MINDFULNESS MOVEMENT IN THE WESTERN WORLD
Posted on June 6th, 2013

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

 Mindfulness is a technique that is integral to the Teachings of the Buddha. It is the seventh element of the Noble Eightfold Path which encapsulates the principal teachings of the Buddha. Mindfulness or “ƒ”¹…”sati’ is a whole-body-and-mind awareness of the present moment. It is awareness of body, feelings, thoughts and phenomena that affect the body and mind. It is the detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment. Being fully mindful means being fully attentive to everything as-it-is, not reacting to or making judgments of what comes to your mind. In the practice of mindfulness the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, focused on the present moment and to accept one’s thoughts and responses without judgement. All judgments and interpretations of feelings and thoughts are overlooked or just registered and dropped. To be mindful is to be fully present, not lost in daydreams, anticipation, indulgences, or worry. It is a mental mode of being engaged in the present moment without evaluating or emotionally reacting to it. Regular mindfulness training helps to enhance and strengthen the brains ability to pay attention.   

 Mindfulness involves self-discovery and becoming more compassionate to self and then ultimately towards others. Mindful living leads to a more fulfilling and grounded life being able to understand oneself and one’s environment without judgement. It is about waking up to your life and enhancing mental and emotional resilience. Mindfulness is becoming a lifestyle among some sections of the Western society. It has become an element in their daily routine bringing them benefits similar to those of physical exercise and sound relaxation. In a society characterized by unpleasant and unhealthy effects of excessive competition, impatience and stress, mindfulness practice makes people recognize the need to slow down and pay attention. Among many people, As a remedy to an uneasy, unbalanced,  troubled, discontented, distressed and unhappy mind characterized by negative mood and stress, mindfulness exercises have been found to be of much help to develop a happier, healthier and fulfilling life.   

Mindfulness practice has been subject to much research in several disciplines in recent years and publications on mindfulness has proliferated in the Western world. The efficacy of mindfulness is supported by a growing body of scientific research. Applied research has shown that mindfulness has a positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing.  In particular it  has a positive impact on the human brain. Studies have shown that it can alter brain patterns and behavior. Hospitals and community centres have started to offer courses on Mindfulness practices.

 Mindfulness entered the medical mainstream in the 1970s. Today, Mindfulness is taught and practiced in many prominent hospitals in the USA, Canada several other Western countries. “Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction” practice (MBSR) developed by the Medical School of the University of Massachusetts in USA has been used successfully to treat a wide variety of illnesses. Mindfulness exercises have helped alleviate suffering from psychological illnesses such as anxiety, panic disorders and phobias. They have become clinically proven methods for alleviating stress and chronic pain. An increasing number of Medical Centres worldwide now offer mindfulness based therapies for mood and other disorders. Many studies have revealed the effectiveness of  mindfulness practices in reducing psychological stress. They have led to improvements in both mental and physical health, alleviating depression, anxiety, loneliness and chronic pain.   

 In recent years there has been a growing interest in the practice of mindfulness as part of psychotherapy. Some psychotherapists find that mindfulness meditation as an adjunct to counseling and other treatments can help troubled people learn to release negative emotions and thought habits.

After receiving mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, patients report noticing that negative thoughts lose their power over time.  Mindfulness techniques were used to help children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder to concentrate, and for soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder recover and now for professionals of various fields as a technique for developing focus, clarity and compassion. Research has shown that Mindfulness practice can be effective in managing depression. It can be as effective as antidepressants in treating depression.

 Its ability to improve performance is one of the primary reasons for greater attention on Mindfulness practice in the West. Professionals and those of the corporate culture, but also institutions, companies, and nations are adopting “ƒ”¹…”mindful’ practices and associated “ƒ”¹…”compassion’ and listening to others as management practices to an increasing extent.  Among some of these institutions are Google, the USA Military, especially the US Marine Corps, prisons, Social services work, LinkedIn networking site. In the US military mindfulness training includes “ƒ”¹…”brain calming’ exercises to improve performance. Snipers benefit from mindfulness training. It enhances attention, concentration and aim. It is gaining ground as a useful practice  among prominent sports personnel including Olympic athletes and movie stars. Students who want to boost their performance and also parents, teachers or caregivers wishing to be more attentive to others’ needs may  

All find mindfulness training highly useful.

 Buddhist Ethical Principles underlying Mindfulness Practice

 In the Western corporate culture, in the rush to secularise it, Mindfulness have been turned into a technique divorced from ethical responsibility. Mindfulness in the Buddhist tradition is to transform one’s sense of self. It is not about attaining personal goals attached to personal desires. The goal of mindfulness practice is to liberate oneself from greed, ill will and delusion (“loba, dosha moha” or the three main defilements in Buddhist teachings) and not to achieve stress reduction.  The real focus of Buddhism is on awakening, on coming to some insight or wisdom about our true nature. Without that, we cannot get at the real source of our “ƒ”¹…”dukkha’or suffering.  From the Buddhist perspective, the “ƒ”¹…”mindfulness movement “ƒ”¹…”  that is becoming increasingly popular in the Western World is not addressing the most deep-rooted forms of human suffering or “ƒ”¹…”dukkha’. In fact, it seems to be reinforcing the kind of self-centred individualism that seems to be the basic problem in Western society.    

 Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

Richmond BC, CANADA

 

3 Responses to “MINDFULNESS MOVEMENT IN THE WESTERN WORLD”

  1. Sunil Vijayapala Says:

    more and more anglo saxon ungulates embracing Buddhism will do a lot of good to this world as this most immoral corrupt race influence the world populace more than any other. that may backfire too if they begin to write things detrimental to Buddhist teaching (which has occurred few times), as they are basically intelligent but unwise.
    ‘self-centered individualism that seems to be the basic problem in Western society’ dead right – cause of all problems on this planet. and the unwise leaders in the east still attempt respect and follow the ungulate. when will they realise its folly to follow a buffalo?

