Updated: Dec 8, 2020
There is a difference between the original Eastern practice and the adapted Western practice of mindfulness, and although most practitioners that use mindfulness suspect a difference between the two, they may not realize that they could be causing harm to their clients. A paper was published from Alliant International University in 2017 that addresses the core differences in a paper entitled; Demystifying Buddhist Mindfulness: Foundational Buddhist Knowledge for Mindfulness-Based Interventions. The article was simple and straightforward and provided several simple points that I would like to share with you in brief.
The practice of mindfulness is to gain awareness, heighten consciousness and increase morality and right intention, according to the author. Teaching mindfulness in psychotherapy that does not also teach these core principles run the risk of steering clients off course. The author argues, “Living a moral life facilitates the practice of mindfulness because Buddhism assumes that good actions purify the state of mind while bad actions defile the mind” (p. 223). Therefore, in looking at what we currently teach in a mindfulness intervention, according to this author, we may do better to serve our clients so that the practice improves the quality of their life and their character.
Mindfulness is often described as focused attention, a relaxation aid, and a way to calm the mind. However, the author in this article states that it is it more of a practice to “take an observing stance toward memories or past events, treating them as mental activities and letting them arise and dissipate” (p.219). Additionally, “Right Mindfulness is an essential building block for “awakening” because it is a particular mode of recollection, or special mental state that allows practitioners to observe and know the true nature of cause, conditions, and effects” (Karunadasa, 2014) (p. 220). This is interesting in that it is not about resting or relaxing, rather, an acute acknowledgement of the present and experiences in real time; the reality of thoughts, feelings and senses.
In order to help clients in their mindfulness practice it is important that they are informed of the purpose of mindfulness and that continued practice can provide a way of life; a lifestyle that is at peace and in alignment for the good of the collective culture. The purpose of mindfulness is not to disassociate from reality, rather to consciously be “awake” and participating in life in a meaningful and purposeful way. The Buddhist concept of detachment is not the same as psychological disassociation in that identification from thoughts and feelings are rather understanding and the acceptance of impermanence of the human experience not the denial of it. One could essentially “learn to see things or phenomena as they really are without excessive interpretations or attachment” (p. 221).
Reference: <a href="https://edgewood.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,cpid&custid=s6222068&db=pdh&AN=2017-29281-001&site=ehost-live&scope=site">Demystifying Buddhist mindfulness: Foundational Buddhist knowledge for mindfulness-based interventions.</a>