mindfulness relaxation
Mindfulness has gained increasing empirical attention ever since 1970. According to a 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis of systematic reviews of RCTs, evidence supports the use of mindfulness programs to alleviate symptoms of a variety of mental and physical disorders. Other reviews report similar findings. Further, mindfulness meditation appears to bring about favorable structural changes in the brain, and may also prevent or delay the onset of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. Mindfulness proved to be effective also in enhancing people’s capacity to self-regulate.
Mindfulness is gaining a growing popularity as a practice in daily life, apart from buddhist insight meditation and its application in clinical psychology. In this context mindfulness is defined as moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, characterized mainly by "acceptance" - attention to thoughts and feelings without judging whether they are right or wrong. Mindfulness focuses the human brain on what is being sensed at each moment, instead of on its normal rumination on the past or on the future.
The mindfulness movement has entered the mainstream, mainly through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. Since that time, clinical studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in general, and MBSR in particular. Programs based on MBSR and similar models have been widely adapted in schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans centers, and other environments.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn the practice of mindfulness may be beneficial to many people in Western society who might be unwilling to adopt Buddhist traditions or vocabulary. Western researchers and clinicians who have introduced mindfulness practice into mental health treatment programs usually teach these skills independently of the religious and cultural traditions of their origins.
In 2012 Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio published A Mindful Nation, and has received a $1 million federal grant to teach mindfulness in schools in his home district.
In 2000, The Inner Kids Program, a mindfulness-based program developed for children, was introduced into public and private school curricula in the greater Los Angeles area.
MindUP, a classroom-based program spearheaded by Goldie Hawn's Hawn Foundation, teaches students to self-regulate behavior and mindfully engage in focused concentration required for academic success. For the last decade, MindUP has trained teachers in over 1,000 schools in cities from Arizona to Washington.
The Holistic Life Foundation, a non-profit organization that created an in-school mindfulness program called Mindful Moment, is currently serving almost 350 students daily at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School and approximately 1300 students at Patterson Park High School in Baltimore, Maryland. At Patterson High School, the Mindful Moment program engages the school's faculty along with the students during a 15-minute mindfulness practice at the beginning and end of each school day.
Mindful Life Project, a non-profit 501(c)3 based out of Richmond, California, teaches mindfulness to elementary school students in underserved schools in the South Richmond school district. Utilizing curriculum, “Rise-Up” is a regular school day intervention program serving 430 students weekly, while “Mindful Community” is currently implemented at six South Richmond partner schools. These in-school mindfulness programs have been endorsed by Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who has recommended additional funding to expand the program in order to serve all Richmond youth.
A study enrolled college students in a course about mindfulness that included guided mindfulness meditation as part of the curriculum. After the semester, pre- and post-levels for different aspects of mental health were compared and students were found to have more non-judgmental stances towards their thoughts and feelings. This is believed to result better stress coping skills, improved academic performance and quality of life. Furthermore, scores continued to improve for the weeks following the end of the course, demonstrating the long-lasting effects of mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness practices are becoming more common within educational institutions including Elementary and Secondary schools as a way for schools to turn to meditation and mindfulness to help calm and relax students. It also is used for students and educators to build compassion and empathy for others. An additional benefit to Mindfulness in education is the practice to reduce anxiety and stress in students. The application of mindfulness practice enhances the goals of education in the 21st century, which include adapting to a rapidly changing world and being a caring and committed citizen. Within educational systems,the application of mindfulness practices shows an improvement of students' attention and focus, emotional regulation, creativity as well as problem solving skills.
Mindfulness training appears to be getting popular in the business world, and many large corporations have been incorporating practicing mindfulness into their culture. For example, companies such as Google, Apple, Procter & Gamble, General Mills, Mayo Clinic, and the U.S. Army offer mindfulness coaching, meditation breaks and other resources to their employees to improve workplace functioning. Mindfulness has been found to result in better employee well-being, lower levels of frustration, lower absenteeism and burnout as well as an improved overall work environment. Since high levels of mindfulness correlate with ethical decision-making and increase personal awareness and emotional regulation, mindfulness training has been suggested as way to promote ethical intentions and behavior for business students.
- Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation hosted a workshop on "Mindfulness in the Law & Alternative Dispute Resolution."
- Many law firms offer mindfulness classes.
Mindfulness has been taught in prisons, reducing hostility and mood disturbance among inmates, and improving their self-esteem. Additional studies indicate that mindfulness interventions can result in significant reductions in anger, reductions in substance use, increased relaxation capacity, self-regulation and optimism.
Many government organizations offer mindfulness training. Coping Strategies is an example of a program utilized by United States Armed Forces personnel. The British Parliament organized a mindfulness-session for its members in 2014, led by Ruby Wax.
Various scholars have criticized how mindfulness has been defined or represented in recent western psychology publications. These modern understandings depart significantly from the accounts of mindfulness in early Buddhist texts and authoritative commentaries in the Theravada and Indian Mahayana traditions.:62 Adam Valerio has introduced the idea that conflict between academic disciplines over how mindfulness is defined, understood, and popularly presented may be indicative of a personal, institutional, or paradigmatic battle for ownership over mindfulness, one where academics, researchers, and other writers are invested as individuals in much the same way as religious communities.