  2. Sasantha Says:

    Sunil Vijayapala does a disservice to the beautifully rational and measured concepts of mindfulness and Buddhism by using it to cloak what are overtly racist sentiments directed towards ‘anglo saxons’.

    It is a feature of the cruder forms of racist ideology to ascribe to other people and religions the qualities of an animal. It is unworthy, immoral and dangerous. Please be honest and intelligent enough to acknowledge that there is enough corruption and destructiveness generated by Sri Lankans within Sri Lanka for any of us to be smug and superior.

    ‘Anglo Saxons’ are no more ungulates than Mr Vijayapala is an insect, a rodent or a worm – and he would rightly be indignant to be described as such. If he must stain this website with his bile and his incoherent rantings, he should at least have the honour and good sense not to do it in the name of our religion and our culture.

  3. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    We have to take back control of our mind via meditation. Feelings as a subset of thoughts in a tamed mind will expect miracles to manifest.
    Watch the following video to know more
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMNaPmmuHCs

    Until we reached age of 4 during the normal state of eyes open, awake and alert our brains were functioning in the delta state, with brain waves function at less than 4 Hz. But still when we have deep sleep our brains function in the delta state.

    From age of 4 to 7, during the normal state of eyes open, awake and alert our brains were primarily operating in theta state, with brain waves functioning mainly between between 4 to 7 Hz. Now we experience this level of brain wave activity during sleep and during states of fear when the body goes into a fight,-flight or freeze response, (hyper arousal, or the acute stress response). This is a powerful level from which to initiate change and in this state, we only need mostly just one or couple of experiences of learning to change our behaviour.

    From the age 7 until we reached our puberty, during the normal state of eyes open, awake and alert our brains were mainly operating in the alpha state of 7 to 14 Hz. Now during light sleep, meditation, or eyes closed relaxation we reach alpha state. At this level effective learning can take place after about 21 repetitions. Practice a new behaviour for about 21 times and that behaviour becomes a habit. Strong levels of physical healing can take place when the brain is at 10 Hz

    Since puberty during the normal state of eyes open, awake and alert our brain operates in the beta state, 14 to 21 Hz during the normal state of eyes open, awake and alert. In this state it may take many thousands of repetitions to learn a new behaviour. To create significant change in our lives at this level takes extensive deal of time and effort.

    Brain waves less than 7 Hz are very ideal for rejuvenating and to maintain good health.

    0.5 Hz – Relaxation, Soothe headaches
    0.5 – 1.5 Hz – Pain relief. Endorphin release
    0.9 Hz – Euphoric feeling
    1 Hz – Well being. Harmony and balance
    1 – 3 Hz – Profound relaxation, restorative sleep. Tranquility and peace
    2.5 Hz – Production of endogenous opiates (pain killers, reduce anxiety)
    2.5 Hz – Relieves migraine pain. Produces endogenous opiates
    3 – 8 Hz – Deep relaxation, meditation. Lucid dreaming
    3 – 8 Hz – Increased memory, focus, creativity
    3.4 Hz – Helps achieve restful sleep
    3.5 Hz – Feeling of unity with everything. Whole being regeneration
    3.9 Hz – Self renewal, enhanced inner awareness
    4 Hz – Enkephalin release for reduced stress
    4 Hz – Allows brain to produce enkaphalins, all natural pain killer
    4 Hz – Full memory scanning. Releases enkephalins
    4.Hz – Vital for memory and learning. Problem solving, object naming
    4 – 7 Hz – Profound inner peace, emotional healing. Lowers mental fatigue
    4 – 7 Hz – Deep meditation, near-sleep brainwaves.
    4.5 Hz – Brings about Shamanic/Tibetan state of consciousness, Tibetan chants.
    4.9 Hz – Induce relaxation and deeper sleep
    4.9 Hz – Introspection. Relaxation, meditation
    5 Hz – Reduces sleep required. Replaces need for extensive dreaming
    5.3 Hz – Allows relaxing breathing, free and efficient
    5.5 Hz – Inner guidance, intuition
    6.5 Hz – Activates creative frontal lobe
    7.5 Hz – Activates creative thought for art, invention, music. Problem solving
    7.5 Hz – Ease of overcoming troublesome issues
    7.8 Hz – Schumann earth resonance. Grounding, meditative, Leaves us revitalized
    8 Hz – Associated with the mouth. Brings creativity
    8- 10 Hz Super-learning new information, memorization, not comprehension.
    10 Hz – Enhanced serotonin release. Mood elevation, arousal, stimulant
    10 Hz – Provides relief from lost sleep, improves general mood
    10 Hz – Mood elevator. Used to dramatically reduce headaches
    10 Hz – Clarity, subconscious correlation. Releases serotonin
    11 Hz – Relaxed yet awake state
    11 – 14 Hz – Increased focus and awareness
    12 Hz – Centering, mental stability.
    12 – 15 Hz – Relaxed focus, improved attentive abilities
    12 – 14 Hz – Learning frequency, good for absorbing information passively
    13 – 27 Hz – Promotes focused attention toward external stimuli
    13 – 30 Hz – Problem solving, conscious thinking
    14 Hz – Awakeness, alert. Concentration on tasks, Focusing, vitality.
    16 Hz – Bottom of hearing range. Releases oxygen/calcium into cells
    18 – 24 Hz — Euphoria, can result in headaches, anxiety.

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