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Mindfulness is "the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment", which can be trained by meditational practices derived from Buddhist anapanasati.
Mindfulness practice is being employed in psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction. It has gained worldwide popularity as a distinctive method to handle emotions
- 1 Translations and definitions
- 2 Historical development
- 3 Buddhism
- 4 Psychology
- 5 "Mindfulness Movement"
- 6 Scientific research
- 7 Related concepts
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Sources
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
Translations and definitions
Sati and smṛti
The Buddhist term translated into English as "mindfulness" originates in the Pali term sati and in its Sanskrit counterpart smṛti. The Abhidhammattha Sangaha, a key Abhidharma text from the Theravāda tradition, defines sati as follows:
The word sati derives from a root meaning 'to remember,' but as a mental factor it signifies presence of mind, attentiveness to the present, rather than the faculty of memory regarding the past. It has the characteristic of not wobbling, i.e. not floating away from the object. Its function is absence of confusion or non-forgetfulness. It is manifested as guardianship, or as the state of confronting an objective field. Its proximate cause is strong perception (thirasaññā) or the four foundations of mindfulness.
Sati means not only, "moment to moment awareness of present events," but also, "remembering to be aware of something or to do something at a designated time in the future".[note 1] In fact, "the primary connotation of this Sanskrit term [smrti] (and its corresponding Pali term sati) is recollection".[note 1]
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".[note 2] 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)
- Reflective awareness (Buddhadasa Bhikkhu)
- Presence (Symran) Dav Panesar
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.[note 3] 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)[note 4]
- "A quality of consciousness manifest in, but not isomorphic with, the activities through which it is enhanced."
- "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 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"
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".[web 1] Synonyms for this "state of being aware" are wakefulness, attention,[web 2] alertness,[web 3] prudence,[web 3] conscientiousness,[web 3] awareness,[web 1] consciousness,[web 1] observation.[web 1]
Mindfulness is founded on modern[note 5] vipassana, 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.
Western interest in Asian religions
According to McCown and Micozzi, the interest in mindfulness stands in a longer tradition of western interest in Asian religions, which started with the first translations of Asian texts at the end of the 18th century. 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[note 6] 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 already influenced by western ideas early on. Transcendentalism was closely connected to the Unitarian Church, which 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, who's 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. And 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.
Popularisation - "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.
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.[note 7]
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).[note 8]
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 socalled Sotāpanna, a "stream-enterer", the first stage on the path to liberation.[note 9]
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".[note 10] 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.[note 11]
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.[note 12] Robert H. Sharf notes that Buddhist practice is aimed at the attainment of "correct view", not just "bare attention".[web 4][note 13] 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.
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.
Mindfulness meditation is practiced sitting with eyes closed, cross-legged on a cushion, or on a chair, with the back straight.[web 5] Attention is put on the movement of the abdomen when breating in and out,, or on the awareness of the breath as it goed in and out the nostrils. As thoughts come up, one returns to focusing on breathing. One passively notices one's mind has wandered, but in an accepting, non-judgmental way. Meditators start with short periods of 10 minutes or so a 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.
Clinical psychology and psychiatry since the 1970s have developed a number of therapeutic applications based on mindfulness for helping people suffering from a variety of psychological conditions.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a cognitive and behavioral 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.
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.
Acceptance and commitment therapy (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. It was developed in the late 1980s by Steven C. Hayes, Kelly G. Wilson, and Kirk Strosahl.
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 the U.S. business world, interest in mindfulness is rising dramatically. This shows in the popular business press, including books such as Awake at Work (Carroll, 2004) and Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope, and Compassion.
The link between mindfulness practice and leadership development, in particular, was strengthened with the introduction of Scouller's Three Levels of Leadership model (Scouller, 2011). His model, which emphasizes psychological self-mastery, includes mindfulness meditation as one of its main self-development techniques.
In addition, the website of the University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society and Carroll’s (2007) book, The Mindful Leader, mention many companies that have provided training programs in mindfulness. These include Fortune 500 companies (such as Raytheon, Procter & Gamble, Monsanto, General Mills, and Comcast) and others (such as BASF Bioresearch, Bose, New Balance, Unilever, and Nortel Networks). Executives who “meditate and consider such a practice beneficial to running a corporation” have included the chairman of the Ford Motor Company, Bill Ford, Jr.[page needed]; a managing partner of McKinsey & Co., Michael Rennie; and Aetna International’s former chairman, Michael Stephen. A professional-development program — “Mindfulness at Monsanto” — was started at Monsanto corporation by its CEO, Robert Shapiro.
Law and government
In some newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals in fields other than management, one can find indicators of interest in mindfulness in organizations outside of business. This includes legal and law enforcement organizations.
- 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 by The Art of Living Foundation, in prisons, reducing hostility and mood disturbance among inmates, and improving their self-esteem.
- Many government organizations offer mindfulness training. Coping Strategies is an example of a program utilized by United States Armed Forces personnel.
The popularisation of mindfulness as a "commodity" has been criticised, being termed "McMindfulness" by some critics.[web 6][web 7] 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 a means to awaken to insight in the "unwholesome roots of greed, ill will and delusion,"[web 6] but reshaped into a "banal, therapeutic, self-help technique" that has the opposite effect of reinforcing those passions.[web 6] 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."[web 6] The privatisation of mindfulness neglects the societal and organisational causes of stress and discomfort, instead propagating adaptation to these circumstances.[web 6] 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.[web 6]
Research on the effects of mindfulness has been ongoing over the last twenty or thirty years, with a surge of interest over the last decade in particular. According to Khoury, Lecomte and Fortin, mindfulness-based therapies are moderately effective in pre-post studies, superior to some treatments such as psychoeducation, supportive therapy, relaxation, imagery, and art-therapy, but not more effective than traditional cognitive behavioral therapy. The US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality concluded in 2014 that "Meditation programs, in particular mindfulness programs, reduce multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress", :vii including anxiety, depression, and perceived stress/general distress.:130 Mindfulness-based therapies "did not show superiority for any outcome" when compared to such therapies as exercise, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medications;:131
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 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.
- Buddhism and psychology
- Buddhist meditation
- Dennis Lewis
- Eternal Now (New Age)
- Henepola Gunaratana
- John Garrie
- Mahasati Meditation
- Mahasi Sayadaw
- Mindfulness (journal)
- S.N. Goenka
- Samu (Zen)
- Shinzen Young
- Taqwa and dhikr, related Islamic concepts
- Thich Nhat Hanh
- "The topics of Mind and Life XVIII are human attention, memory, and the mind considered from phenomenological (including contemplative), psychological, and neurobiological perspectives... Furthermore, sustained voluntary attention (samadhi) is closely related to memory, because in order to deliberately sustain one’s attention upon a chosen object, one must continue to remember to do so from moment to moment, faithfully returning back to refocus on that object whenever the mind wanders away from it. Likewise, in Buddhism, the faculty of “mindfulness” (smrti) refers not only to moment-to-moment awareness of present events. Instead, the primary connotation of this Sanskrit term (and its corresponding Pali term sati) is recollection. This includes long-term, short-term, and working memory, non-forgetful, present-centered awareness, and also prospective memory, i.e., remembering to be aware of something or to do something at a designated time in the future. In these ways, from a contemplative perspective, memory is critically linked to attention, and both of these mental faculties have important ramifications for the experiential and phenomenological study of the mind, its training, and potential optimization." - official website for the 18th Mind and Life Dialogues meeting
- "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.
- 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.
- 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."[web 4]
- See also Eating One Raisin: A First Taste of Mindfulness for a hand-out file
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