The popularization of mindfulness as a "commodity" has been criticized, being termed "McMindfulness" by some critics. According to Safran, the popularity of mindfulness is the result of a marketing strategy: "McMindfulness is the marketing of a constructed dream; an idealized lifestyle; an identity makeover."
According to Purser and Loy, mindfulness is not being used as a means to awaken to insight in the "unwholesome roots of greed, ill will and delusion," but reshaped into a "banal, therapeutic, self-help technique" that has the opposite effect of reinforcing those passions. While mindfulness is marketed as a means to reduce stress, in a Buddhist context it is part of an all-embracing ethical program to foster "wise action, social harmony, and compassion." The privatization of mindfulness neglects the societal and organizational causes of stress and discomfort, instead propagating adaptation to these circumstances. According to Bhikkhu Bodhi, "[A]bsent a sharp social critique, Buddhist practices could easily be used to justify and stabilize the status quo, becoming a reinforcement of consumer capitalism." The popularity of this new brand of mindfulness has resulted in the commercialization of meditation through self-help books, guided meditation classes, and mindfulness retreats.
Buddhist commentators have criticized the movement as being presented as equivalent to Buddhist practice, while in reality it is very possibly denatured with undesirable consequences, such as being ungrounded in the traditional reflective morality and therefore, astray from traditional Buddhist ethics. Criticisms suggest it to be either de-moralized or re-moralized into clinically based ethics. The conflict is often presented in concern to the teacher's credentials and qualifications, rather than the student's actual practice. Reformed Buddhist-influenced practices are being standardized and manualized in a clearly distinct separation from Buddhism seen as a religion based in monastic temples, as expressed as mindfulness in a new psychology ethic practiced in modern meditation centers.
In media reports, people have attributed unexpected effects of increasing fear and anxiety panic or "meltdowns" after practicing, which could expose bipolar vulnerability or repressed PTSD symptoms. However, according to one editorial, "there is a paucity of robust research that specifically assesses whether Mindfulness Based Interventions can induce non-salutatory health outcomes".
Choiceless awareness is posited in philosophy, psychology, and spirituality to be the state of unpremeditated, complete awareness of the present without preference, effort, or compulsion. The term was popularized in the mid-20th century by Jiddu Krishnamurti, in whose philosophy it signifies a main theme. Similar or related concepts had been previously developed in several religious or spiritual traditions; the term or others like it has also been used to describe traditional and contemporary secular and religious meditation practices. However, Krishnamurti's approach to Choiceless Awareness was unique, and differs from both pre-existing and later-developed notions.
Nonviolent communication (abbreviated NVC, also called compassionate communication or collaborative communication) is a communication process developed by Marshall Rosenberg beginning in the 1960s. NVC often functions as a conflict resolution process. It focuses on three aspects of communication: self-empathy (defined as a deep and compassionate awareness of one's own inner experience), empathy (defined as listening to another with deep compassion), and honest self-expression (defined as expressing oneself authentically in a way that is likely to inspire compassion in others).
NVC is based on the idea that all human beings have the capacity for compassion and only resort to violence or behavior that harms others when they don't recognize more effective strategies for meeting needs. Habits of thinking and speaking that lead to the use of violence (psychological and physical) are learned through culture. NVC theory supposes all human behavior stems from attempts to meet universal human needs and that these needs are never in conflict. Rather, conflict arises when strategies for meeting needs clash. NVC proposes that if people can identify their needs, the needs of others, and the feelings that surround these needs, harmony can be achieved.
While NVC is ostensibly taught as a process of communication designed to improve compassionate connection to others, it has also been interpreted as a spiritual practice, a set of values, a parenting technique, an educational method and a worldview.
- Alexander Technique
- Buddhism and psychology
- Buddhist meditation
- Dennis Lewis
- Eternal Now (New Age)
- Henepola Gunaratana
- John Garrie
- Mahasati Meditation
- Mahasi Sayadaw
- Mindfulness (journal)
- Mindfulness Day
- Ovsiankina effect
- Religious studies
- S.N. Goenka
- Samu (Zen)
- Shinzen Young
- Taqwa and dhikr, related Islamic concepts
- Thich Nhat Hanh
- Tiny Buddha
- Transcendental Meditation
- Mindfulness and technology
- See also Eating One Raisin: A First Taste of Mindfulness for a hand-out file
- Quotes from Gethin, Rupert M.L. (1992), THe Buddhist Path to Awakening: A Study of the Bodhi-Pakkhiȳa Dhammā. BRILL's Indological Library, 7. Leiden and New York: BRILL
- "The word derives from a verb, sarati, meaning “to remember,” and occasionally in Pali sati is still explained in a way that connects it with the idea of memory. But when it is used in relation to meditation practice, we have no word in English that precisely captures what it refers to. An early translator cleverly drew upon the word mindfulness, which is not even in my dictionary. This has served its role admirably, but it does not preserve the connection with memory, sometimes needed to make sense of a passage.
