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 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. reducing stress, anxiety, 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 adapted 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. 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.
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,
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 first translated sati in 1881 as English mindfulness in sammā-sati “Right Mindfulness; the active, watchful mind”. Noting that Daniel John Gogerly initially rendered sammā-sati as “Correct meditation“, Davids explained,
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:
Presence Dav Panesar
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. 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 person’s tendency to more frequently enter into and more easily abide in mindful states;
# A state, an outcome, being in a state of present-moment awareness;
# A practice .
According to Brown, mindfulness is
Seven mindfulness measures have been developed which are based on self-reporting of trait-like constructs:
Mindful Attention Awareness Scale
Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory
Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills
Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale
Revised Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale
Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale
According to Bishop et al., mindfulness is
The Toronto Mindfulness Scale measures mindfulness as a state-like phenomenon, that is evoked and maintained by regular practice.
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” proposed a two-component model of mindfulness:
In this two-component model, self-regulated attention “involves bringing awareness to current experience – observing and attending to the changing fields of “objects”, from moment to moment – by regulating the focus of attention”. Orientation to experience 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, but rather to just notice each object that arises in the stream of consciousness.
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, 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 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 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 program at the University of Massachusetts to treat the chronically ill. This program sparked the application of mindfulness ideas and practices in Medicine 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 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. 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.
Sati is one of the seven factors of enlightenment. “Correct” or “right” mindfulness is the seventh element of the noble eightfold path.
Mindfulness is an antidote to delusion and is considered as a ‘power’ 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 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 .
Vipassanā is insight into the true nature of reality, 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 Sutta.
Samprajaña, apramāda and atappa
In Buddhist practice, “mindfulness” also includes samprajaña, meaning “clear comprehension” and apramāda meaning “vigilance”. All three terms are sometimes translated as “mindfulness”, but they all have specific shades of meaning.
In a publicly available correspondence between Bhikkhu Bodhi and B. Alan Wallace, Bodhi has described Ven. Nyanaponika Thera’s views on “right mindfulness” and sampajañña as follows:
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.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction
Mindfulness-based stress reduction 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 is a psychological therapy designed to aid in preventing the relapse of depression, specifically in individuals with Major depressive disorder . It uses traditional cognitive behavioral therapy 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.
Acceptance and commitment therapy
Acceptance and commitment therapy or is a form of clinical behavior analysis 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, 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:
Mode deactivation therapy
Mode deactivation therapy 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, stress, anxiety and depression, substance abuse, and recurrent suicidal behavior . Bell 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.
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.
The British doctor Clive Sherlock developed Adaptation Practice in 1977. Adaptation Practice is a structured programme of self-discipline.
Hakomi therapy, under development by Ron Kurtz and others, is a somatic psychology based upon Asian philosophical precepts of mindfulness and nonviolence.
Internal Family Systems Model, 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 uses breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.
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. 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.
The mindfulness movement has entered the mainstream, mainly through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness has come to be seen as a mode of being,
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 5013 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 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.
Legal and law enforcement organizations are also showing interest in mindfulness:
Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation hosted a workshop on “Mindfulness in the Law & Alternative Dispute Resolution.”
Many law firms offer mindfulness classes. 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. 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. 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,”
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 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, empathy, and honest self-expression .
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 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.
Buddhism and psychology
Taqwa and dhikr, related Islamic concepts
Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness and technology
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