Discover the Interesting Relationship Between Buddhism and Mindfulness
Although mindfulness is considered a relatively recent practice, its foundations come from Buddhism, a philosophical doctrine that dates back to 2,500 years B.C. and encompasses a variety of practices and traditions. In this case, mindfulness is said to be closely related to Zen and Vipassana meditation, which are practices that represent the Buddhist philosophy of being present in the here and now.
Bearing this in mind, let’s take a look at how Buddhist philosophy is present in the teachings and principles of mindfulness. Don’t miss it!
The arrival of mindfulness in the West
In 1979, molecular biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn, a long-time practitioner of yoga and Zen meditation, set out to investigate the potential benefits of the disciplines he studied for mindfulness and stress relief in a clinical context.
To do so, he developed an 8-week program based on contemplative practices and detached from religious and cultural beliefs. He called this Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction or “mindfulness-based stress reduction practice.”
The course was held in the basement of the University of Massachusetts, where Kabat-Zin received patients who had found no relief from other conventional treatments. The results showed that the program was able to alleviate a variety of symptoms associated with anxiety, eating disorders, addictions, chronic depression, and even psoriasis, among other conditions.
Thus, the program founded by Kabat-Zinn gave rise to the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. This popularized mindfulness as a therapeutic practice.
Today, mindfulness is understood to be a formal meditation practice and, in turn, is considered to represent a fully conscious perception of the world, of life, and of oneself. Given its proven health benefits, it has been proposed as the main element in many third-generation forms of psychotherapy.
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The relationship between Buddhism and mindfulness
Kabat-Zinn and other experts confirmed that mindfulness is the core of Buddhist meditation due to its relationship with vipassana and Zen meditation, which are both practices that focus on the here and now.
This approach is a meditation technique and a state of consciousness that leads to mindfulness of ourselves and our surroundings. Now, to better understand the relationship between Buddhism and mindfulness, let’s take a look at the points they both have in common.
Mindfulness and vipassana meditation
Although there are other Buddhist traditions, such as vajrayana and Mahayana meditation, mindfulness is considered a version of Theravada Buddhism, which was spread by Siddhartha Gautama Buddha in Southeast and South Asia.
Prominent among the meditation techniques of Theravada Buddhism is vipassana, which means “observing things as they are, not as they appear to be to ourselves.”
In this case, vipassana meditation is described as follows:
- First, the person commits not to steal, not to kill, to have appropriate sexual behavior, not to lie, not to ingest toxic substances, and not to disturb the peace of others. Thus, one seeks first to achieve sufficient serenity to continue with their meditation practice.
- Secondly, one learns to control the mind by gently making it concentrate on the same thing – for example, one’s breathing.
- Thirdly, one builds the integral vision of one’s own nature. This is considered the culmination of Buddhist teaching, which involves self-purification through observation.
Mindfulness and Zen meditation
Meanwhile, the relationship between Buddhism and mindfulness is evident in Zen meditation techniques, such as focusing on breathing and body positions (while walking, lying, or sitting down).
In addition, taking Zen meditation as a reference, Kabat-Zinn points out that the essential elements of mindfulness are the following:
- To always have patience, which implies respecting the natural course of events and being open to each moment, for all things are discovered when the time is right.
- To get rid of the habit of analyzing and judging our experiences as good or bad.
- Also, to keep ourselves free of the expectations caused by past experiences. This means keeping what practitioners refer to as “a beginner’s mind” first and foremost.
- To have self-confidence and learn to listen to ourselves and our own internal wisdom.
- To give up the effort to achieve determined results because the practice of mindfulness will give results by itself.
- Finally, to accept ourselves and see things as they are in the present. This doesn’t mean taking an indifferent and passive attitude to what we see but instead refers to the willingness to see things as they are, without distortions.
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Buddhism and mindfulness: Some final thoughts
The relationship between Buddhism and mindfulness is evident in practices that encourage mindfulness in the here and now. Thus, both can help us to gain a greater sense of connection and awareness with ourselves and the world around us.