- Black: "[S]everal decades of research methodology and scientific discovery have defrayed these myths; mindfulness is now widely considered to be an inherent quality of human consciousness. That is, a capacity of attention and awareness oriented to the present moment that varies in degree within and between individuals, and can be assessed empirically and independent of religious, spiritual, or cultural beliefs.
- "Mindfulness meditation" may refer to either the secular, western practice of mindfulness, or to modern Buddhist Vipassana-meditation.
- Vipassana as taught by teachers from the Vipassana movement is a 19th-century development, inspired by and reacting against western modernism. See also Buddhist modernism.
- Frauwallner, E. (1973), History of Indian Philosophy, trans. V.M. Bedekar, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. Two volumes., pp.150 ff
- The resort to "experience" as the ground for religious truths is a strategy which goes back to Schleiermacher, as a defense against the growing influence of western rationality on the religious life of Europeans in the 19th century. See Sharf (1995), Buddhist Modernism and the Rhetoric of Meditative Experience.
- "Historically a Buddhist practice, mindfulness can be considered a universal human capacity proposed to foster clear thinking and open-heartedness. As such, this form of meditation requires no particular religious or cultural belief system." - Mindfulness in Medicine by Ludwig and Kabat-Zinn, available at jama.ama-assn.org
- "Kabat-Zinn (2000) suggests that mindfulness practice may be beneficial to many people in Western society who might be unwilling to adopt Buddhist traditions or vocabulary. Thus, Western researchers and clinicians who have introduced mindfulness practice into mental health treatment programs usually teach these skills independently of the religious and cultural traditions of their origins (Kabat-Zinn, 1982;Linehan, 1993b)." - Mindfulness Training as a Clinical Intervention: A Conceptual and Empirical Review by Ruth A. Baer
- Majjhima Nikaya (MN), sutta number 118. See Thanissaro, 2006. Other discourses which describe the full four tetrads can be found in the Samyutta Nikaya's Anapana-samyutta (Ch. 54), such as SN 54.6 (Thanissaro, 2006a), SN 54.8 (Thanissaro, 2006b) and SN 54.13 (Thanissaro, 1995a). The one-tetrad exposition of anapanasati is found, for instance, in the Kayagata-sati Sutta (MN 119; Thanissaro, 1997), the Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22; Thanissaro, 2000) and the Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10; Thanissaro, 1995b).
- "In short, the contemplative training known as “shamatha” (meditative quiescence) deals with the development and refinement of attention; and this is the basis for “vipashyana” (contemplative insight), which entails methods for experientially exploring the nature of the mind and its relation to the world at large." From a description of the 18th Mind and Life Dialogues meeting, official webpage,
- In Mahayana contexts, it entails insight into what is variously described as sunyata, dharmata, the inseparability of appearance and emptiness (two truths doctrine), clarity and emptiness, or bliss and emptiness.
- [I]n Buddhist discourse, there are three terms that together map the field of mindfulness [...] [in their Sanskrit variants] smṛti (Pali: sati), samprajaña (Pali: Sampajañña) and apramāda (Pali: appamada).
- According to this correspondence, Ven. Nyanaponika spend his last ten years living with and being cared for by Bodhi. Bodhi refers to Nyanaponika as "my closest kalyāṇamitta in my life as a monk."
- Dreyfus concludes his examination by stating: "[T]he identification of mindfulness with bare attention ignores or, at least, underestimates the cognitive implications of mindfulness, its ability to bring together various aspects of experience so as to lead to the clear comprehension of the nature of mental and bodily states. By over-emphasizing the nonjudgmental nature of mindfulness and arguing that our problems stem from conceptuality, contemporary authors are in danger of leading to a one-sided understanding of mindfulness as a form of therapeutically helpful spacious quietness. I think that it is important not to lose sight that mindfulness is not just a therapeutic technique but is a natural capacity that plays a central role in the cognitive process. It is this aspect that seems to be ignored when mindfulness is reduced to a form of nonjudgmental present-centered form of awareness of one’s experiences.
- Sharf: "Mahasi’s technique did not require familiarity with Buddhist doctrine (notably abhidhamma), did not require adherence to strict ethical norms (notably monasticism), and promised astonishingly quick results. This was made possible through interpreting sati as a state of "bare awareness" — the unmediated, non-judgmental perception of things "as they are," uninflected by prior psychological, social, or cultural conditioning. This notion of mindfulness is at variance with premodern Buddhist epistemologies in several respects. Traditional Buddhist practices are oriented more toward acquiring "correct view" and proper ethical discernment, rather than "no view" and a non-judgmental attitude."
- (Kabat-Zinn, 1994, p. 4)" - Mindfulness Training as a Clinical Intervention: A Conceptual and Empirical Review, by Ruth A. Baer, available at http://www.wisebrain.org/papers/MindfulnessPsyTx.pdf
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