In recent years, a certain set of practices taking their designs from far eastern traditions and concepts such as Sati (awareness), and Vipassanā (insight), have been adopted by many in the fields of therapy and psychopathology. You may recognize a blanket term or rubric under which these adapted practices fall; this being Mindfulness.
Mindfulness includes and encompasses a great many terms, ideas, and teachings, but it is
typically, in the western terminology, identified with one of its most effective and versatile
prescriptions; meditation. The central directive of Mindful Meditation is deceptively simple; one must close one’s eyes, and then begin the process of breathing steadily and calmly. As one breathes, one is instructed to notice the various states of being one finds oneself in at any moment, or the quality of any element in the environment, or of one’s own body. And one is reminded to do this without particular concentration, or effort. Rather, merely paying attention to the motion and rhythm of breathing, first, is enough to begin experiencing the effects of this process. Just experiencing the breath as it pervades and evacuates the chest, and allowing oneself to be absorbed in the state of being that one is currently occupying, is the idea.
Now, why has this method become so popular among western psychopathologists and
therapeutic practitioners? Truly, there are many types of persons who find themselves attracted to the ways and values of other cultures, for a vast array of reasons. Generally speaking, however, Buddhist practices in particular tend to map rather seamlessly onto modern scientific and materialist landscapes, and are therefore uniquely positioned to be adapted into western frameworks where they may be analyzed, and the results of their applications peer reviewed.
This of course is speculation as to why they have been integrated, but it does cohere with the facts; that, for example, these practices have been peer reviewed for effectiveness combatting certain ailments of the mind. Pervasive and tenacious mental manacles such as depression, anxiety, fear and sadness, have all been shown to respond to one type of mindfulness or another.
I will say, however, that there are many spiritualists and new-age sages that abuse the
pop-status of this tool, and lead certain vulnerable people into thinking things they should not concerning the capacity of meditation to heal the body and mind. The reach and cultural weight of mindfulness and its historical significance are often blurred together to create a kind pseudo-super-food for the mind. But we can do better, can’t we? Harmony is, after all, about balance, and we want to find the balance here too; between what is effective and what is ineffective. Between the dispassionate and sober, and the biased and hyperbolic.
Mindfulness can certainly open up new vistas of consciousness and clear thinking. It can
also provide you with a useful everyday regulator for emotional stress. If one makes a habit out of it, then its habitual use will demonstrate its effectiveness in a myriad of ways. Such regular mental exercise will train the everyday mind to better identify internal causes for anxiety and strife by essentially enhancing the deliberative capacity of the one who is consistently engaged with paying attention to things. You may find yourself, after some weeks, more capable, more aware, more centered. You may even reduce your stress level and expand your ability concentrate on the things that impact your physical health. It can turn the mundane, such as brushing your teeth, into an exercise in calmness.
What mindfulness won’t do, dear reader, or so the evidence demonstrates, is stop the
growth of a tumor or eradicate the flu. It will make you better, but it will only ever be one of
many tools you should keep in your toolbox which help you achieve the better you.
Co-Author Lucas Walsh, Harmony Health Inst.